If you live in Aspen, CO, chances are you’re a cyclist. The number and variety of cycling activities in and around this city of about 6,000 people makes it easy.
For starters, Aspenites have access to a varied terrain. The inner-city is flat enough that you can travel around on a single-speed cruiser without much trouble. The Aspen Historical Society tour of the city was effortlessly accomplished from the seat of a sturdy Electra cruiser rented from the Limelight Lodge.
Aspen is pleasant to ride through because of the low traffic volumes and designated bicycle/ pedestrian roads. Along Hopkins Avenue, pylons are set up at intersections to prevent cars from traveling more than one block at a time. The advantage is that local car traffic still has access to the homes along the street, but cars cannot go zipping in a straight line over several blocks. This has a natural traffic-calming effect on the street and has resolved some of the traffic issues that formerly affected the neighborhood.
As you might expect, Aspen is a quiet mountain town. Sitting at an elevation of 8,000 feet above sea level, residents have breathtaking views of the central Rocky Mountain range, which includes the Aspen, Smuggler and Red mountains, and the White River National Forest. The city is a reflection of the many wealthy celebrities and individuals that call Aspen home. Luxury stores, such as Louis Vuitton and J.Crew, border the Mill Street Plaza, and the tidy enclave of street shopping and patio/ lounge areas in the Hyman Avenue Mall. There was a discretely positioned McDonald’s. Several black fire hydrants blended appealingly into their surroundings. And a free bus system with front ski/ bike racks carried young and old to and from areas of the city – where there is a relatively vibrant nightlife – and nearby communities.
Cyclists often ignore the available bike parking – and ski racks that double as bike racks – which means you see gorgeous unlocked cruiser bikes nestled between benches and under shady trees. For a big city-dweller, it was a shock to see unlocked bikes literally piled in the bushes outside the Jazz Aspen Snowmass festival and the Woody Creek Tavern (famous for its margaritas, nachos and the infamous Hunter S. Thompson).
“Aren’t people concerned about getting their bikes stolen?” I naively inquired to our local tour guide. “Well, no,” she replied, “this is Aspen!”
Aside from being a great commuter town, the surrounding environs are a playground for mountain bikers and road riders alike.
I had my first long-distance-on-a-road bike experience traveling up to the Maroon Bells on an Orbea Onix road bike rented from the five star luxury hotel, The Little Nell, which, I must say, has a lovely menu at the Montagna restaurant, and exceptional service. Considering that my present and past bikes have all been either cruisers or mountain bikes, riding on a skinny-tire carbon fiber aerodynamic road eater like the Orbea was a bit nerve-racking at first. But, after a short distance, I got used to the forward position and dropdown handlebars.