Cycling on paved roadways is one of the most accessible ways to ride, possibly beginning right outside your door. Serious road riders use lightweight bikes and are committed to long, sustained rides, whether it’s on flat urban and rural roads or mountain road climbs. Many bike races happen on pavement, though commuting and recreational riding can be considered road cycling, too.
Most cycling publications and websites create annual lists of their favorite U.S. scenic road routes, including the Blue Ridge Parkway from North Carolina to Virginia, the Natchez Trace Parkway from Mississippi to Tennessee and California’s Big Sur Coast, to name a few. For the recreational cyclist, the flat, 15-mile loop along the Shark Valley tram road within southern Florida’s Everglades National Park could be epic for the alligators and other wildlife you’ll see up close. Or take the 8-mile spin around Michigan’s Mackinac Island so you can claim to have traveled on M-185, the only state highway closed to motor vehicles.
My most recent ambitious road ride wasn’t as easy as I expected when I heard “drive up, bike down” at Pikes Peak. Adventures Out West led the trip that they call the highest bike tour in the U.S. The ride starts early in the day to avoid the busiest traffic on the 19.5 mile summit road so keep that in mind and wear layers for the day. They loan you a parka and gift you a neck gator — accept them and use them because the drive up in an open-air jeep is chilly and the temperature during the first portion of the descent from 14,115 feet is near freezing.
Surprisingly, the ride is not completely downhill; there are a few spots that require some work and with the thin air I was very winded during the first part of the descent. Fortunately the guide stops along the way to keep the group together, take a break and offer tips for the next section. A support vehicle follows the group to help manage vehicle traffic coming down the mountain. The ride was exhilarating and the sweeping views of the Colorado Rockies made the effort worthwhile.
MeLinda Schnyder is a freelance journalist based in Wichita, Kansas, and has been a regular contributor to Kansas Country Living since 2017. She grew up in Columbia, Missouri, where her first grown-up bike was a used yellow Schwinn 10-speed that would now be considered vintage and cool.