Northwest Colorado Bike Tour, Part 2

We were a little concerned about day four. I talked with the woman, who was a local, working at the motel about our planned route. She said it was nice quiet country roads but that there was no water. I had found a primitive camping area (online) a few miles off route (about 50 something miles away), but without water that would be stretching it. At the grocery store we all bought extra bottles of water to pack for the next day.

Heading out of Meeker, CO

We rolled out of Meeker about 8:30 in the morning. After a short stretch on the highway, we turned off onto County Road 15 toward Yellowjacket Pass. After a few miles the pavement turned to dirt. This is farming and ranching country and there seemed to be alfalfa fields all over for miles. The riding was pleasant, even though we were gradually climbing toward a pass.

Roadside bouldering break

We also knew that this day would be our longest of the trip, so we had mentally prepared for that. Somewhere along the way, Lars got another flat, so we took a break while he patched his tube.

This was really pretty country, albeit a bit on the dry side. There was very little traffic. Dirt roads turned off toward ranches in the distance. We finally topped out on Yellowjacket Pass, which wasn’t all that high (7580′). We descended down the other side, rolled up and down for miles until our road hit the main highway between Meeker and Craig. Shortly after that we arrived at the tiny farming town of Hamilton, and to our surprise there was a little country store. We were able to buy cold drinks and snacks, and more importantly talk to the woman running the store about our planned route. I was most concerned about not having water at our next camp. Initially she said it was much faster to go from Hamilton to Hayden taking the highway through Craig. I was leaning towards taking the highway so we could resupply in Craig (At this point we had decided to ride all the way to a State Park outside Hayden). After consulting Google maps on her phone she said actually it was about the same distance as our backcountry route. She said because they are small roads and much of it dirt, driving it would take longer than the highway route, but on bikes the distance was about the same. Since we were able to get more liquids in Hamilton, we decided to stick with our original route, and we were really glad we did.

We turned off the highway onto another small county road and rode about 12 miles to the small ranching community of Pagoda where the road turned to dirt again. We really love the nice dirt roads in Colorado—hardly any traffic, nicely graded, beautiful country.

We gradually climbed to the top of another pass (7500′), which actually came sooner than we expected.

Looking back down into the valley where we had come from

We had a nice long, fast descent into open farmland on the outskirts of Hayden. Once in the town of Hayden we stopped at a gas station for cold drinks, then rode 3 miles along Highway 40 to Yampa River State Park where we camped for the night. It was a large well established campground with showers.

This is what you do after riding 68 miles with a sore back.

Once we set up camp we headed down to the river for a swim. The water was surprising low and not that cold. Adam even waded all the way across the river and it was never deeper than about 2.5′. It felt good to lay down in the cool water as the sun was setting and it was cooling off, especially after a pretty long day in the saddle. Lars and Adam then went and took a shower and I headed back to camp to lounge in the hammock.

Day 4 totals: 68.9 miles, 4417′ gain

We had an owl in the tree right above out camp that woke us up in the night, but other than that we had a comfortable rest. We had a leisurely morning, knowing that it was less than 30 miles back to Steamboat Springs. Highway 40 wasn’t terrible as there was a pretty good shoulder, but there was quite a lot of steady traffic. It was also pretty flat, so we rode almost without stop until we hit a produce stand on the outskirts of Steamboat. We couldn’t resist not stopping when we saw boxes full of ripe peaches. We bought peaches and I bought some bread as well.

The peaches were really good, and really juicy, and hit the spot. They were from a farm down in the Grand Junction area. Rather than squishing the bread into one of my bags or strapping it down, I just balanced it on top of my handlebar bag the rest of the way.

Steamboat Springs

We headed back to the car, loaded up, then spent a little time checking out the town. We ended up at Big Agnes and Marmot, two gear companies that had stores in town. We also bought some snacks for the ride home. Even though it was a short, easy day, I was still feeling pretty tired, mostly from my sore back. So I had Lars drive home, which I greatly appreciated.

Day 5 totals: 32.4 miles, 1000′ gain

Adam was riding a vintage GT Timberline that he bought on ksl.com. Lars helped him swap out just about everything (components). For tires he had Panaracer Gravelking SK’s, 26×2.1′. He had one flat the whole week. He borrowed some Lone Peak panniers from me. He loved the bike, especially the swept back casual bars.

Lars was riding his Surly Bridge Club with Swift Industries rando and Zeitgiest bags, with Salsa fork bags, DIY half frame bag, Apidura top tube bag and DIY bar bag. He recently bought some Ultradynamico Cava tires (the JFF version) and really liked them, a really soft, supple ride. But he did get two flats and decided they may not have been the best choice for loaded touring/bikepacking.

Me (Matt) with my Rivendell Atlantis with the massive Rockymountain Toast Junk Trunk on the back (supported by a Nitto rack) and a Swift Zeitgeist on the front, DIY half frame bag, top tube bag, and bar bag. I had fairly new Rene Herse Umtanum Rigde tires (knobbies), 650×2.2″ and had zero flats. I really love these tires. I am still amazed how smooth and quiet they are on pavement, and are great on dirt because they are knobbies. I had the 48mm version of these tires (the Juniper Ridge) and I liked them so much I sold them to Kira at the Provo Bicycle Collective and got these wider versions. Great tires—really soft and supple, smooth, and great flat protection for such a light tire (I have the Endurance casing). As you might guess, I love everything about this bike.

It was a nice trip with beautiful roads, nice camping, decent fishing. I love riding with Lars, and it was great to have Adam along too. He and Lars have been friends since junior high school, so I’ve known Adam for a long time as well. He hardly did any training, and it was his first bike trip, but he did great, often leading the way. He also had a really good time. I don’t think this will be his last bike trip.

Trip totals: 218.6 miles, 14,143′ gain, 5 days

A final note: I’m not sure these days where bike touring ends and bikepacking begins. Was this a bikepacking trip or a bike touring trip? I like to mix up the terrain on my bike trips, some dirt, some pavement. This calls for a capable all road bike, like my Rivendell or many of the Surly bikes, or vintage mountain bikes work great for this as well. I don’t really care what you call it; I just like bike travel, riding my bikes on all kinds of different terrain.

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