Riding Colorado’s spectacular Tour of the Moon

Iconic route — and well-orchestrated event — make for great day

Road Bike Travel
Tour of the Moon

The road up and across Colorado National Monument is a true bucket list ride.

Even in a state replete with amazing road cycling routes, the spin through Colorado National Monument stands out. The red rock scenery is sublime, the smooth pavement is near perfect, and if you sign up to do the ride as part of the Icon Eyecare Tour of the Moon event, you get the benefit of partial road closures, on-course aid stations, and live music, good food, and a beer garden waiting for you at the start/finish line in downtown Grand Junction.

Tour of the Moon

The Tour of the Moon peloton included cycling luminaries (L to R) Bob Shaver, Bobby Julich, Ron Kiefel, and Chris Carmichael.

That was the choice for the 2200 riders who showed up for this year’s sold out ride on September 29. More would have joined the sun-splashed fun, but the National Parks Service, which operates Colorado National Monument, caps the event. They also require that all rider’s bikes are equipped with lights front and rear to assure maximum safety when passing through the handful of rock-wall tunnels on the road’s eastern and western ends.

Tour of the Moon

Slowly the city gives way to the high desert.

For the uninitiated, the Tour of the Moon route was first made famous as a key stage in the 1980s-era Coors Classic pro stage race, and also in the cycling/centric movie American Flyers, which starred a young Kevin Costner. Today, it continues to be a bucket list road cycling ride, with its breathtaking high desert scenery and beautiful roads. Located on the northeastern edge of the Colorado Plateau on the far western side of the state, Colorado National Monument offers visitors endless vistas of dramatic red rock canyons and monoliths, pinyon-juniper forests, and three seasons of wildflowers.

Tour of the Moon

It’s amazing that they managed to carve a road into this place.

This year’s Icon Eyecare Tour of the Moon route featured two course options. The standard 41-mile loop climbed up the Monument’s eastern flank, rolled gently west across stunning Rimrock Road, then dropped down the west side before returning to Grand Junction via the quiet roads that run along Colorado National Monument’s base.

Tour of the Moon

The long route included a little time on the tranquil flat roads that loop around Fruita.

Or if you wanted to push yourself a little harder, you could take the same route through the Monument, but then add an extra 21 miles with a flat road spin around the perimeter of Fruita, a small agriculture and tourist town about 12 miles west of Grand Junction. After the Fruita loop, which included a 2.4-mile King/Queen of the Flats section and a well-stocked aid station, the route crossed back over the Colorado River and rejoined the standard loop for the return to downtown Grand Junction. The extra credit pushed total mileage to 62 miles, the equivalent of a metric century. Here’s our GPS file for the long route, which included just shy of 4000 feet of climbing.

Tour of the Moon

Here’s the full route map (plus our trip to the start in the morning). Click the image to enlarge.

To learn more about the event, head over to www.tourofthemoon.com. And be sure to check out the photo gallery below. All photos courtesy Ben Delaney/ClippedIn Events.

Tour of the Moon

About 2200 riders came out for this year’s Icon Eyecare Tour of the Moon, which started and finished in downtown Grand Junction.

Tour of the Moon

All smiles at the start.

Tour of the Moon

With the sun just creeping over the eastern horizon it was time to ride.

Tour of the Moon

The route crosses the mighty Colorado River several times.

Tour of the Moon

The pace was mellow on the spin out of Grand Junction and up Monument Drive.

Tour of the Moon

Heading to the hills.

Tour of the Moon

The magical twisting road that leads up and into Colorado National Monument.

Tour of the Moon

The tough climb forces riders to find their own pace and friends to ride with.

Tour of the Moon

Making friends along the way.

Tour of the Moon

These are the kind of switchbacks road cycling dreams are made of.

Tour of the Moon

The Grand Valley is one of Colorado’s most fertile regions — and the event’s aid stations were the benefactor.

Tour of the Moon

Basking in the glow of Colorado National Monument.

Tour of the Moon

There was plenty of fuel and hydration stops along the route.

Tour of the Moon

Once up on the plateau it was easier to sit, spin, and enjoy the scenery.

Tour of the Moon

In case you forgot your camera, the event had you covered.

Tour of the Moon

Our steed of choice was this bump taming Specialized Roubaix with SRAM’s superb eTap wireless electronic drivetrain.

Tour of the Moon

In case you forgot to pack a few gels.

Tour of the Moon

There was also a special doughnut station.

Tour of the Moon

Hard to imagine a more perfect place to ride bikes.

Tour of the Moon

This guy needs longer legs.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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