Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mountain biking in the Rockies with Deborah Atkinson

Not so green on the greenway

Deborah Atkinson is a former journalist, current senior administrative assistant and an avid cyclist, photographer, writer and needleworker.  Originally from New Mexico, she has called Colorado home for 23 years.  She and husband Brett spend most weekends cycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, gardening or volunteering. She blogs at Snowcatcher.

Your blog is a mixture of cycling and needlework patterns, how did you get involved in cycling? 
I’ve loved riding my bike ever since my dad took the training wheels off my first bike, when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  The wind in my hair, listening to babbling brooks and singing birds you can’t hear in an automobile, powering myself to someplace I want or need to go without using gasoline, the exhilaration and exhaustion at the end of a long, hard ride...  I think the best part now is having a partner in life and riding who enjoys the challenge and thrill of riding even more than I do. 

Colorado, USA is a beautiful part of the world, where are your favourite cycle-ways? (If there is such a word!)
Picking a favorite ride might be impossible because motivation varies.  I have favorite training rides because they help me prepare for the MS-150, Ride the Rockies and Assault on the Peak.  The MS-150 probably would be my favorite organized ride because, like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, everyone is riding for the same purpose, a worthwhile cause, and so many riders have MS.  It’s inspirational.  And then there are favorite rides and routes for just getting out into the mountains and taking pictures.

Mount Evans, one of two of Colorado’s 14ers with a paved road up it, probably is my favorite ride for training because it’s the only place you can ride a road bike up to 14,000+ feet on a regular basis (except for winter) because Pikes Peak, the other 14er with a road up it, has been closed to cyclists until last year’s Assault on the Peak, which organizers are hoping to make an annual event.  Mount Evans is the only place a cyclist can effectively prepare for Pikes Peak.  However, Mount Evans has some of the worst ripples and freeze cracks of any road I’ve ever ridden, and I despise the descent because I don’t want to have to replace my wheels at the end of the ride.  To me, going down is more difficult than going up because I have to be aware of every bump and crack in the road, especially where there are extremely steep drop-offs, and I have to contend with tourist automobile traffic, too.  Pikes Peak, on the other hand, is smooth and nearly fully paved now (plans are to finish the unpaved two miles by the 2012 Assault, which may or may not be offered), but open to cyclists for a price only one day a year. 
Day 1  Colorado National Monument
Deborah with her husband Ride the Rockies
The view from both peaks is extraordinary; they say you can see three states and nearly all of Colorado’s mountains from the summits.
Mount Evans has exceptional wildlife and wildflowers in season, and Pikes Peak looks very much what I expect the surface of Mars would look like and on a hot summer day.  Pikes Peak also has the worst biting fly population I’ve ever encountered.  On Mount Evans, vehicles compete with cyclists for road space, and Pikes Peak is closed to vehicles the day of the Assault.  Both peaks can be so windy, a cyclist could have trouble keeping the bike on the ground.  On Pikes Peak, high winds eliminate the biting flies.  Both mountains are subject to unpredictable weather changes, and both can see severe weather any time of year.

   If I’m riding just to be riding, my favorite routes would be anywhere with fields of sunflowers, alpine lakes or hot air balloons.

On the Ride the Rockies cycle, you camped out with your husband and the other cyclists. What do you bring with you on these long trips?  

If I’m doing an organized ride, typically there are rest stops where cyclists can refill their water bottles and eat.  Diabetes runs rampant in my family, and I’ll probably be battling blood sugar levels all my life, but I’m trying to avoid medical intervention for as long as I possibly can.  Last year I was able to pull my levels back down to normal, below pre-diabetic, for the first time since 2005, and I think it’s because I exercise and watch my diet.  So even on organized rides now, I carry most of my own food because I don’t know if the rest stops will have food I can eat.
I also carry rain gear, sometimes winter gear, a small first aid kit, a notebook and pen, my phone and small speakers so I can listen to climbing music (I NEVER wear headphones while biking), minimal bike tools (the ones I know how to use), a spare tire, a patch kit, a pump, hand cleaner, my camera, a spare battery and a spare memory card.  On a weeklong ride, I’ll also carry along something to crochet...  All the multi-day rides I’ve participated in offer transportation for sleeping bag and tent, so I don’t have to carry them, but I try to make sure I am able to carry them so if the day ever comes that I need to, I won’t be complaining about the added weight or sleeping on the ground without shelter.
Oh, and I run tire liners and don’t have flats often.  Very worth the extra weight!

Deborah was very generous with her time, so she'll be back tomorrow with insights into what you should eat for a great cycle, and how newbies could get started. Plus some more photos from her trips! You can find more on her blog Snowcatcher if you can't wait. 


Anonymous said...

WooooHOOOOOOO!! It's so good to see Deb featured her, Niamh. She's an amazing source of inspiration to me on a daily basis, not to mention the fact that she's a delightful resource for all things photographic, creative, adventurous and awesome.

Love this write-up.

niamh said...

@ Titanium - it's a small blog-world! I started following her through the WW photo-posts, but love what she posts about cycling :)

Snowcatcher said...

Thank you both Ti and Niamh. Now I must go blush some more...

jayayceeblog said...

I am a huge fan of the Snowcatcher blog and everything Deborah does. She is completely inspiring to us couch potatoes who can barely crochet! =D

niamh said...

@kayayceeblog - it's an unusual mixture alright!