Boulder is made for bikes

Sample the city’s sunshine, mountains, and post-ride plates

One of cycling’s finest traditions is the late winter/early spring disappearing act, when cyclists in cooler climes, run down by winter’s rain and lack of sunlight, pack their bike bags and take flight for a few days in more hospitable riding conditions. The Europeans have Gran Canaria, Calpe, and Mallorca, and top of the list of Stateside rivals is Boulder, Colorado.

Boulder has pro credentials – there isn’t a city in the country with a finer pedigree in producing professional riders – and its roads are a cornucopia of climbs and dirt. Considering that Forbes named Boulder one of the top five ‘secret’ destinations for foodies, and that Rapha Boulder (with its fleet of Canyons for visiting Rapha Cycling Club members) is now open, there’s never been a better time to visit the city for a weekend of riding. In case you needed any further convincing, we sent a rider out into the Flatirons to sample the best riding and post-ride food Boulder has to offer.

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We arrive in Boulder on a Sunday morning with two clean bikes. The ride of the day visits Flagstaff, Gross Dam, Twin Spruce, Gap Road, and Magnolia – it’s a route that’s short on mileage (56) but not on climbing (7,500ft), half of which is on dusty, washboard roads through areas where a bar and a general store are enough to constitute a ‘town’. We put down coffees at Rapha Boulder and headed to Flagstaff, Boulder’s most famous climb. We passed Andy Hampsten’s house – the Giro winner waves, if you’re lucky. No Andy today, but we talk about him anyway.

Flagstaff is a wonderful, paved climb that passes quickly on long days like these, as it’s the first course of a long meal – some of which are very gamey and tough to chew. Most riders get to the top of Flagstaff and turn around. It’s a common mistake, but not one we’ll make today.

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Like most rides in the rural mountains, this one has a point at which you realize that every route home involves at least one first category climb. Embrace this (a couple of full bottles and a snack in your jersey pocket is all you’ll need to survive), and embrace the dirt roads – sometimes perfect and smooth, sometimes just-graded and deep, sometimes ridged with washboard. They are, however, almost always empty.

Boulder is a small town with a lot of character, and the moment you cross the threshold into the mountains you can sense your escape from the ‘Boulder Bubble’. The riding is exquisite and often solitary, and when you do encounter civilization, it’s not quite what you’d expect. The bar of Rollinsville, a usually reliable mid-ride stop, was closed – we were told they had too big a party the night prior and that everyone is likely sleeping it off.

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A ride in the Flatirons earns you a hearty dinner, and Boulder has more than enough kitchens ready to make one for you. We chose Pizzeria Locale, which hummed with the gentle din of a spring Sunday. The tall ceilings play host to the music of a busy restaurant: plates rattle, glasses clink on tables, the river of conversations heard and unheard that float in from the screen window. Pizzas come out of the 1,000-degree brick oven quickly, perfectly. We finish with the butterscotch pudding and two glasses of bartender’s-choice amaro. Golden Paulaners at the long wooden tables of the Bohemian Biergarten send us off into the night.

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