I had to try it, I had to see first hand what it is like to go on the “Vampire rides” with Excel Sports Team rider Nico at 4:30 in the AM. If you recall from the interview we did with Nico a few months ago, 4:30 in the am is his standard ride time and going into the mountains is also standard. So a few weeks ago I emailed Nico asking if I could join him on one of his early morning rides which he agreed. What had I gotten myself into? 4:30 in the AM! When I told my wife about it she said, “Happy Birthday Kris”, I had forgotten that the day we choose was also my birthday.
I hadn't done any night riding in years, can my current lights handle it? Probably not, and I didn't like the thought of hauling along a lead acid battery up the mountains with a guy who rides a 14 lbs. bike.
I took Nico's advice (I figured he has plenty experience with lights) and got the Nite Rider Met X2 light. I was amazed at the difference, LED light, Li-lon battery, safe/fast charge and super easy mounting, lighting technology seems to have come a long way.
4:30 in the AM!
Next, can I wake up at 3:30 for a 4:30 ride? I did a test run by doing a ride a few days earlier (with my old light) at 5:30 around Gunbarrel on my single speed CX bike and finished it up at the break of dawn by riding all of the cool cross trails near Heatherwood. So far not so bad.
Next, what do I do about clothing and staying warm? I've always had two general rules I go by with cycling, 1. don't ride if the weather is below my age (well that one is getting harder as I get older) 2. don't climb if it is below 40. I was certain we were going to break both of those rules. Staying cool on the climbs and staying warm on the descents was my biggest worry. My choice seems obvious, layers. Upon arrival at Nico's house he presented my with some air activated hand warmers to put in my lobster mittens and shoes, I declined to put them in my shoes (a mistake I was later to learn the hard way) but did use them in my mittens.
The Boulder Triple Bypass
One thing I never asked, mostly out of fear, was the route, I knew we would climb and that was it. Nico told me we could either ride to Eldora ski resort or do the classic Kevin Nichols ride, Magnolia, Sugerloaf and Flagstaff, or as Slipstream team calls it Boulder's hardest 40 mile ride. It's my birthday so I choose the Kevin Nichol ride.
As we rolled out of Boulder and onto Canyon (riding two abreast) Nico tells me that he believes riding at 4:30am is safer than during the day and he was right, we didn't see a single car for about 10 minutes! I had to admit there was a very mystic beauty about riding that day as we had a full moon and clear skies. As we rolled up the canyon and through the tunnel I found it odd how I never felt so comfortable riding through the extremely well lit tunnel... but agony was just around the corner as we made a left up Magnolia.
I'm not going to say much about the climb, you've all done it and I did it with the 2007 winner of the 35+ Mike Horgan HC whom was 20 lbs lighter than I and does this climb as an appetizer for the start of this workout. Needless to say, few words were or could have been spoken by me until we reached the top. At the top I piled on some clothes and followed nico's blinking tail light through the darkness and back down to Canyon. Usually I would have called this a good ride and gone back home but now came the second act, Sugerloaf.
After riding Mag, Sugerloaf seemed easy until the last third of the climb. Once on top you could see dawn break and by now right foot was going numb. I regretted not using the foot warmer in my shoe because the hand warmer was doing a super good job. Normally my hands are first to get cold but not today. I highly recommend trying them out
We descended Sugarloaf and back to the Canyon, by now traffic had really picked up (probably because of the delay of my climbing). Once back down in Boulder we immediately turned south and up for the start of Flagstaff. On the first steps of Flagstaff we saw the sun rise, in all of my years in Boulder I always wanted to take my wife (pre kids) up Flagstaff and watch the sun rise... this was NOT how I had envisioned my first experience of this would be, Happy Birthday Kris was all that was stuck in my head.. Frozen toes, completely wasted legs and a tired back. I pushed up Flag but I begged Nico cut it short and stop at the amphitheater... he agreed... happy birthday Kris!
7:20 (I think) we arrived back at his house, exhausted. I noticed that Nico had barely touched his water in his bottle while I downed both of mine. Damn you lighter weight guys!
[A week later now] I have to say now that time has passed I really liked the ride, maybe not doing all 3 climbs at once but riding at night(I mean way early morning) was fun and in a weird way it did feel very safe compared to back in the day when I would ride at 4:30PM. I've gone out once since the ride and plan to go out some more.
Photos from ride