Last week I had the opportunity to head out to Denver and take advantage of some training for my “real” job. Of course I still wanted to get some riding in, so I started calling some local Santa Cruz dealers and asking if they might have a familiar ride that I could use for a few days. Tom from Pedal of Littleton went above and beyond. While he didn’t have a Santa Cruz in his demo fleet available for me to use, he offered up his personal Highball! Awesome! I was stoked that I’d have the chance to go check out some sweet Colorado riding. But on Monday evening when I got into town, I heard mention of a snow storm coming in on Wednesday. A quick check of the weather forecast confirmed… Doh! Once I got to the shop, I talked it over with Tom and decided that a road bike would be my best option considering the weather. He set me up with a Cannondale Synapse Alloy 5, an aluminum road bike, and told me about a fast group practice Crit that rolls in the area on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s I could hit up.
So Tuesday evening I rolled on down to the Meridian business park and joined in with about 25 others. It was only 41 degrees and less with the wind chill which meant I could wear leg warmers to cover up my hairy legs J, but I think I still stood out with my MTB shoes and Santa Cruz / Fox kit. The group was nice and I sat in for the first few laps and then took my turn out front when it came time to catch a breakaway. I had a good time and it was great to join up with the group to push me for an hour. Afterwards, there was still some daylight so I went on exploring and eventually found the newly build Cherry Creek MTB Park. This place is sweet! There are a ton of nice features (drops, rock climbs and descents, and skills areas) all packed into a pretty small space. A lot of work went into it and I had fun riding around on the singletrack, hopping the water bars and trying to navigate the switchbacks on the road bike.
On Wednesday it snowed… all day. Big fluffy flakes and accumulated over a foot in places. It was beautiful, but quite the change from the upper 80’s we’d been getting back home!
Thursday it was clear but still quite cold. My training class ended a little early so I opted to skip the practice crit and head for the Rockies! I pedaled out and around Mt. Morrison and climbed up “Grapevine Rd.” which mostly consisted of a well maintained dirt road. I only had to stop once for a herd of white tail deer before making it across the next valley and heading up towards Lookout Mountain.
There were some pretty awesome views looking back towards downtown Denver to the East, the city of Golden to the North, and the big Rockies to the west.
The final descent down to Golden was fun but COLD! Once I finally made it to the bottom with frozen hands and feet (no winter gloves or shoe covers), I unfortunately didn’t have time to swing by the Coors factory but headed over to check out Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater which is definitely a unique place.
Although it was cold, it turned out to be an awesome 65 mile ride with over 5k feet of climbing.
After a mock crit race and a decent climbing ride, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the Cannondale Synapse Alloy 5. It wasn’t as “snappy” and stiff as my Giant TCR Composite but it still performed well in both settings. I could sprint and keep up with the guys in the crit just fine without noticing too much flex under power. And for the big ride it was pretty comfortable with the carbon fork and flattened chainstays providing some vertical compliance over rough roads. It had the Shimano 105 components I was used to which were reliable and crisp. The Shimano RS10 wheels were good for the price point and probably added to the overall comfort of the bike. But I did notice their "softness" on the tighter corners coming down from Lookout Mountain. They were also heavier than I'm used to so they didn't accelerate as quickly, but I think they're good for the price point. Big thanks again to Pedal of Littleton for the loan, even though I really wanted to take out that Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon they had on the showroom floor! Stop by if your in the area, the shop is nicely put together with a big inventory. I of course had to pick up a shirt that just says “PEDAL.” Nice and simple J.