♦ Routt County, Colorado

At the Time We Just Called It County Road Riding

by | Stories

What was it called before Gravel? Back in those days, we just called it County Road Riding. We were riding cyclocross bikes or modified mountain bikes at the time while exploring the county roads around Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

It was the spring of 1998, my roommate and close friend Doug Demusz had already been putting in some base miles on the frozen backroads around our hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

I had modified a Trek 770 road touring bike with a flat bar and some lower gearing and installed a set of the original Moots Mounts, which enabled the use of cantilever brakes. This bike was made of Reynolds 531 USA steel tubing and could handle up to a 30mm tire. The bicycle was pretty sweet, I’d say weighing in around 22 pounds.

I now had a tool that could more efficiently travel the county roads than my mountain bike and with the 30mm cyclocross semi-slick tires, have a nice increase in tire volume from the 23mm or 25mm roadie tires of the day. There were a few companies selling cyclocross bikes at the time but all my money was going into my mountain bike and this bicycle was real a treat!

Trek-770-Bike-Frame
Trek-770-Head-Badge
Trek-770-Bike-Frame

The Original Moots Mounts allowed riders to use cantilever brakes on a caliper brake bicycle frame. This was the widget I used with great success on the Trek 770. (Thanks, Kent Eriksen!)

Trek 770 Early Gravel Bike

Doug and I were both racing mountain bikes at a semi-professional level at the time and living in a ski town we didn’t exactly see any ridable singletrack until May or even June. This meant either taking a trip to Moab to ride our mountain bikes or to layer-up and ride the backroads around Steamboat. And back in 1998, the roads around Steamboat turned to dirt a lot quicker than they do today.

But it was a ride in the Fall of 1998 that opened the doors to what we called county road riding at the time. 

Steamboat-Sleeping-Giant-Loop

It was a Doug lead adventure once again and the ride was a circumnavigation of Elk Mountain (aka Sleeping Giant). This was new terrain for me as we climbed next to and eventually behind the Sleeping Giant. The landscape just kept getting more and more spectacular! It was like nothing I had seen before. A dirt road winding through the rolling hills of north Routt County and we were rolling with it. As it turns out, this ride is still one of the most beautiful rides I have ever done.

Sleeping Giant Gravel Bike Loop Steamboat Springs

Fast forward 20 some years and the term Gravel Riding is what this is now called. And it’s so awesome to see this sector of the sport getting discovered and growing such a unique community of riders.

With this post being my first ever published blog post, I just wanted to take a look back and share with you one of my early memories.

I’m still crazy about the whole gravel thing and look forward to what the future has to offer…

Thanks for stopping by!
JR Thompson

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