June 14, 2009 posted by

Best Urban Ride in the US

Yesterday I used our still-spring-like conditions to put the finishing touches on Ronde van Salt Lake City. It’s got to be the best urban ride in the US. Seriously. Okay, so I always say that everything I’m currently doing is the best thing ever. But… seriously. I’m going to organize a group ride in the coming month or so and add coordinates on the web. Everyone should do it. No, really, seriously.

It’s called the Ronde because it’s my version of the Tour of Flanders (or Ronde van Vlaanderen). To mimic the ride (race course that’s marked for the public who ride it regularly), I tried to include all of the elements that make that course so amazing. This includes:

Great scenery
Very few traffic stops
Small winding roads with character
Lots of famous landmarks en route
Great places to eat en route
All of the famous “bergs” in an area (short steep climbs)
Sections of cobblestones
slc pave

It took me a while, and a fair amount of exploring, to concoct this. But there are very few sections of the entire ride when I’m not looking around and thinking about how cool it is. It’s hard, but not impossible for a weekend warrior. And it’s laid out in a way where those wanting to abridge the challenge can skip hard climbs or sections of “SLC pave”.

I’ll post the exact course later, along with a date for a group ride (which will be a Sunday in the next 6 weeks or so). For now, here is the general scope.

Probably 75 miles.
16 bergs, the longest of which is less than two miles and many are very short.
10 sections of SLC pave, the longest of which is less than two miles and many are very short.
20 or so bridge crossings, most of which are short (over the Jordan River), but all are made of “wooden cobbles”.

It passes by many of SLC’s famous landmarks, including great views of every canyon from City Creek to Little Cottonwood, a bunch of mtn bike and hiking trailheads, a few climbing areas, The Jordan River Parkway and most of its parks, most affluent neighborhoods, the hip neighborhoods, the burbs, the hood, downtown, every major sports venue, the U of U, a quarry (you have to ride through a quarry for full Utah experience), and, of course, the crazy downtown LDS complex.

atypical views for an urban ride

The first 40 miles or so are mainly flat, at which point you’re only about 15 miles from where we’ll start. This makes it a pretty doable ride for most people. Over the next 40 or so you hit most of the climbs and all of the pave. It’s brutal. Over the last 20 or so miles it’s almost never flat. If it were a race, any attack here could succeed as there’s never a point where a group would have a huge advantage for long. During this last section there is only one stop light to deal with, and probably only 20 or so over the entire ride.
cobble sector 8

I picked some of the steepest roads in town, including Zane, K Street, and I Street, but the climbs were chosen more for aesthetics then pure difficulty. One of the coolest climbs winds steeply through a cemetery, another is closed to cars, covered by trees and next to a river. Many crest the benches and offer incredible views. On almost every climb and every cobble section asked myself “how could this be any better?”

It could be better. It could have real cobbles. It could have Belgian food. But they don’t have our scenery, so it stacks up. Because this course doesn’t go into the mountains it’ll be best as a spring ride. Fall will probably come with too much puncture potential (stickers and such). Summer, when I’m doing it this year, can be brutally hot. So this modern classic will officially begin next spring, though I’m giving it a test run soon. And everyone should come. Seriously.
section of single track that’s better on a road bike than a hippie bike. seriously.


  • Wants an event flyer!

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  • gonna need a detailed topo steve! i'm back on the bike (sorta) and suzanne will be able to ride soon as well; the ronde sounds damn near like perfection!

  • Starts at Blue Star Coffee. Head south on 27th, then Wander Ln, til this dumps you into Holladay. Take the normal route to Porcupine. Right, then left on Nut Tree. Wander through this neighborhood the easiest way til it joins Wasatch. Up into Little but turn right after the first bit and down into Cottonwood Heights. Make you way to Dimple Dell Rd and head down to the bottom of the park. Turn right and catch Sego Lilly downhill to the rail trail bike path. Take this to 9000. Go under the 15, take the frotage road. Left at the end and turn into the Jordan River parkway.Follow this til it ends just before the 80 west. A bit hard at times but stay on the river if you get off track.That's the first 40 or so miles.

  • That first bit is mainly flat and downhill and pretty damn easy. It contains Berg 1 and 2, but those are just to warm you up. Along the Jordan river it's all bike path. Very cool, winding, with many bridges. This is no place to hammer, in general, which is why I chose a Sunday morning. But it's also not really crowded at all. It end in the hood, which is a neighborhood I really like. Turn right at Franklin School. Turn left as soon as you can go under the 80. Turn right (200 S) and head into downtown. There's a taqueria at the right turn that I need to check out.From here I turned left where Trax met the road, then right on 100, u under the Gateway arch, then left at Energy Solution arena. Right on South Temple and take this to 700 E. Turn right, then left at 200 S, and head east. The climb up to the U is berg 3. Right at campus, then left and do berg 4 up past the stadium to the top of campus.That's the end of the "easy" section. And for you it'd be, like, 5 minutes home.

  • …orGo left at the top of the hill, make the first left and first right, which takes you down Federal Heights to Virginia. L to 4th and right.Take Canyon into the cemetary. L at the T and then R and up to 11th. Berg 5, first hard one, and very cool. L on 11th, right on K. Berg 6. L at top and down to the end. Take this downhill to 3rd, R to Canyon. R at up Memory Grove. Berg 7.L at top and R at Columbus and down to Beck heading north. Take the bike route into the quarry. 1st cobble section is short, easy, and can be avoided here on the pavement.

  • …stay on Beck to W.Center. L follow some very bad pavement, worse than cobble sections, to the bike path (Jordan River Parkway) entrance. Head south.After about a mile the bike path pavement ends. Proceed into the dirt, which is quite overgrown here. Sector 2 is probably the slowest going of the SLC pave. Exit onto Redwood Rd when possible, and in couple hundred meters take the dirt road to the right and enter sector 3. This is a long and cool section of dirt. Where it looks about to end, head right over a bridge and follow the river, which will be on your right.At its exit, go under the 215 and right on N 2200 W. L on 3300 N, and left onto N 3200 W, sector 4. Also long, this is what they use for the Hell of the North bike race.L at its end and back under the 215 and reverse the end of sector 3. Sector 5 takes you straight across Redwood Rd (so stay straight at the bridge) on back onto the paved JRPW. Follow this along the river until it turns to dirt. You CAN avoid the dirt with a left turn but don't. Stay on a good dirt road, sector 6, to the golf course. Stay left on the grass until you exit at 600 N. Turn L.Take 600 N to West Capitol Hill, where the real business starts.

  • …R on Wall Street to begin berg 8. It keeps getting steeper til you turn left on Zane, which is the steepest two blocks in town. R at the top.L in front of the capitol, R on State, L on E.Capitol for berg 9, which feels easy after Zane. Head around City Creek to 11th and go up to I. L and up berg 10. Ouch. Almost as steep as K and twice as long. Wind around to the top, down Terrace Hills, and L at Chandler (un-marked but the last street before 11th and you hit it going fast).Deceptively steep climb here (past the end of Bobsled) to Virginia. R and down to Popperton. L.Take the bike path onto berg 12 past the sign in the pic. Very steep but short, then drop in pave sector 7 (market 8 in my pic). Important, when you turn left towards the hospital, take the small single track. This is the best way down to pavement.Drive through the parking lot to Medical Dr and go L up berg 13 (very easy on perfect pavement. Go under the hosipital, then up to the higher lot. Take this straight to the BoSho Trailhead.Enter it at Red Butte. Pave sector 8 is short but climbs a little. Exit on Wakara. R and down and quickly L on Colorow down to Chipeta to Arapeen to Sunnyside. Almost done!

  • L towards Emigration. Berg 14 starts at the Zoo. R on Crestview then L to keep climbing to Valley Vista. R and follow the bike signs, which lead you back onto Crestview. Great views here of town.The road again ends where you enter the BoSho and sector 9. Make an uphill left at its start (important) and take this til it ends at a big house.Fly downhill and follow bike signs to Wasatch, but turn L against traffic onto the sidewalk that leads onto the bike path. Wind down and start berg 15, which climbs out onto Wasatch, makes the first left and climb as high as you can: Cascade, Plateau, Teton, Monte Verde (down), Crestview, and down Astro to Mill Creek Rd. Cross Mill Creek and hit berg 16. Ouch again. Berg 16. Climb Parkview to Zarahemla, to the apex.R and down Cumorah (Oakview) to Jupiter to Wasatch. R and to it's end, so R at 3300. Back down the bike path but take the bridge over the 215 and head down into Parley's Nature Park.Descend into pave sector 10. Avoid the dogs. Climb out (should also be a berg). Drop everyone on the climb because it's downhill back to Blue Star from here.

  • Voila!

  • You probably didn't notice… but the pic of your bike parked by the Steep and Winding Trail sign also has one of MY signs under it. The City is still using my "delicate and encouraging" verbiage and the happy dog logo I asked to borrow from a Colorado FIDOS group. Ah… the good ol' days!

  • My wife's smart as a whip!

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