Words by Brett Callwood and Ryan Howe
Here in Boulder County, as well as further afield in Colorado, cycling is incredibly popular and it’s continuing to grow. Our annual Nature & Cycling issue sees us celebrate all that’s great about the sport and this time, to celebrate our 15th anniversary, we’ve spoken to 15 people involved in cycling in the area. Some are store owners, others belong to cycling groups, while others teach. See for yourself…H
Yellow Scene: Can you tell us a little about Out Spokin?
Michelle Haarhues: Out Spokin started in 1998, and it’s an LGBT cycling group, with all different levels of riders. We ride all over. We ride in Denver, northeast, southeast, southwest, and we hit Boulder, which everyone loves. Our goal is to ride for philanthropy through cycling. We always try to do a couple of signature rides, where we raise money for different organizations and missions.
YS: What are some of your signature rides?
MH: It used to be the Courage Classic only, but now we are trying to rotate through different rides. Each year we do a station for the MS 150, Tour de Cure, this year we are doing Denver Century and the Buena Vista Ride. We basically ride all over the state.
YS: How often do you meet and ride together?
MH: We have a Thursday night ride and then every weekend we have a bigger ride. Our Thursday night ride is shorter and more social, then the bigger weekend ride we go more miles, more hills and sometimes we incorporate it with something social.
YS: How did you get involved in the group?
MH: I was just looking for a way to meet people and I love cycling. I found these people with common interests, and I have been a member for 12 years. No, I joined in 2003 and we didn’t really have Internet like we do today, so it wasn’t as easy to find groups to join. I saw Out Spokin in the Pride Parade in 2002, and held on to the contact info before joining in 2003.
YS: How long have you been cycling?
MH: Since junior high. I grew up in Illinois and we had this fundraiser ride called the Arch of Dimes, where people would promise to donate ten cents a mile for however many miles I could ride. I remember doing 30 or 40 miles. I just stuck with it and came to college in Colorado where I biked a lot, and also fell in love with the area. It’s always been a part of my life; even now it’s my number one recreational go to.
YS: There seems to be a perception that cycling is kind of LGBT resistant. Have you experienced anything like this?
MH: Not really. Maybe it is just the approach that Out Spokin takes. We have been doing Courage Classic since they started, and we are always one of the top fundraiser teams. We integrated and everyone knew who we were. We were just accepted as a group, and on our jersey it says LGBT, but we have never had any problems. Cycling brought more people together rather than separating them.
YS: Is there anything else you want to add?
MH: I’d never been part of group, and it really helps my motivation. Whether it’s Out Spokin or any other group, I highly recommend it. You make good friends, get to be social on the bike, and stay motivated.
One of the organizers and founders of the Longmont Cruiser Ride, Ryan Kragarud is an advocate for community riding and social exercise.
Yellow Scene: When did the Longmont Cruiser Ride start and why?
Ryan Kragarud: It started in June 2004, and it was a way for my wife and I to get to know people in our neighborhood. It’s become a way for lots of folks to get together, meet one another, ride bikes and get to know one another.
YS: The group is ten years old, then. Who’s the average rider?
RK: The average rider is your weekend warrior. It’s usually someone in the 30’s to early 40’s. It’s typically young parents with small kids who are just kinda getting out of the house, they’ve just got their first bike trailer and so they can put the child in the trailer and get our and ride bikes. Or, it’s folks who have just moved to Longmont, and they want to get out and explore the community in a fun way.
YS: Which routes and trails do you love to ride?
RK: We stay on low volumes residential streets. We don’t go down major roads like Main Street. Side streets, and then we go to different landmarks in Longmont.
YS: So the group isn’t for advanced riders?
RK: It’s totally relaxed. The typical route is about 45 minutes to an hour, and our average speed is six miles per hour.
YS: How often do you ride?
RK: Starting May 13, we ride every Wednesday, rain or shine. I hope more people get out and ride with us this summer, and they won’t regret it when they do because you’ll have a great time. There’s also the Gnight Ride coming up. It’s a Longmont fundraiser sponsored by Oscar Blues, and it’s happening on June 13. It’s located at Roosevelt Park, which is also where Bike Night is. About 3000 people get together, ride bikes, listen to music eat food from food trucks, and we have routes that are 12 miles, three miles and one mile.
Timmy Duggan & Ian Macgregor
Timmy Duggan and Ian Macgregor have been friends since high school. Both raised in the Boulder Area, the pair shared a ski racing coach who constantly pushed them to better their training. Part of that was taking to the bike to get stronger for skiing, but both of the high schoolers found a newfound love on the road, and an opportunity to make something out of it.
In the realm of competitive ski racing, most times by the end of high school a skier knows whether or not he or she is going to further their ski career. They’ve got it, or they don’t. Both Duggan and MacGregor realized that, while they were good, neither were good enough to get scholarships to schools or join the US team.
After graduation, and the realization that they wanted to pursue cycling, both men took to the road in 2003. Duggan’s father handed over his van, put his realty business on some uniforms they made themselves and started touring the United States.
“In hindsight, I realize that his dad was going to pay for it either way,” MacGregor said. “He’d either give his son some money, or make a team and get something out of it.”
During their first year, both raced a fair amount of the national circuit, sleeping in the back of the van parked in the hotel most racers could afford to get a room at, and cooking pasta on a Coleman stove as their competitors went out to dinner. But luckily, both men were talented and picked up the sport fairly quickly, the results reflected that.
In 2004, MacGregor moved onto a professional team, racing internationally for TIAA – CREF until 2007. During that time he won two consecutive national championships in 2004 and 2005. In 2008, he moved on to Team Type 1 and raced for another year before a leg injury ended his professional career.
“It was very abrupt,” MacGregor said. “Basically my leg kinks like a garden hose when I’m on the bike. It was not a fun or easy decision, but I decided to go to college and pursue engineering.”
Duggan’s career lasted a bit longer. After ranking high two years in a row at the National Under-23 Time Trial Championships in 2003 and 2004, Duggan secured his spot on TIAA-CREF for six years, until 2011. In the 2012 season, Duggan won the National Road Race Championships and joined the 2012 Olympic team, where he competed in London.
“It was a career defining moment,” Duggan said. “To be able to say for the rest of your life that you were an Olympian is awesome. It was amazing to be an event that is so much bigger than sport, so much bigger than your sport in particular.”
After his monumental year of 2012, Duggan was on track and in the right headspace to continue racing. But he suffered a leg injury. His injury was the straw that broke the camels back, and he decided to retire.
Although, the high school friend’s paths took different routes, they never drifted apart and they never forgot about where they came from. In 2006, MacGregor and Duggan started the Just Go Harder foundation, which helps kids from lower income households get involved in skiing or cycling. They hand out scholarships for the Lake Eldora Racing Team and SMBA.
“We both had some really great mentors that introduced to what we love doing,” Duggan said. “We wanted to continue that tradition.”
Today, both men live in the Boulder area. Duggan followed in his parent’s footsteps and joined the realty business, while MacGregor helped launch Skratch Labs, which produces all natural sports and energy drinks. Both still take to the bike when they have time.
“My favorite ride to take is the bike path up the side of Boulder Canyon and up Sugarlift Mountain,” MacGregor said. “If you take the dirt all the way across to Nederland, you can stop and get a beer or something, then a nice straight decent down Boulder Canyon into town.”
Jeremy Bouwer / Y Riders
Jeremy Bouwer is an assistant director at Y Riders, the YMCA’s cycling program…
Yellow Scene: How get involved with the Y Riders?
Jeremy Bouwer: Actually, in middle school I was a camper at Y Riders, and they were the reason I got into cycling at all. For about two years, I was a camper. I went to the local adventures program and I loved it so much that I started volunteering the year afterwards. Eventually, they gave me a job because I wouldn’t go away.
YS: Describe the program…
JB: It’s cycling instruction and cycling camps for all ages, up to the beginning of high school. We have the youngest camps where we actually teach them how to bike from no skill at all. Then we move up and add the basic skills. Braking, stopping, being safe on the bike paths, and being safe in general. The junior riders program is from third to fifth grade and it’s basically a chance for kids to explore bike paths. We ride the bike paths of Boulder and do various trails. We also do more intense riding with various trails and hill climbs, and we end that camp with a 32-mile-ride at Square Lake.
YS: Tell us some of your favorite routes and trails…
JB: Marshall Mesa is probably one of my favorites, because it’s always there, it’s a great trail, and it’s very easy to get acquainted with. If I’m looking for something harder, I’ll do Highlands Ranch.
YS: Any events coming up for the Y Riders?
JB: I believe we have an open house for the camps coming up soon. Over the next couple of weekends, I’ll be teaching a Learn to Bike clinic.
YS: Anything to add?
JB: The reason I really like Y Riders is because it introduces kids to the sport. A lot of sports that kids pick up, they can lose interest really quickly after high school. Mountain biking and cycling in general is something that you can hold onto for the rest of your life, and you can use to keep yourself healthy into old age.
Todd Wilson / Bike Source
Todd Wilson manages the University Hills branch of BikeSource in Denver, and is a keen cyclist himself.
Yellow Scene: When did the store open?
Todd Wilson: As a company, it was 1985. This location opened up the day after Thanksgiving in 2007. We’re approaching eight years here, The headquarters were originally in Columbus, Ohio, and then about 11 years ago they were moved to Highlands Ranch. We still have stores in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Columbus, and then the Kansas City area.
YS: What sets your store apart, when there are so many here in the region?
TW: I’d say customer service is the number one thing that sets us apart. That, and knowledge about our product and our willingness to help customers find what’s going to work well for them.
YS: What are your own favorite routes and trails?
TW: Right down the street from our store here is the High Line Canal trail. In the Fall, that is probably my favorite ride of the year. It’s all off-road, it’s on dirt, and there are a lot of trees that are changing colors all along the route.
YS: Do you have events coming up?
TW: We’re hoping to do an electronic, or pedal-assist, bike demo soon. We will be providing technical support at several of the charity rides in the state.
Jessie Vogt started biking at the Singletrack Mountain Bike Adventures as a young teenager, and after a career of professional biking, coaching and travelling the world she returned to her roots as the director of SMBA. We sat down and talked with her about the program, and why she loves Boulder so much…
Yellow Scene: Can you tell us what SMBA does?
Jessie Vogt: SMBA is a nonprofit kids program, marketing to build champions in sports and in life. We are trying to kids outside and participating. We provide summer camps, learn to ride camps and we have a lot of team programs. We also do a series of rides with Boulder Mountain Bike alliance to get more kids out riding. For athletes that can’t afford it, we provide scholarships for them. We take starters who are just beginning to get on a mountain bike all the way up to world cup level. We’ve been doing this for 22 years.
YS: How long have you been involved with SMBA?
JV: I was actually a camper when I was little. I was about 13, so since the 90s. I went on to race professionally after college, then I went up to Canada to Coach, but I came back. I’ve been the SMBA director for the past five seasons.
YS: How has the organization grown since you were a camper to now being the director?
JV: Oh my gosh it has grown so much. It is so cool. We don’t even have enough vans anymore for the amount of kids we have. In the last five years, we have gone from 18 kids on the team to over 120. We see a lot more interest in riding on the kid’s side, especially with our girls programming. We now have a cycling sisters camp and a girl’s team now. We have over 70 registered girls now, which has been really fun.
YS: Why do you think the growth in the last five years has been so dramatic?
JV: I think the presence of the high school league has gotten a lot of kids interested in riding. I think the multitude of opportunities here in Boulder, especially the Valmont Bike Park, a lot of families are checking out riding and getting on bikes more.
YS: What got you involved when you were younger?
JV: Oh, it was definitely my brother. He came out to camp before I did, and when I finally came out to camp I fell in love. Then my mom ended up hiring my camp coach as my babysitter and she would take us out on rides, and she was really inspirational in getting me riding. Once I was racing there were a handful of professionals that really encouraged my brother and I to keep at it.
YS: Can you tell us a little bit about your professional career?
JV: I raced downhill and four-cross professionally. I went to world championships three times to represent the U.S. Then I raced collegiately at CU and got several national championships when I did that. I basically travelled around the country and the world racing bikes, which is such an awesome opportunity.
YS: Now that your back in the area, what’s the mountain biking scene like here in Boulder?
JV: The mountain biking scene is huge. It’s also fun and friendly. Everyone you meet is really nice and willing to show you the ropes and help you out to get into the support. There are a lot of organizations to get you out to ride and meet people that are a lot of fun.
Outdoor DIVAS is a Boulder-based cycling group for women, and Jane Beitler is one of the organizers.
Yellow Scene: When did the Outdoor DIVAS form, and what was the mission?
Jane Beitler: We formed six years ago. We had been part of another women’s cycling club, and that club had ended. We loved riding together as women so much that we wanted to start another club somewhat like that. So a bunch of those women got together and talked through what we wanted in the club – we wanted a club for an experienced woman cyclist who was a little ambitious, who liked to ride her bike a lot, and we have a diversity of cycling interests in the club but we mainly focus on classic road cycling. Some people race and some don’t. We’re not a highly structured club – we don’t have like, you have to come and race every Saturday. We’re not like that. We have some organized ride, but’s mainly about a place that you get to meet and engage with other women who love cycling.
YS: Who is the average Diva?
JB: She’s not 21 – she’s a grown up woman who really loves to bike and has some crazy goal in mind.
YS: What routes and trails do you take?
JB: A lot of us are climber, so one of our favorite rides is to climb up the board. That would be a typical ride. In the summer, we do a lot of mountain riding. As soon as the snow melts, we’re probably in Left Hand Canyon.
YS: Advance riders, or more relaxed?
JB: I wouldn’t say any level. We’re not really a good fit for women who are just getting into cycling, and if you’re super-serious about racing, we’re probably not a good fit for you either. But I would say that our cyclists are pretty experienced and they’re pretty advanced. We’re not semi-professional, and we tend to race in the lower categories.
YS: Do you have any events coming up?
JB: We’re about to go to our spring training camp in Santa Fe next week – we’ll spend three days riding in the Santa Fe area.
YS: Do you have anything to add?
JB: Just how much fun it is. We get a lot of really good inspiration from each other. We share our ride experiences, so even if we’re not riding together, we’re writing emails to each other about how our race went or our event, what we learned about things. So we feel really together even if we’re not out racing every weekend. We get a lot of camaraderie and learning from each other.
Catherine Powers / Casey Middle School Bike Club
Hanging above Catherine Power’s Door to her classroom at Casey Middle School is a wooden sign with the words “Bike Club” spelled out with deconstructed bicycle chains. It was a gift from her students who meet once a week and taketo the streets, trails or bike tracks on two wheels. It was a sign of a appreciation for everything she does for these students who, without bike club, may have never been exposed to the world of cycling.
Cycling is something that Powers has been a part of since she worked in Costa Rica and got involved in the triathlon scene to fill her spare time. When she moved back to New York City, she realized that she didn’t have time to focus on the three sports and focused her attention on cycling.
“There’s a pretty active racing scene in New York,” Powers said. “In women’s cycling, if you’re good then you’re going to climb up the chain of professionalism.”
So her cycling career took off from riding in Central Park in NYC, and moved to California to join a team. After that she moved on to Aaron’s team for four years. After that she knew that it was time to move on.
“I was 36 years old, I had a masters degree and I was making $12,000 a year as a cyclist, I had a 1991 Toyota Corolla but a really nice bike, and I was living in somebody’s converter porch” Powers said. “I realized that I had to grow up.”
It was in 2007 that Powers started teaching at Casey Middle School.
Powers took over the bike club once she arrived. It was already established by a group of parents, but the club was a bit different then.
Powers allows any student who wants to be a part of the club to be a member. No fine print. No expectations. No prerequisites. There is a certain level of commitment to “earn a bike,” but even that is minimal. If a student attends a few meetings and doesn’t have a bike, Powers finds them a bike, helmet and lock.
“I feel that every kid deserves a bike,” Powers said. “When the parents started this, there was this whole thing where the kids had to sign something, commit to riding to school so many days and prove that they out in a certain number of hours. It was a upsetting and I wanted to ask them if their kids earned a bike, or of they just gave them one?”
It’s an attitude that is a breath of fresh air. Nearly 40 percent of students at Casey Middle School are on free lunch and live in the lower income neighborhoods of Boulder, but for Powers it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the same opportunities of the other students.
So, the club meets once a week and goes on a bike ride with Powers and a couple other ride leaders, most often from Denver Trips for Kids. DTFK, bring a truck full of well-maintained mountain bikes, helmets and water bottles once a week.
When the weather forces the group to stay inside during the winter months, they still meet and piece together different bike related projects to sell. It helps raise money for the field trips, buying bikes and keeping the club afloat.
But it’s not just the wind chimes made from old cogs sold on Pearl Street, but the help from the community. Timmy Duggan and Ian MacGregor donated some money through the Just Go Harder foundation. Community Bikes donates bikes. Inner City Outings provide equipment, staff and fees for the camping trips. It’s a community effort to make the sure these students get to keep pedaling.
“Most of the kids who do bike club just want to ride,” Powers said. “And we make that happen once a week.”
Michaela Owens / Community Cycle
Just off of Valmont Road in Boulder, Community Cycles is nearly hidden behind the racks of bikes that line the sidewalk in front of the store. It’s a staple in the cycling community, for it’s eccentric bikes and unique approach to business. We sat down with mechanic Michaela Owens to figure out why so many people referred us to this place.
Yellow Scene: Do you want to start off by telling me about the shop?
Michaela Owens: Community Cycles is a lot more than just a shop. We are also non-profit organization; we do a lot of advocacy work in Boulder outside of the shop. Inside the shop we do two main things to help the community; we refurbish donated bicycles and sell them at a very low price, and we also have a membership program where people can come in and use the tools we have here as well as the shop and space, and get help from mechanics to learn how to fix their own bikes. We don’t really work like a regular bike shop, in the way that we don’t take in services for people. We prefer to teach other people how to do it for themselves.
YS: What kind of advocacy work do you do outside of the shop?
MO: We work with the city on different programs that they have. We make the bike paths safer. We inform people on how to use crosswalks. We also have been working with city on the new bus and bike shelters that they put up, which gives commuters a place to store their bike and take the bus. It’s all indoors and you get a lock and key to store your bike. We get the city to build bike paths and lanes. We also do an earn a bike where low income families can come in, pay a flat fee of $20 and volunteer work for about 10 hours.
YS: Do you guys ever bring in new bikes, or is it all refurbished?
MO: Mostly all refurbished. Occasionally we will get brand new bikes donated to us, but we don’t buy new bikes and then sell them. The average price is usually around $350. Sometimes we will have really cheap bikes for about $100, or we have project bikes that we haven’t worked on at all that people can buy for $25. But most of our bikes start around $200 and go up from there.
YS: How long have you been involved with the shop?
MO: I started here about two years ago. I wasn’t involved at all, but I got hired as a bike ambassador, which is where I went to different events and did outreach, explaining what we do at the shop. Then I started working in the shop as a mechanic and that’s mostly what I do right now. I also teach workshops and take care of a bike fleet.
YS: How long have you been cycling?
MO: My whole family is a biking family so I grew up around it, biking around when I was younger with them. But I really started really biking when I got to college in 2008.
YS: What is your biking outlet of choice?
MO: I mostly do road biking as a mode of transportation, but I recently started mountain biking. I had been resisting doing that for a while, but everyone around here finally convinced me and it’s really a lot of fun. Road rides are kind of boring, but mountain biking you get to be in nature and on trails and there are trees everywhere. It’s a lot of fun to push your limits and do jumps, and it can be a little intimidated, but it’s mostly really fun. There are so many places around here to bike, so I’m always finding and experiencing something a bit new.
Evan is a keen weekend warrior cyclist who has taken in many of the trails that the region and further afield in Colorado has to offer. He’s also, full disclosure, Yellow Scene’s Operations Manager.
Yellow Scene: When did you start cycling, and when did you start taking it seriously?
Evan Wroblewski: Trial by fire, I learned to ride a two-wheeler in a friend’s driveway. When I started to get the hang of it, we ramped up the difficulty by filling the asphalt driveway with more and more rocks with the obvious eventually of totally creaming myself… Since then though, it was what I asked my parents repeatedly until I got a bike of my own. I built several bikes throughout my adolescence, and like my other hobbies, it was always something I had to earn or pay for through odd jobs, babysitting, or eventually getting employment. I’ve been addicted to the sport since I was in about 1st or 2nd grade.
YS: Are you or have you been a member of any groups/clubs?
EW: I’ve never been in a group that’s done rides before, it’s always been more of a solo or small-friend-circle thing. I have volunteered for trail build days and open space cleanup efforts though. Those experiences are really cool, you get to learn a lot about trail maintenance and also the historical significance of many of the open space areas around here. I’ve always thought about volunteering with groups like the Y Riders but have never really had the time to commit. Of course, when I was into more stunt-oriented riding when I was younger it was common to build friends through the groups that would meet at some of the local hot spots like CU Research Park, Twin Lakes, and now we’ve got the Valmont Bike Park.
YS: Tell us about your favorite routes / trails in Boulder County…
EW: For me it used to be all about Walker Ranch, which is just passed Flagstaff Summit. It’s a very physically-intense trail with brutal changes in altitude gain. Over the years though, Boulder Parks and Rec has really stepped up their game with some of the efforts done to connect closed-systems to each other and breathe life into some of the other trails peppering the hills. Particularly the work done to Heil Valley Ranch and the new-(ish) Wild Turkey connection to Hall Ranch in Lyons is a fantastic ride that sets you up for a full day of mountain riding on a nice mix of physical and technical terrain. But, even for those looking for a great lunchtime loop can make a go on the paved bike trails around Boulder where there are so many routes to mix and match to get the desired effects.
YS: And further afield in Colorado.
EW: I’ve been all over the state, but the must-visit location has to be Durango/Western Slope/La Plata County area. The town of Durango itself is literally surrounded on every side by connected trail networks. Trails are maintained and rated/mapped by local groups and it gives the whole area a kind of “ski/bike resort” feel to it. Venturing a bit further out of town there’s Phil’s World near Mesa Verde, which is an amazing experience; the whole region out there is bike-crazy. This isn’t to say that Boulder Valley doesn’t have it’s charm but the ability to hop on a bike anywhere in town and hit a trailhead in a mere couple minutes of riding is an invigorating experience whereas out here we’ve got to pack a car, drive 20-40 minutes, and drive home all for an hour or two of riding. Fruita and Grand Junction also hold a lot of memories for me, this state is fabulous for summer mountain sports.
YS: What would you say are the main benefits of cycling in this region?
EW: The coolest part of the scene for me is the passion that people put into the local efforts to get programs mobilized and maintained. Despite a reputation to the contrary, Boulder itself hasn’t always been the most bike-friendly community. It’s taken community voice and action to get the resources to put together many of the trails and parks open to the public. Now a days, Boulder and Colorado in general are synonymous with top-tier training regiments from some of the most accomplished athletes in the country. It’s rare to find a “casual cyclist”, people here are passionate about it and it shows. Places like Chitaqua ban the usage of bikes (for good reason), but it’s because of the community and the cooperation with municipal government that we have so many other alternatives that are continually being expanded upon. This place rocks, clearly I am an unashamed Colorado fan boy.
It seems almost impossible to talk about cycling in Boulder County and not talk to Doug Emerson. His shop, University Bikes, consistently wins our Best of the West and is easily spotted on Pearl Street with the rows and rows of bikes lining the sidewalk. Not to mention he just recently opened an Olympic sized track in Erie, which is gaining attention and praise quickly in the few short months it has been open.
Yellow Scene: How did you get involved in the bike world?
Doug Emerson: I grew up in the sixties in New Jersey, where it was all muscle cars and Bruce Springsteen, and without any outside influence I was drawn to bicycles. It was like the hand of God. I was a lone bike nerd in New Jersey, and I was trying to find a way out. When I was in the eighth grade I planned a cross-country bicycle trip, including the equipment needed and maps for place all across the country. My parents told me that if I still wanted to do it the summer before my senior year, that I could do it. They probably thought I wouldn’t remember, but in 1976 I got a friend to go with me. We flew to the west coast and rode back to New Jersey just camping along the way. When we came through Boulder, it was all I needed to see. Back then it was $1,600 out of state tuition, so by 1977 I was out here in Boulder. When I got here I worked at the Spoke, and we had all these people coming in and asking for used bikes but we didn’t sell them. In 1983, I started working out of my landlord’s garage. I would go to flea markets in Denver, bring back used bicycles and rent them out. As it grew, I eventually had to move out of the garage and into a bigger space on Pearl Street. For the first eight months I was in a basement underneath Rob’s Music Store, then I moved to 9th and Pearl, but only a portion of the building. Then University Bikes kept growing and we kept expanding. I had the monopoly on the niche of rental and used bikes, and it really set me up to expand. There was good money in it.
YS: What was the biking scene like when you first got here?
DE: In 1977 it was as developed as any other bike scene in the country. Where I grew up it was just little shops with lawnmower repair on the side. Here you could walk into the Spoke and they would have Italian racing bikes and shop for cycling clothes. Boulder has, for a long time, been a real epicenter for the developing cycling culture. Back then I was over the moon when I moved here. I’ll tell you though, up until the mid 1990s when the Lance [Armstrong] phenomenon of people buying road bikes took over, I could bike to Ward and see one other cyclist and no him by name. Now if I’m coming down from Ward towards Highway 36 on a Saturday or Sunday, I’ll count 180 people going in any direction. It looks like an organized ride for cancer, but it’s not. It’s a group of 40 riders in a club. It’s insane.
YS: You’ve been around for the growth here in Boulder. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
DE: It started with the introduction of the mountain bike, and that got people back on a bike. Before that, it was all 10 speeds and uncomfortable bikes. The mountain bike was comfortable and upright, so that just blew up. Then people wanted to do Ride the Rockies, and that wasn’t the appropriate bike for a longer distance. So the Lance phenomenon happened and people got on the road bike. That was the second wave. Now it’s just self-sustaining. We’ve seen style and fashion merge with cycling. There is always a new invention, like snow bikes. It just keeps going. It’s the greatest invention in the world. And there’s nothing but blue skies ahead of us, especially in Boulder.
Andrea Tollefsrud started Boulder Bicycle Adventures and the organization previously known as Women on Bikes many years ago, and both have evolved significantly.
Yellow Scene: Tell us about the organization…
Andrea Tollefsrud: I’ll do it in order of appearance. After being a bike racer through the 1980s and part of the ‘90s, I retired and then worked in the industry. Of course, if you’re into cycling, you’re really into cycling. I decided I think in mid-1990, as I observed a lot of people not knowing how to ride their bikes, I was already an established personal trainer and I decided to start Women on Mountain Bikes. That’s what I was doing mostly, even though I was a road racer. That evolved into teaching road bike skills, which is actually more complex. The Women on Bikes program, which involved both style of bikes, started in 1997, and then a few years into being around town and knowing Boulder, I came up with the brilliant idea of doing bike tours. We’re just a great city to be able to navigate without being anywhere near a car. I thought, why not offer bike rides around town, and incorporate some highlights into it like the Creek Path, stuff like that. I officially launched in 2009. Lastly, I took the League of American Bicyclists LCI certification program, which teaches every type of skill. I extended my program to the Learn to Ride program, so it’s not just women. It hasn’t been for a while, I just can’t afford another website. That’s the history of the businesses.
YS: Tell us about the Boulder Bicycle Adventures…
AT: That’s evolved. I wish I’d started it when I thought of it. I just couldn’t ever find a way to get a website built affordably, etc. When I finally actually came out with the name and started tours officially, Boulder Bike Tours appeared, Wilderness Rides & Guides appeared. Then I was like, it’s my personality and they can’t know everything I know and vice versa, so hopefully we can spread the love. Basically, I’m an ambassador for Boulder. They like me over at the visitor’s center. I love the place and I know a lot about it – I know the establishments and a lot of the business owners. I know the routes, so basically I have between two and 15 people who want to come here and have maybe half a day at a conference and half a day riding a bike. That’s in essence what Boulder Area Bicycle Adventures is about. I take them to the Farmer’s Market and the Dushambe Tea House, watch the kayakers, and then there’s the booze cruise tour. People love to drink beer, and we have no shortage of breweries here.
YS: Who’s the average rider?
AT: Every age range, including families with children, and almost all of them are visitors to Boulder or the Denver area, and they want to come up and do three things: they want to check out Boulder, they want to go up to Estes or Rocky Mountain National Park, and there’s a third thing they usually do when they come here [we think she means marijuana]. We have bachelor and bachelorette groups, reunions, male, female, all ages including a lot of older people.
YS: Tell us about Women on Bikes…
AT: Again, it’s evolved to my new title of Learn to Ride Program. It encompasses what I’ve done up to this point. It started out helping to empower women, to children and adults, men and women, families, etc.
YS: Which are your favorite routes/trails?
AT: Last I heard, we have about 80 underpasses here. There is a lot of cycling infrastructure here. We’ve got well over 300 miles in a 15 square mile town, of bike paths, bike lanes and bike routes. There’s just a huge artery of safer places to ride to get around town. Boulder’s on the top of the map. I thing we’re platinum now for bicycle-friendly towns and cities, a category created by the League of American Bicyclists. We’re doing pretty good.
YS: What are the benefits of cycling in the Boulder area?
AT: Of course, the exercise. Riding bike is a lot of fun. There’s an incredible sense of freedom, and it feels great. From a transportation aspect, on most days we can get around town much quicker on a bicycle. Between a bike and bus, you don’t really need a car in this town. That’s what we’re hoping for. I don’t encourage this and it’s illegal, it’s much safer if someone’s going to go out and hit a few restaurants and bars, to either take the bus back or ride a bike. There’s still a legal limit on a bicycle. Unfortunately, they’ll take your license away if you’re caught and convicted. I’d like to see that changed because, in a car, you’re a danger to yourself and everybody around you. On a bike, there isn’t a while lot that’s going to go wrong. In some states they have separate laws that apply, and different punishments.
A few blocks up the road from University Bikes along Pearl Street is a small shop, with a bike hanging above front door of Vecchio’s Biciletteria. Vecchio’s has been a go to bike shop for bike enthusiasts and professionals for more than a decade. We sat down with mechanic Jim Potter and chatted about the shop, and what it’s like to be a cycling enthusiast in Boulder.
Yellow Scene: You want to tell us a little about the store?
Jim Potter: The store was opened back in 2000 by a guy named Peter, and the idea was to be a repair only shop. It was going to be similar to Hoshi Motors or Swedish Motors or some of these specific repair shops, where people go after their car is off of warranty and they need a good mechanic. But we don’t work on just one brand, we wouldn’t work on only Swedish products, we work on everything. We are a place where you can go to find a trusted mechanic. We ended up selling bicycles by accident. We had customers that followed us from different bike shops who wanted to buy bikes from us. Also, different bike brands that we had worked with at different shops in the past knew that the shop had established and they wanted to sell bikes through us. The initial intent was not to sell bikes, but we ended up selling bikes by request during that first year. By the time 2001 came around we had already sold a few bikes. Now, the brands we work with are primarily small, US made bikes from Colorado, Wisconsin and California. But the majority of what we do is the service. Our main gig is mechanics.
YS: What is the range of cyclists that reach out for services at the shop?
JP: It ranges quite a bit. We have perception that because we have $5,000 bikes that we are not for new riders, but that is not the case. We often steer people in the right direction if we don’t have something for them. When it comes to service, whether you’re a new rider or an experienced rider, service is service. I would say that the enthusiast is our primary customer, not necessarily a newbie but a cycling enthusiast. Just someone who cares enough to get their bike in tip top shape. Someone who is willing to spend good money on their machine, and wants them tuned up by people who have been working on bikes for a while, not just summer help at a big bike shop.
YS: When did you start working on bikes?
JP: I can’t even remember. I was a BMX grommet as a kid. I did bike touring and bike racing almost from the get go. But I started bike wrenching in shops around 1986 in Detroit, back in the Midwest.
YS: So moving from the Midwest, how would you describe the cycling culture here in Boulder?
JP: It’s pretty big here. It’s big, diverse and fairly segregated in a way. You got your die-hard road racers, the die-hard mountain bikers, and the single speed guys. It’s maybe not as homogenous as some regions might be. It’s Boulder with 100,000 special interest groups of one, you know? It’s kind of interesting, but it is a very diverse scene. There are a lot of pros that live in town to train, among people who are just getting into it to have a little fun. There’s a little bit of riding for everyone with good roads, good trails and good coaches. The area has a good infrastructure for cyclists.
YS: What is your cycling outlet of choice?
JP: I don’t have one particular style. I ride road, mountain and cross. Not necessarily cross racing, but riding on dirt roads and up in the mountain trails. There are such a variety of good roads and trails that I can’t limit myself. I don’t even have a favorite ride. There are the popular ones, such as Left Hand Canyon, Peak to Peak Highway and some of the great, beautiful stuff up in the hills. Every time I ride, I try to aim for something different, which is very doable with the variety around here. Riding towards Colorado Springs is very different than riding towards Erie. We also have an amazing bike path system. There’s so much. Boulder has grown up around the bike, and for a while it was scattered but there are connections to everything now.
After a doping scandal that rocked Boulder, Tyler Hamilton rose from the ashes and is now a respected trainer, giving back to the community. Jim Capra works with him at Tyler Hamilton Training.
Yellow Scene: When did the organization start?
Jim Capra: We started in 2010 here in Boulder. Tyler had recently retired from racing and had a lot of knowledge – things that work and things that don’t work. He loved to share that knowledge. He had a lot of friends constantly ask him for help. He decided it was a natural fit. So the two of us do the coaching. It’s fully custom, real hands-on. Something that we combat is, a lot of people think that we only work with elite athletes. That’s certainly not the case. All ages and abilities. Our average client is a weekend warrior. We work with people who want to learn how to ride a bike. Road, mountain, track, triathletes, marathon runners, a little bit of everything and a lot of fun. Obviously, Boulder is a great area for that, and we work with people through the States, and we have clients in Europe, South America, Africa, so all over really.
YS: What routes and trails do you like?
JC: What’s so good about Boulder is that there’s a little bit of everything right out your front door. Something that a lot of people aren’t aware of is, you can do great things on a road bike on dirt roads. Boulder has got a lot of that. In the eastern part of the county, there’s the rolling farmlands, but there’s a ton of fun dirt roads in the mountains. One of my favorite rides is Super James. You ride up Left Hand Canyon to Jamestown and then continue on up to the Peak-to-Peak highway. There’s a little bit of dirt on that section, and then you can return back to town, either by going north or south on the Peak-to-Peak Highway. You can head south back down Left Hand Canyon, or you can go all the way north to Estes Park, head back to Lyons. So Boulder’s just a great area for it. I think we sometimes get a little spoiled but it’s an amazing reminder. We have clients that it takes an hour to drive somewhere with open roads to drive on, or it takes 30 minutes of fighting stop-and-go traffic on the bike. We have access to a world class environment, literally out the front door. Lots of great mountain biking here. Doug from University Bikes is opening the Velodrome in Erie. So it’s great for all levels. I love seeing the non-competitive side of it too – people riding their bikes to the grocery store. That’s what we’re all about. We do help some elite athletes, but 90 percent of our clientele is the weekend warrior. We keep it fun.
YS: We have to ask a little about the controversy with Tyler’s doping ban – is that something that has been hard for the organization to get past?
JC: Absolutely. The way that we do that is, we’re a completely open book. We always say, please, ask the hard questions. There’s nothing that can’t be asked. Tyler gives a lot of talks at schools. Thats something that we don’t shy away from. We have a lot of knowledge – not only the “who” but the “why” it happens. That’s something that we’re aware of. Tyler has written a book that has a lot of info in it pertaining to that. We just tell the truth.
YS: Do you have any events coming up?
JC: We have a training camp here in Boulder in early June. I’ll be hosting that, and that’s available to all levels, and it’s going to be a great time – a week of riding here in Boulder. We have a couple of slots available. We’re looking forward to it.