Cycle along Yampa Valley backroads during weeklong Steamboat Gravel Festival | SteamboatToday.com

Cycle along Yampa Valley backroads during weeklong Steamboat Gravel Festival

Rider Hannah Bingham rolls down Routt County Road 44 next to the Elk River during the 2018 Steamboat Gravel Festival, which kicks off for its second year Monday.
Photo courtesy of David Epperson

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A year ago, a bunch of local bikers and a few Front Range visitors hit some of the less-traveled roads in Routt and Moffat counties to kick off the first Steamboat Gravel Festival.

The weeklong festival started its second year Monday night with a ride that originated from the historic train depot in Steamboat Springs. The daily bike rides are free and open to anyone. Maps with route information and where bikers should meet can be found on gravelfest.com.

Festival organizer JR Thompson, of Veloscapes cycling tours, said “gravel grinding” is currently the biggest sector of the cycling industry, and Routt County has some of the best hard gravel and dirt roads around.

“Steamboat is being discovered as a world class gravel destination,” Thompson said. “We end each (Gravel Fest) ride with a story hour at a local brewery for a beer or lemonade.”

Hannah Bingham rode all seven days last year. Her favorite ride was the Trout Creek Built, sponsored by Bingham Built Cycles, which is run by her and her husband, Brad Bingham.

“I liked it because it’s kind of like the standard Steamboat long-weekend gravel ride,” Hannah said. “You get to see the Trout Creek area in south Routt, and you get to go into Oak Creek and have pastries and coffee at Kate’s Café.”

John Weinman, owner of The Classic Crank in downtown Steamboat, also sponsors one of the rides and loves that anyone can enjoy the festival with their friends or make new friends on the daily rides.

“My favorite ride is the Wednesday night ride. It goes around Sleeping Giant,” Weinman said. “Nobody’s out there, and there’s a couple of sections that are just gorgeous.”

Steamboat Gravel Festival Ride Schedule

Tuesday, May 14

  • Ride: Emerald Circuit
  • Pace: Fast, Moderate and Easy
  • Distance: 27.6 miles
  • Start time: 5:30 p.m.
  • Start Location: Orange Peel Bicycle Service, 1136 Yampa St.
  • Story hour: 7 to 9 p.m. at Mountain Tap Brewery, 910 Yampa St., No. 103

Wednesday, May 15

  • Ride: The Darkside of Fly Gulch
  • Pace: Moderate
  • Distance: 31.3 miles
  • Start time: 5:30 p.m.
  • Start location: Moots Cycles, 2545 Copper Ridge Drive
  • Story hour:  7 to 9 p.m. at Butcherknife Brewing Company, 2875 Elk River Road

Thursday, May 16

  • Ride: SBT GRVL Green Course
  • Pace: Easy and Moderate
  • Distance: 37 miles
  • Start time: 5:30 p.m.
  • Start location: Mountain Tap Brewery
  • Story hour: 7 to 9 p.m. at The Barley Tap and Tavern, 635 Lincoln Ave.

Friday, May 17

  • Ride: South of Town — Diverge
  • Pace: Moderate
  • Distance: 38 miles
  • Start time: 5 p.m.
  • Start location: Ski Haus, 1457 Pine Grove Road
  • Story hour: 6 to 9 p.m. at Storm Peak Brewing Co., 1885 Elk River Plaza

Saturday, May 18

  • Ride: Trout Creek Built
  • Pace: Moderate
  • Distance: 73 miles
  • Start time: 9 a.m.
  • Start location: Bingham Built, 1136 Yampa St.
  • Story hour: 3 to 6 p.m. at Mountain Tap

Sunday, May 19

  • Ride: Il Corso D’oro
  • Pace: Easy and Moderate
  • Distance: 46.5 miles
  • Start time: 10 a.m.
  • Start location: The Classic Crank, 653 Lincoln Ave.
  • Story hour: 3 to 6 p.m. at The Barley Tap and Tavern

Bingham said Tuesday’s ride, The Emerald Circuit, is also a “classic Steamboat ride” for people who may not have ridden much on the roads. It starts at Orange Peel Bicycle Service and is portioned out in three sections for fast, moderate and easy riding on pavement.

Weinman, who loves riding and restoring older classic steel bikes, said all of the rides can be enjoyed at any level.

“We do a little talk, explain the ride route and talk about some places we’ll gather back together,” Weinman explained. “The rides get fragmented … people form groups based on their level of riding.”

Since the Gravel Festival is free to participants, there’ll be no support crews helping riders with flats or mechanical issues.

While Hannah Bingham will be riding a custom gravel bike by Bingham Built Bikes, she said any road or mountain bike would be just fine.

“It’s not some exclusive thing where you have to have the right clothes or right gear,” said Bingham, who came to cycling only after meeting her husband nine years ago. “Just come out and ride and have fun.”

Thompson said he chose mid-May for the Gravel Fest because the area is turning green, lilacs are blooming and the summer crowds haven’t descended on Steamboat yet.

“Really it’s all about riding with your friends on the dirt roads of Routt County,” Thompson said.

Weinman agrees.

“It’s an opportunity see other parts of Routt County that people aren’t used to utilizing on their bicycles,” Weinman said. “It gets you back into some quiet, beautiful spots. You can ride for hours and maybe not see any vehicles.”

Visit gravelfest.com for full details about the rides.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.


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