Bikes parked in Durango's downtown. — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
From ribbons of quiet mountain highway and backroads to seemingly endless single track with one glorious view after another, Durango, Colorado is a cyclist's town. Combine that with its laid-back attitude and great brew pubs, and it's no wonder that cycling greats such as John Tomac and Ned Overend call this area home.
Riders heading to Silverton along U.S. 550. — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
Even if you're not a world-class athlete, Durango is the perfect town for getting around in on a bicycle. Its picturesque Western Victorian downtown has bike racks spaced frequently along the sidewalk, often loaded up with cruisers, single-speed and old commuters while their owners shop or enjoy a cup o' Joe or brew.
On Saturdays, the downtown Durango farmer's market is packed with people who pedaled there, their bike baskets loaded with fresh produce, flowers and bread for their return trip. The Animas River Trail is a 7-mile long bike and pedestrian-only path that goes downtown, following the Animas River through the heart of the city. Bikes are frequent on the roads, and Durango motorists give them wide berth and no hassles.
Ned Overend rides the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic with Tom Mayer. — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
The iconic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Train began a cycling tradition for which Durango is known internationally. In 1971, bicycle enthusiast Tom Mayer challenged his older brother, locomotive engineer Jim, to a race. As the train passed the Mayers’ house, Jim blew the whistle and Tom was off on his 10-speed bike. After several races, Tom finally beat the train into Silverton, to his brother’s awe, and all of Durango knew of his bragging rights. The following year, in 1972, 36 riders rode in the first Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. The leg and lung-burning event seeing cyclists ride 50 miles from Durango to Silverton, cresting three mountain passes, the highest at 10,899 feet. Today, registration in the citizens’ tour is capped at 1,200 riders and Memorial Day weekend sees a full schedule of competitive and zany bicycling events.
Participants in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic Cruiser Criterium. — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
Tom Ober mountain bikes down the Colorado Trail. — Photo courtesy of Steve Larese
Durango and the surround area have cycling events throughout the year. There's September's Fall Blaze supported tour that rewards riders with riots of fall color as they ride through the San Juan Basin. The Tour de Farms is an agritour that visits local food producers and farms. Everyone in the family can advance their fat tire skills at the Durango Family Mountain Bike Camp, and women can get a leg up at the Ladies Mountain Bike Clinic.