The Kings of the Mountain Bikes are Out to Conquer All Colorado’s 14ers

Two Colorado adventurers are out to conquer 14 of the state’s 14ers—on two wheels

ian-fohrman-biking-mount-elbert

RIDE ALONG Ian Fohrman, who has teamed with Whit Boucher on a Bike the 14ers project, says Mount Elbert, pictured, is steep and technical at the top, but “when you clear a difficult section and let the bike do its work, it’s extremely satisfying.” Courtesy Ian Fohrman

For Coloradans, the peaks of this state’s 14ers are like sirens, luring thrill seekers to reach their summits. Our famous 14ers have been climbed up, skied down and, for true bragging rights, some adventurers attempt to check each and every one of these 14,000-foot behemoths off their recreational bucket lists. But, for as much as we love conquering the mountains, until now, they’ve remained mostly unexplored by bike.

Enter Ian Fohrman, a Denver-based writer and photographer, and his buddy Whit Boucher, an Aspen-based artist and professional skier, who have set out to bike all the legal 14ers in Colorado. And, through their Bike the 14ers project, they’re sharing their experiences with others who are inspired to do the same.

First, know this: If you’re going to bike the 14ers, you’ve got to put in a lot of work before you scream down these mountains on two wheels. Most of the ascent is hike-a-bike and each mountain ranges in rideability; some trails allow you to ride uninterrupted to the bottom and some are more difficult to traverse. (To date, Fohrman has found Mount Princeton to be the least bikeable.)

According to the Colorado Tourism Office, the state boasts 58 14ers, and 14 of them can be legally biked. Originally, the duo had 18 mountains on its list to ride, but discovered some would-be trails were in wilderness study areas, creating a gray area as to the legality of exploring them on two wheels. Since they want to be a positive voice for mountain bikers, they aren’t pushing any boundaries.

The first ride Fohrman and Boucher completed was Mount Elbert, which, at an elevation of 14,439 feet, is the highest summit in the Rocky Mountains.

“It ended up being such an amazing experience that we started looking for other above-alpine places in Colorado to bike,” Fohrman says. “During our research it came to light that no one had biked all the legal 14ers in Colorado. I have spent quite a bit of time ski mountaineering with Chris Davenport, the first person to ski all Colorado 14ers in one year, and so the idea to try to be the first popped into my mind.”

And while the duo won’t be the first to complete all the mountains on the list (two of their biker friends with more flexible schedules recently completed the feat), Fohrman and Boucher have just two remaining 14ers to conquer. We caught up with Fohrman to learn more about riding in the rugged Rockies.

TELL US ABOUT THE NICHE YOU’RE FILLING WITH THIS PROJECT.
As skiers and ski mountaineers, for Whit and I, there is sometimes an adventure aspect that’s lacking in biking trails—everything’s mapped out and there’s less of the exploration aspect. We love that each of these rides has a list of unknowns, not much information existing about biking them and a lot to figure out.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE RUSH OF WHISTLING DOWN MOUNT ELBERT?
Elbert was a really fun descent, especially because it is rideable from the summit. The top is steep, technical scree (small, loose rocks) and each section of the ride is progressively more open and flowy. The technical top is steep enough to be puckering. You’re never quite sure which sharp piece of scree is going to chalk your wheels and send you tumbling over the bars into a field of granite meat cleavers. But, when you clear a difficult section and let the bike do its work, it’s extremely satisfying.

WHAT PEAKS ARE ON YOUR 2016 LIST?
We only have Evans and Pikes left. You can drive to the top of both peaks, so we need to make some decisions about how we want to approach them to make them fun and interesting.

biking-mount-democrat

CARRY ON Most of the 14ers on the list, including Mount Democrat, pictured, near the town of Fairplay, require riders to hike-a-bike to get to the summit. Courtesy Ian Fohrman

WHAT KIND OF ATHLETIC ABILITY DOES THIS REQUIRE? ANY TRAILS YOU CAN RECOMMEND FOR INTERMEDIATE RIDERS? AND, FOR EXPERIENCED RIDERS, WHICH PEAKS ARE MUSTS?
First of all, it’s important to have some understanding of backcountry travel, weather and route finding. While these peaks are heavily trafficked, you don’t want to end up stuck somewhere unprepared, get caught in the alpine in a lightning storm or any of the other issues a beginner might run into.

Biking most of these peaks requires some amount of Type II fun … lots of hike-a-bike up and technical descending down scree on the way down. You should do your research—feel free to contact me with questions—and know your abilities before you try one of these peaks.

FAVORITE RIDE TO DATE?
There were quite a few good ones, but the descent of Browns Creek at the base of Mount Antero was easily one of our favorites—a couple thousand feet of rarely ridden downhill style riding through a beautiful forest, along a creek and then linking up to the Colorado Trail.

FAVORITE POST-14ER BEER?
Anything fermented and cold. Honestly, a PBR is usually more than perfect. But if I had my choice, it would probably be a Mirror Pond Pale Ale from Deschutes Brewery, my home brewery in Oregon.

COLORADO’S 14 LEGALLY BIKEABLE 14ERS:

  • Mount Antero
  • Mount Cameron
  • Mount Democrat
  • Mount Elbert
  • Mount Evans
  • Huron Peak
  • Grays Peak
  • Mount Lincoln
  • Pikes Peak
  • Mount Princeton
  • Mount Shavano
  • Mount Sherman
  • Tabeguache Peak
  • Torreys Peak

NEED-TO-KNOW INFO
Bike the 14ers is a project from writer and photographer Ian Fohrman and professional skier and artist Whit Boucher created to bike all the legal 14ers in Colorado. Follow Bike The 14ers on Instagram at @bikethe14ers and @iandavidf. Sign up for the email list and find more information at bikethe14ers.com.

GEAR GUIDE
Things you’ll need for a sky-high ride.

trek-top-fuel-bike

2016 Trek Top Fuel 9.8 SL mountain bike, $5,000, at Treads Bicycle Outfitters, multiple locations

giro-bike-gloves

Giro Xen bike gloves, $35, at area REI stores

camelbak-hydration-pack

Camelbak K.U.D.U. 12 3-liter hydration pack, $200, at camelbak.com

bontrager-lithos-mips-helmet

Bontrager Lithos MIPS helmet, $175, at Treads Bicycle Outfitters

crankbrothers-platform-pedal

Crankbrothers Mallet E clipless/platform pedals, $165, at REI

, , , ,