Spoke Talk: The what, where, when and why of gravel grinding
Steamboat Springs — There is a cycling discipline gathering nationwide attention, and Routt County is a perfect area for this back-road exploration. This article serves as a primer on dirt road riding or what is known as gravel grinding. A gravel grinder can use a road, cyclocross or even mountain bike to ride back-country, less-traveled state, county or forest roads.
What do you need?
Start with a mechanically sound bike. If your old favorite has been in the back of the shed, give it a good inspection. Check drivetrain, shifting, brakes, wheels and tires. If you’re limited on skills or time, wheel it into one of our fantastic bike shops and have them give it a once over.
With your bike sorted, make sure you have a good fitting helmet, a pair of gloves, sunglasses and decent shoes. Bike-specific gear increases comfort but is not necessary. Be sure to take a small jacket.
The rougher gravel roads can introduce a challenge or two, so prepare with a small multi-tool and the goods for flat tire repair: spare tube, patch kit, pump, a couple of tire levers, and most importantly, the ability to change that flat.
Energy and hydration are critical, so take sufficient water and snacks. Estimate you’ll drink 16 to 20 ounces of water per hour. A half-frozen water bottle of juice topped off with water before you go is a perfect treat!
When is the perfect time? Now is ideal as roads are dry and everything is green. Some riders prefer to head out early and get a nice ride before sleepy Steamboat wakes up. Be sure to wave to your local ranchers, as they are out and about taking care of cattle.
Where can you gravel grind in Routt County?
There are miles of dirt roads, so scope out where you’re going and have an estimate of how long it will take. Take a map or memorize your route, and check the weather. If you’re doing a full-day adventure, let somebody know where you’re headed and when you’ll return. Bike Town USA’s Bike Guide has some good suggestions.
If you’re looking for something more organized, a great opportunity is the Moots Colorado Ranch Rally on Saturday.
This inaugural event is a 50-mile cyclosportive held on dirt and gravel roads around Steamboat. It includes only five miles of pavement — the other 45 miles feature rural dirt and gravel roads that connect historic Routt County ranches.
Moots is partnering with – and the ride benefits – the Community Agriculture Alliance to showcase the importance and heritage of local ranches in Routt County and throughout Colorado. Even better — each participant (limited to 100) has the chance to win a Moots Psychlo X frame! For information or to register, visit http://www.moots.com.
Why is this something you should consider? It’s a fun, less technically challenging way to ride, and it avoids traffic and crowds. The more you ride, the more you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of this place we call home.
Need suggestions? Contact Routt County Riders — we’d love to help: email@example.com.
Alan Perkins is a Routt County Riders member and volunteer.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Just inside the doors of Kevin Dietrich’s Natural Exposure Gallery in downtown Steamboat Springs, there are moose, bears and some of the town’s most scenic landscapes captured in perfect light.