Friday, June 17, 2011

Road-biking Denver's Northern Suburbs, Part 1: Adams County Loop

The Joy of Wide-open Spaces

The plains which surround the Denver area to the North and East are not touted as much as the foothills and mountains to the West as prime road-biking territory. But what the plains lack in steep grades, switchbacks, and majestic canyon walls they make up for in sweeping vistas, low-traffic roads, and the rural farming communities which I feel are quintessential of the American West.

For those of us who live in Denver's northern suburbs, these plains are our stomping ground for daily riding when schedules do not allow for an hour of driving just to get to a decent hill to climb. In this series of posts, I will present some of the routes I like to ride in this area, which generally strike out from Thornton and tour the back roads of this region.

Adams County Loop

This is a 20-mile loop that I discovered a few years ago which has become a staple on days that I just want to get out for a little while for a quick ride. Parts of the route also lend themselves to doing intervals, if you're looking to get more of a workout. There isn't much to recommend one direction over the other, but for some reason I usually go counter-clockwise.

View Adams County Loop in a larger map

This shows the ride beginning and ending (the bicycle icon) at a parking area near the Adams County Regional Park, but it is easily accessible by bike from most areas in Thornton, Brighton, and perhaps Northglenn. If you begin by heading east, there are a few stop signs and traffic lights early on. Once on Tower Road, the ride is uninterrupted until you get to 152nd/Bromley Lane.

168th Avenue features a little bit of a grade, going uphill for a short way before heading downhill toward US-85. At the intersection of 168th/Baseline and US-85, there are service stations, should you need to pick up additional drinks or snacks.

Riverdale Road is another good stretch without traffic lights or stop signs. I often use Riverdale as a convenient place to do intervals. There is a sand quarry midway along the road, so there are some big trucks going through there. But the traffic is still quite sparse and generally polite. I regularly see wild turkeys in the horse pastures along Riverdale, which always adds to the interest of the ride.

As will be seen in future installments, this route can easily be extended to increase the mileage.

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