STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Hayden will kick off the cycling season with its annual Ride the Cog gravel bike ride Saturday, May 18.
The grueling climb up the Hayden Cog and on the gravel roads surrounding it was stared by Wes Dearborn six years ago as an ALS fundraiser. After he struggled to find volunteers, the Hayden Heritage Center took it on, offering volunteers and becoming the beneficiary of the ride.
“We started some gravel grinding in this area, maybe before gravel grinding got to be so cool,” Dearborn said.
The ride includes three routes:
- Gravel Grinder: A 31-mile mix of pavement and gravel starting with a paved climb up the Cog, then turning west on the gravel roads around Elkhead Reservoir.
- Mud Route: A 26-mile ride on mostly gravel and dirt roads up the middle cog and backcountry routes. It passes by the home of Ferry Carpenter, who is known for being one of the first gravel cyclists in Hayden 100 years ago.
- Combined Route: A 43-mile combo of gravel and mud.
“All of them are an amazing backcountry kind of territory with beautiful scenery,” Dearborn said. “The gravel one is our go-to. We’ll be able to pull it off regardless of the weather. It goes around the entire Elkhead Reservoir and dips into Moffat County. The Mud Route is rougher, and it’s, in my opinion, slightly more scenic because you won’t see any traffic. It’s more of a rugged route. It’s my favorite one.”
Because of its length, the Combined Ride will start at 9 a.m., 30 minutes prior to the Gravel Grinder and Mud Route rides. A short, family-friendly ride also will be offered at 11 a.m.
Registration is $50 online or the day of the event beginning at 7:30 a.m. It includes admission to the after-party at Wild Goose Coffee at the Granary featuring live music by 3Wire and food from Embers Wood Fired Pizza. Two beverage tickets also are included. Nonriders can enjoy the food and music for $15.
All proceeds benefit the expansion of the Hayden Heritage Center.
“That’s the twist of our after-party being open to the public,” Dearborn said. “For $15, they can come out and have lunch and have beer tickets and hang out at the cool granary. They can come support the town of Hayden.”
Regardless of weather, cyclists will ride the Cog on Saturday. The ride is not a race, but it will be timed for competitive riders to see how they fare.
As the popularity of gravel cycling increases, Dearborn emphasized the luxury that Routt County residents have to enjoy a plethora of terrain with varying topography.
“We have some of the best backcountry grinder around, and we don’t have a lot of traffic, so for a little bit of a drive, it’s more remote,” Dearborn said. “It’s a cool place to be, and it’s quite a bit different from North Routt and South Routt. It’s more desert-like, the whole area is quite a bit different, yet only down the road.”