While Anjel was volunteering at the Gabriel Foundation, I took a day to ride down to Pikes Peak, another one of Colorado’s over-14,000 ft summits, and home to the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (our second famous motorsport destination so far – Bonneville Speedway being the first). The race is held every July, but the rest of the year the road is open to visitor traffic. The road from the base of the mountain is about 19 miles and used to be paved only half way up, but there are now only about 4 miles of unpaved roads leading up to the summit.
Look up “Pikes Peak Hillclimb” on YouTube and you’ll find a huge number of videos to give you a taste of the race. The course is 12 miles long with 156 turns and the current record is just over 10 minutes. There are no guardrails on the course and most of the corners look like this (except they’re not all paved):
It was quite an experience to get to ride the same roads that have been raced for the last 100 years (the hillclimb was first run in 1916). There’s a lot of history up there and some amazing views. There’s a posted 25 mph limit for most of the road and it’s a no-passing double yellow the entire way up which is disappointing, but understandable (… at least Mt. Evans had passing areas). Regardless I may have passed a couple cars on the way up and opened it up a little more on the way down, passing about a half-dozen cars in the dirt stretch near the top. With the cruiser I wasn’t quite able to back it into the corners, but it was still very satisfying.
Hot Brakes Fail
7 miles down from the summit there’s a ranger station where they use a laser thermometer to check the brake temperature of every car that comes down. If the brake temp exceeds 300˚F you’re waved over to the side to wait until they cool. I was following two cars down from the summit and about a mile away from the station, one of them pulled over with severely smelling (ie. overheating) brakes. I could smell the brakes on the other one too and sure enough he was waved to the side once we hit the ranger station. I was waved through without a check – motorcycles FTW!
All in all an amazing ride with some amazing vistas! Full Flickr set is here.
View Aurora to Pikes Peak in a larger map