The Roaring Fork Valley is the perfect home to cycling’s hottest genre.
Riding a bike on dirt roads around the Roaring Fork Valley is certainly nothing new. In the late ’70s, pioneering cyclists started arguably the oldest organized mountain bike event in the world when they pedaled from downtown Crested Butte to the Hotel Jerome in Aspen via 12,705-foot Pearl Pass Road—an unthinkable feat at the time. While that road is still rough by today’s standards, it would be a lot more comfortable on today’s gravel bikes—all-terrain road bikes designed to handle any road surface and wider tires.
“Gravel riding combines the excitement and exploration you get from mountain biking—you can’t just doze off and follow the white line—with the miles and distance of road biking,” says Adam Miller, owner of Carbondale based Revel Bikes. “Plus, it’s the perfect shoulder season activity when the trails aren’t dry yet.”
The genre of “gravel” is certainly having its moment. According to data from The NPD Group through March 2021, year-over-year sales of gravel bikes are up 96%, making it one of the fastest-growing segments in the bike industry. Participation in gravel events is booming too. Hundreds of events around the country sell out, the majority inclusive and serving a wide range of participants’ goals.
Whether you’re a road cyclist who wants to explore new routes in the Roaring Fork Valley and escape roads crowded with distracted drivers, or a mountain biker who wants to link trails with roads right from the house and cover more ground, gravel riding might be for you.
Here are some tools for the job and where to use them.
A unique, four-day catered gravel ride in Northern Colorado, Ramble Ride gathers cyclists from all over the world and leads them along scenic, empty dirt roads to lakeside campouts, with aid stations and lunch stops along the way. Stay tuned for an all-women’s Ramble next summer.
The Little Nell’s annual cycling camp includes two days of thoughtfully curated gravel riding with retired pro cyclist Christian Vande Velde and other guest coaches with support and hospitality (think wining and dining) like only The Nell can provide.
Carbondale’s Revel recently launched its gravel wheels made in Utah with the first recyclable composite material in the bike industry for a lightweight, durable ride that’s ready for anything. Pearl Izumi Pro Mesh Jersey and Pro Bib Short
Made from airy, high-stretch Pro Transfer Mesh fabric, the Pearl Izumi Pro Mesh jersey and bibs keep you cooler, dryer and more comfortable. The women’s bib features a unique crossover strap for easy bathroom breaks, and the flattering raw-edge hem creates a smooth transition from short to skin, with a sleek silicone gripper to hold it securely in place all ride long.
A high-performing and greatlooking shoe for gravel riding with a vibration-damping heel to reduce fatigue on longer rides over rough roads. Pearl iZumi ensures that you will see some of the most untouched wilderness in the area. 970.928.0723
This outfitting company maintains a wide breadth of trip lengths. From one-hour rides to overnight adventures, custom trips are available for those looking for a short excursion or a more formalized outfitting into Colorado’s backcountry. Looking to pack in a gourmet meal as well? The lunch ride includes a custom turkey breast, New York strip steak or vegetarian option. 3133 Maroon Creek Road, 970.920.4677
Snowmass Creek Outfitters is known as the ultimate resource for riding in the Snowmass area. Pony rides are available for children ages 2 and up, offering a fun way to make sure everyone in the family makes the most of the experience. Rides to Snowmass Lake (six hours) and West Snowmass both leave from the rodeo grounds and take you to two of the town’s hidden gems. 3941 Capitol Creek Road, Snowmass Village, 970.704.0707
Photography by: Gravel biker Mike Sampson PHOTO BY CHRIS REICHEL
PHOTO COURTESY OF ASPEN SKIING COMPANY