How the Iron Horse Bicycle Vintage Helped Transform Durango Into a Cycling Mecca

In some cases a dumb thought takes on a lifestyle of its own. Again in 1971, Tom Mayer was a bicycle owner living in Durango and his brother, Jim, was a brakeman on the steam-powered Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Brothers being brothers, they couldn’t resist a minimal pleasant competition they made a decision to have Tom and his bike race Jim and the prepare just about 50 miles from Durango to neighboring Silverton. The wager? A sweet bar.

Tom won, and the adhering to calendar year, he and his good friend Ed Zink, the operator of a area gear and cycling store, launched the inaugural Iron Horse Bicycle Vintage to allow for other people to attempt the feat. More than the subsequent 50 a long time, the event would aid change Durango into just one of the world’s premier biking places and a haven for aggressive cyclists.

That to start with year, however, only five of the 36 racers defeat the teach, which meant hoofing it around two 10,000-foot-higher mountain passes on a path that was five miles longer—and a full great deal steeper—than the train’s route. But it was entertaining sufficient that they made the decision to change it into a normal point each individual Memorial Working day with Zink main the way. Quickly much more events were being extra, such as a race for the then-burgeoning discipline of mountain biking in 1984, which, until not long ago, observed contributors trip by means of the Steamworks Brewing Firm bar downtown to the delight of the spectators inside.

Ned Overend, a previous expert mountain bike racer and five-time Iron Horse winner who has lived in Durango considering that 1980, thinks the event’s potential to adapt as the attractiveness of distinctive cycling disciplines waxed and waned has been important to its continued success. More than the a long time, the Iron Horse has hosted anything from BMX races to spectator-welcoming criteriums, a form of road racing that saw hordes of cyclists lap a short system all over downtown Durango. “Very several [cycling] functions are equipped to maintain by themselves this long,” he states.

Picture courtesy of Iron Horse Bicycle Vintage

Thanks to his expertise arranging the Iron Horse—and the nationwide and international clout that arrived with it—Zink was in a position to help carry other world-course cycling situations to town, which include various mountain bicycle countrywide championships and the inaugural Mountain Bicycle World Championships in 1990. Zink chaired the event’s arranging committee, and Overend gained its inaugural cross-place race.

“That was a large deal. All the different countries that were into mountain biking sent their groups, and that introduced huge global attention to Durango,” he suggests. Insert in the nationwide media protection of all the races occurring there and the biking manufacturers touting their racing prowess at those functions by costly advertising strategies, and suddenly, southwest Colorado was the area to be if you had been a bicycle owner.

Locals realized that they had lightning in a bottle, Overend states, and before long a biking advocacy team now identified as Durango Trails, was born. “It’s awesome how prolific that team has been at constructing trails and securing easements and rights of way all-around town,” he suggests.

Right now, there are far more than 300 miles of path within just 30 minutes of Durango, and the town has developed a profitable pedigree on two wheels. The biking team at Fort Lewis University won the initial Collegiate Mountain Biking National Championships in 1994 and has absent on to generate 20 a lot more nationwide championships on each knobby tires and slicks. The spot is also household to extra cycling legends than just Overend, which include Tour de France stage winner Sepp Kuss, Olympic racer Christopher Blevins, and downhill winner Missy Giove. But Zink is no for a longer time amid them. He died in 2019 at age 71.

Nonetheless, the Iron Horse race he championed stays at the coronary heart of the scene it motivated. “Trying to get [to Silverton] more quickly than a steam motor prepare, which is a excellent tale, ” Overend states. “That intrigues folks, and it provides in men and women who may possibly not have much historical past of cycling.”

If you go: In addition to racing the coach to Silverton, this year’s event (May possibly 28 to 30) characteristics 13 other rides and races ranging from a informal e-bike tour of the basic race route to a 55-mile gravel journey and childrens’ events. There will also be the return of two extra fat-tire derbies with throwback formats: the twin slalom and the Roostmaster, a soar-crammed, made-for-Television level of competition that debuted at Iron Horse in the 1990s. Click on below to master far more, see the timetable, check out availability, and sign up for occasions.