The Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike) In Colorado by John Summerson
Reviewed by Cindy Gagnon
The Complete Guide to Climbing (By Bike) In Colorado
By John Summerson
Extreme Press $18.95
This little book is a great single source of detailed data on almost all of the great road ride climbs in Colorado. I say ‘most’ because Vail Pass (both east & west) are missing. It is formatted similar to a hiking/rock climbing guide, where one is provided with detailed information on climbs and driving directions to the start of climb (trailhead). The detailed data provided for each climb includes the following: mileage (from a specified start/finish point), total elevation gain, average percent grade, maximum percent grade, length of climbs greater than 5% or 10%, elevation profiles and a rating. The rating scale is similar to what is used for rating climbs in the Tour de France—categories 1-4 and HC (hors catégorie, or ‘beyond category’).
One of the things that make this guide book different from a lot of other cycling guides is the climb rating is based on a formula that includes an “altitude adjustment” factor. We all know how much living and training at altitude affect performance, and a somewhat easy climb becomes significantly harder when you are above 10,000 feet. Whether or not the formula is scientifically correct, it does provide a standard way to rate and compare climbs in Colorado and can be useful for a general comparison with lower elevation climbs in other places—for example, Alpe d’Huez (France) and Mount Evans (Colorado) are both ranked HC (beyond category). Please note the author himself claims that the rating system by no means is precise, but it is an improvement over other rating systems.
Like most other climbing guide books, the author does include a history and how-to section, which the author has focused on climbing with a Memorable Climbing Performances chapter and Improving Climbing Ability chapter. Like any good database, the author has organized the climbs using a variety of categories—such as “Greatest Elevation Gain” or “Steepest”—to provide the reader with a must-do list for the season. I, for one, am going to tackle the “Most Scenic.”
In sum, this is a great little book (4 x 6 inches) to carry that has all the data on Colorado road cycling climbs at your fingertips (no WiFi needed here!).
Cindy Gagnon is an accomplished multisport athlete. Her many achievements include three trips to the IRONMAN World Championships, top amateur woman at the Boulder Peak Triathlon, many adventure races including New Zealand’s Southern Traverse, and mountaineering high peaks in Nepal. Currently she is a guide with Colorado Wilderness Rides & Guides, a ski instructor at Beaver Creek Ski Resort, and the co-director of the Colorado Mountain Club Boulder Mountaineering School. In addition, she organizes and leads bike tours in the US & Canada.