It’s motorcycle season in Summit County |

It’s motorcycle season in Summit County

SUMMIT COUNTY – Motorcycle season in the High Country has kicked into gear with bright, warm days and the opening of Independence Pass on Thursday. “I live to be in the saddle of my bike,” said Jim Walsh, retired police officer of Frisco. He said he rides his Harley Davidson Screaming Eagle Ultra Classic Electra Glide from late April to late December, so long as the temperature is above 40 degrees. Springtime in Summit County presents hazards bikers may want to be careful to avoid. Sand and gravel used to provide vehicles traction over the winter can be painful: Cars and trucks run over the gravel, kicking it up behind them. “That rock might break your windshield,” Walsh said. “If it hits us in the throat, it’s like getting hit with a bullet.”The spots of sand and gravel on roads can cause a bike’s wheels to slide out of control, and experienced bikers know better than to bank into turns when such substances are out there, he said. Brad Lehmkuhl, representing the Mountain Region of Abate of Colorado – a bikers’ organization with about 55 local members -said that when it comes to hazards, the “biggest thing is looking out for people driving cars.”Signs along Interstate 70 in recent weeks have been warning motorists to be aware of motorcycles. The Colorado Department of Transportation recently released data on 2009 motorcycle fatalities statewide, which at 88 were down from 98 in 2008. But traffic fatalities overall dropped last year, and motorcycle deaths continue to rise relative to other types of traffic fatalities – increasing from 18 percent in 2008 to 19 percent in 2009. Mike Stoveken of Silverthorne Power Sports said wildlife can present hazards, as he recently saw a moose on Highway 9 north of Silverthorne. He said that while sales of street cruisers and sport bikes have had a big push in March or April, this year they’re just now getting under way – and service work on bikes is starting to fill the calendar. Sales of cruisers and sport bikes are generally split at Silverthorne Power Sports, and Stoveken said about 75 percent of sales are for off-road dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles.

At 12,095 feet in elevation, Independence Pass along Highway 82 between Leadville and Aspen offers a scenic ride with some exciting turns. “Typically, I end up in Leadville a lot,” Walsh said, adding that it’s nice to get into the town at about 6 p.m. and eat at Quincy’s Steakhouse before returning home. He said taking Gore Pass west of Kremmling and looping around to Steamboat Springs is also a great ride, as well as heading east to Estes Park and ultimately re-connecting to I-70 through Central City. Lehmkuhl said a fun ride he likes to take with groups is a roughly 40 mile loop from Silverthorne up I-70, back down Loveland Pass, over Swan Mountain Road and into Frisco before returning to Silverthorne. As for meeting fellow bikers, Abate is the only organization well-represented in Summit. Stoveken said his business has started putting together lists of customers looking for fellow riders, and he said social networking sites such as are growing popular. Lehmkuhl said anyone interested in taking a motorcycle training course can sign up through Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or

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