Ted’s essays

Pike’s Peak the wrong way

Nobody could tell me, but I’ll give a go at warning those capable of listening …

I am a returning rider who is definitely not young, flexible or strong. I picked up a new 2009 BMW R1200RT motorcycle in Denver. It only had 14,000 miles on odometer when 80,000 is more typical of these on the used market.

It took the dealership until 6:00 PM (well into Denver’s going home commute traffic) to send me down the road with new tires mounted and new fuel pump installed.

My first hour on the new bike was slightly uncomfortable surrounded by commuters, trucks and vacationers with big city attitudes as I made my way to a family reunion in Monument, Colorado.

Friday morning, I spent the second and third hours on my new bike driving to, then up Pike’s Peak Highway to the thin air at the summit.

The roads are, uh, breathtaking… literally… not particularly wide with no shoulders and drop-offs falling to infinity.

BMW odometer when parked at the top

The turns vary from what motorcycle enthusiasts might call tight-twisties to extremely sharp, steep switchbacks.

The air, starting around 7,000 feet and running up to 14,114 feet is not oxygen rich … said another way, breathing is not as easy as most of us are used to.


Normal people will not go up that highway in/on any vehicle.

Regular adventurous people will ride with drivers who have earned superior trust somehow.

Advanced adventurous people will drive up and back in cars with their white knuckles squeezing their steering wheels.

Wild ones are more casual, perhaps even riding familiar motorcycles up and down.

NUTZ and those ignorant of this road’s realities think it might be a good place for an orientation ride.
Yep. That was me.

Well above the tree line I began feeling like I had enough… but the road is very definitely too narrow for moderately skilled, or low skilled riders to turn around on.

I glanced up to see the narrow road, switchbacks and the naked mountain overhead going up, up, up far into the sky above. Aaugh!

I dunno, I probably would have gone all the way even if there was a way out. I am not so bright that way, do tend towards finishing what I started, and reaching goals I set for myself regardless of the challenges therein.

After a break strolling around and catching my breath, I was not alone in the motorcycle parking lot working to psych myself for the ride back down that road.

If there ever was a time to chant the mantra, “Look where you want to go. DO NOT look where you do not want to go.” This is the time to chant that one.

Oddly, I found it necessary to overtake quite a few cautious cagers on both the ride up and the ride back. Most would pull off onto one of the numerous turnouts whenever their mirrors became occupied. Some are so intensely concentrating on their windshield that they won’t pull off no matter what.

On the other hand… Yes. I am glad I did it. I do not expect another chance to take that ride in my lifetime. I have now officially been there, done that.

The return trip down four fully occupied lanes of interstate on a Labor Day Weekend Friday with city drivers bobbing, weaving and jostling for position was not conducive for winding down from my mountain climbing adventure. Another on the list of things to not repeat.

With help from the family, I strapped my new motorcycle onto the trailer behind my Suburban for the trip home a few days hence. This is definitely not the neighborhood for building my skills and comfort level with a new bike.