Gravel riding is essentially the love child of road and mountain biking: Enthusiasts ditch pavement in favor of rolling unpaved roads devoid of gnarly descents. With thousands of miles of such terrain, Colorado is an ideal place to take up the discipline—as long as you know the answers to these queries.
1. Where are the best places in Colorado to ride?
Any unpaved backcountry path—from county roads to old wagon trails—could be worthwhile topography. (Coloradogravelroads.com keeps an exhaustive list of such thoroughfares.) For many, the appeal is meandering down whatever path piques your interest. But if you must have a plan, we recommend starting at the junction of CR 67 and CR 126 near Deckers before winding through forests filled with rambling streams. On the Western Slope, the intersection of U.S. 40 and CR 42 near Steamboat Springs leads to expansive vistas of the Gore Range.
2. Do I need a special bike?
You certainly can use a road bike on packed paths or mountain bikes on gravel trails. If you want to go fast while maintaining good stability, however, a gravel-specific model, such as the RLT 9 from Fort Collins’ Niner Bikes, is the best option. The aluminum two-wheeler (starting at $2,150) accommodates skinnier tires—should you want to fly on smoother dirt landscapes—as well as wider ones, which keep you steady through rockier territory.
3. How do I find my gravel biking tribe?
Every Thursday morning, Boulder Cycle Sport hosts a free group ride on trails near its shop. Riders ready for a stiffer test can sign up for this month’s High Plains Gravel Grinder (September 21; $45 to $65), which features 30- and 70-mile loops with panoramas of Pikes Peak. For an introduction to bikepacking, check out the Fort Collins Ramble (September 12 to 15; $500): The four-day, 208-mile trek from Steamboat Springs to Fort Collins is fully supported, with food, drinks, and supplies shuttled between campsites.
U.S. sales for gravel bikes in the first quarter of 2018, up from $10 million during the same time period in 2017