54 mph is the fastest I’ve ever gone on a bicycle. This personal record was wind and gravity assisted on St. Vrain Road in Boulder County, Colorado as I zoomed east toward Longmont out of the Rocky Mountain foothills from Highway 36. If I recall correctly, the speed limit on St. Vrain Road is 40 mph.
The U.S. Rocky Mountains stand in the way of the west-to-east weather patterns over North America. When large weather systems move over the high mountains in Colorado, the peaks act just like pebbles in a stream, causing turbulence that can cause 100 mph winds to dip down into the Front Range. I watched one of these Chinook winds rip a storage building to shreds within minutes. These downslope winds cause millions of dollars in damage as they rip roofs from buildings and topple utility poles, but if you catch one as a tailwind while riding a bicycle, they can be a lot of fun.
This stretch of St. Vrain is also where I hit 40 mph on a fixed gear bike. That’s a lot more terrifying because I had to disengage from the pedals and just let them fly as I rested my feet on the downtube. I could theoretically have put bigger gears on the bike, but to go downhill I first had to go uphill. My usual lunch ride circuit back then was west on Nelson Road from Longmont, north on U.S. 36, east on St. Vrain, then 75th and/or Airport Road back before winding my way back to work near where the Diagonal and Hover intersect.
I’ve been wanting to beat this personal record ever since and break through the magic 55 mph barrier. I thought I’d have my chance on Sunday, with strong northwesterly winds gusting to 40 mph in northern California. I should have gone down to the coast to Highway 1, but my time was limited and I thought the hills where I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains would help.
Felton is downhill from Scotts Valley by a couple of hundred feet, but Mount Hermon Road is a rollercoaster with a couple of good downhill segments going toward Scotts Valley. I pushed west against a stiff 20 mph wind and rode to Felton, California.
It turns out, unfortunately, that the hills along Mount Hermon Road effectively block the wind — as soon as I got out of Scotts Valley, the wind was variable but mostly very light. I thought I’d try my luck on Highway 9 and went up to Ben Lomond, but all of them redwood trees block the wind, too.
My max speed today was 38 mph. Yeah, it was goofy going out for a ride for the sole purpose of going fast like the wind, but I had a good time doing it.
How about you? Do you like going fast? Do you purposely seek out strong winds and steep hills just so you can brag about how fast you went on a bicycle?