Head out on the highway and look for adventure on two wheels this summer.
We always talk about the great state we live in, but how many of us have actually seen it in all its glory? We’re talking road trips. And not just road trips in the minivan with the screaming kids in the back and Cheetos flying everywhere. We’re talking about road tripping across Colorado on a motorcycle. The kind of road trips that require riding jackets, leather chaps, a helmet and a man ponytail neatly tied back with a scrunchie.
Since our motorcycle knowledge lies somewhere between “CHiPs” and “Sons of Anarchy,” we turned to the experts at Rocky Mountain Harley-Davidson. We spoke to Riding Academy Manager Bob Norton, who, along with his team of coaches, trains people how to ride motorcycles responsibly. The coaches facilitate the motorcycle safety classes, and, when successfully completed, you will be issued a completion card that states that you have successfully completed the safety course and are eligible to be issued the ‘M’ endorsement on your driver’s license.
But where to start when it comes to heading out on the open road?
“A lot of times, riders get up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and wonder where they want to ride. Harley-Davidson Rocky Mountain has a fun scavenger hunt tour book. You can use it for a day trip, or an overnight trip as a weekend planner,” says Bob. “All you do is take a picture of yourself while holding your book at the destination—then collect the pictures and show them to a team member at the shop. We stamp that part of the book and you collect various prizes. The first 12 stops, you get the annual patch. When you finish all 31 stops across Colorado, you get a dog tag with our shop logo and the logo of the event on the other side.”
Sounds pretty epic, doesn’t it?
Let’s get real for a second: Colorado highways can seem a little daunting, especially for beginner rides. That’s why it’s nice to know CDOT has a motorcycle map available at most dealerships where they break down each road and highway into beginner, intermediate and advanced riding skills levels.
“The degree of difficulty is determined by technical difficulty of the road. Such as how many turns it has, and how tight they are—how close together are they from each other,” Bob explains.
Beginner rider? Bob suggests trying I-70 West from Denver to Grand Junction, which is considered a beginner’s ride since there aren’t many tricky turns and great visibility. Once you get to Grand Junction, a nice day ride would be the Colorado National Monument. It’s 28 miles of road from one entrance to another entrance, it’s nice, and somewhat windy, but not overly difficult.
Intermediate rider? Try Independence Pass. This ride is a mix between intermediate and advanced. If you follow the warning signs, most intermediate riders will be able to handle the tight curves and narrow roads in spots. The pass crests at about 12,095 feet and offers incredible views of the Continental Divide. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Along with popping your ears as you ride, you’re going to take in some breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains. There are a couple different ways to get to Independence Pass, but we suggest going from Aspen and taking Route 82. At the end of the pass, you’ll be at Leadville. The pass usually opens the first Friday before Memorial Day weekend, depending on conditions.
Advanced rider? Hit up Highway 550 and try the “Million Dollar Highway,” which is part of the San Juan Skyway in southern Colorado. The ride will take you from Durango through Silverton and Ouray to Ridgway. The scenery is jaw-dropping and absolutely worth every white knuckle it takes to ride it.
Not sure where you fall with skill level? Bob assures you that you’ll get better each time you ride. Rocky Mountain Harley-Davidson offers a four-day training course to the general public. Right now, they’re offering it free to first responders, law enforcement and retired or active military members.