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Down Pikes Peak or bust . . . on a bicycle!
By Tom Adkinson
June 30, 2023

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pikes peak bicycling
Cyclists in the yellow vests know not to pass the red-jacketed guide on a ride that has “no match in bicycling.” Image courtesy of Adventures Out West

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – I had slid into my 70s when I got the opportunity for an adventure that would guarantee cocktail party conversation for the rest of my years.

“Ride a bicycle down Pikes Peak? Oh, heck, yes!” I exclaimed. (That’s the family version of what I said.)

Crazy? Only partway. That’s because my descent down “America’s Mountain” was under the watchful eye of an adventure company that has been raising clients’ adrenaline levels with hot-air balloon rides, whitewater rafting excursions, waterfall hikes, Jeep rides, Segway trips and other outdoor thrills for 50 years.

pikes peak
There’s no mistaking Pikes Peak, even from miles away and thousands of feet lower, inside Colorado Springs. Image courtesy of

below pikes peak timberline
Heart rates approach normal after the Pikes Peak Highway’s slant moderates and there is time for commemorative photos. Image by Barbara Ramsay Orr


The ride was down Pikes Peak Highway – 19 miles of two-lane asphalt that twists and turns and is as curly as a pig’s tail. It began at the very top of Pikes Peak, 14,115 feet above sea level and high above the timberline. The air was crystal clear, the sky was cerulean blue and the views went on forever.

It also was take-your-breath-away cold at that altitude.

I rode a pricey bicycle that I’d never buy for myself – a $1,200 piece of precision engineering made by Specialized Bicycle Components Inc. The last bike I had owned, which was decades ago, was from J.C. Penney that might have cost $100.

pikes peak bicycling pep talk
An AOW guide goes over safety protocols one last time before calling out, “Follow me, and don’t ride your brakes.” Image by Tom Adkinson

The outfitter was Adventures Out West (AOW), and its preparations and protocols were reassuring. However, I do remember what I said when my group’s guide asked whether we were ready to roll.

“This is nuts,” I muttered. No one was listening.

My group had bonded a couple of hours earlier in Colorado Springs, where the air was much warmer and the elevation was only 6,035. We were at AOW’s office, where its biking adventures begin and end.

cyclist barbara ramsay orr
Cyclist Barbara Ramsay Orr from Burlington, Ontario, models the snug-fitting, fashion-be-darned headgear required to bicycle down Pikes Peak. Image by Tom Adkinson

We found bikes that fit us, willingly borrowed gloves that looked warmer than any we had ourselves and tried on full-face Giro Switchblade helmets. The AOW’s website somewhat encouraging comment about the helmets was that they are “extremely good helmets that will help to protect you if there is a crash.”

It was obvious all of us were older than 12 (the minimum age) and that none of us cracked 250 pounds (the maximum weight) at our last annual physical.

AOW’s website admonishment about being fit to ride was clear: “Biking is an extreme sport and is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve not ridden a bike before, this is not the tour for you.”

AOW owner Greg Wellens offered a more succinct observation: “Make sure you’re a competent human being before rolling downhill.”

pikes peak highway curves
Pikes Peak Highway is 19 miles of asphalt that practically ties itself in knots on the transit up and down America’s Mountain. Image courtesy of

A big part of the outing is simply getting to the starting point. We rode out from the city in open-air Jeeps and straight up Pikes Peak. Well, not exactly straight up. The breezy, serpentine ride up the mountain was on the road we were going to ride back down, a preview of things to come. The route is super-impressive on the way up. It’s daunting and exhilarating on the way down.

When we reached the summit – and the architecturally amazing visitor center there – we had views that Wellens said easily stretched 100 miles or more.

“You can see Longs Peak in Rocky Mountains National Park, which is 80 miles away, and even to Kansas, which is 110 miles off,” he said, adding that the oldest guide’s joke in the book is to tell people to look very carefully and they might be able to see the dotted line separating Colorado from Kansas.

Our progress down Pikes Peak was calculated. An AOW guide stayed at the front of the line, we followed (with varying degrees of confidence) and our Jeep trailed behind. It was mid-morning, so there was little downhill traffic yet, but the Jeep’s presence meant no vehicles whizzed by us as we ourselves whizzed along. Bold bicyclists can reach 40 miles and hour. I wasn’t that bold.

The guide stopped a half-dozen times so he could monitor how we felt, so we could admire the surroundings and so any accumulated vehicles behind the Jeep could pass by.

Some of us shed layers of clothing as we neared the timberline and the air warmed. The first trees were bristlecone pines, which Wellens and Guinness World Records say are the oldest tree species now living. Then came Douglas firs, aspens, blue spruce and Ponderosa pine as we rolled into lower elevations.

“I don’t think there is any adventure like this anywhere. There’s no match in bicycling,” Wellens said.

Of the roughly 1 million people who ascend Pikes Peak each year, only approximately 800 to 1,000 ride bicycles back down with AOW, putting my group in a small subset of mountain visitors.

Feeling proud of myself, I asked Wellens how many of his clients were older than 70.

“There are a few, but I’ve had a guide on this tour who was 80,” he reported, news that gave me a target to consider a few years from now.

Trip-planning resources:, and

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available on The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is included in the third edition of the book, which is available at

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