Iron Horse Weekend

…And other Durango Happenings.


A mobile stable of bikes waits for another day.

May 23-26 marked the 37th annual Iron Horse Classic bike race/tour. A fifty-something mile jaunt through two mountain passes, beginning in Durango, and winding up in the old mining town of Silverton, Colorado. The race is not the for the light-hearted – the course climbs several thousand feet, and covers two mountain passes over 10,000 feet. Every year, nearly 2,500 riders descend upon Durango to take place in the grueling spectacle.

And of course, since I was all ready to photograph the start of the race – for the first time in 37 years, the race was called due to weather:

Iron Horse Bicycle Classic is canceled

6:45 a.m.

By Ted Holteen

For the first time in its 37-year history, the Iron Horse Bicycle
Classic was canceled due to heavy snow in the San Juan Mountains north
of Durango.

Race director Gaige Sippy said the Colorado State Patrol made the
decision to cancel the race at 6 a.m. Sippy said five inches of snow
fell at Durango Mountain Resort overnight, and Silverton received a
foot of snow.”


A group of riders packs it in during a May slushstorm. This was the scene throughout downtown Durango the morning of the Iron Horse.

Main Street.

After a quick stroll around town snapping pics, I picked up a Mexican Mocha and headed back home to install some parts I picked up at the Velo Swap the previous day.

Magura Louise Hydraulic Disc Brakes – Picked up these for the front, and another set of Magura Juilie’s for the back. Velo Swap total – $40.00. Also picked up a pair of Manitou Mars forks in mint condition for $20.00, and a Thompson 110mm stem for $20.

After the install I took a spin out to the trail to make sure everything worked. Came home and cleaned up the bike, got it ready for Sunday’s ride out at Phil’s World – a fast rolling desert singletrack in Cortez, Colorado. I had never been there before, but have heard keen things about it. This was also my inaugural ride with the now nationwide riding group known as the Spoke Junkies (check for a link in the sidebar). Fingers were crossed for the rain to end and hopefully the trails would be dry on Sunday.

The battle with the smoking thing continues, and continues to drive me batty any time I have a spare blink of an eye. If I’m occupied, I’m cool as can be. But what really makes this difficult is that smoking was such an ingrained part of my creative process, for so long, now it is close to impossible to do anything where I sit down at the computer. This includes blog entries like this… these are painfully difficult to create for me, the concentration factor is something I cannot even explain. So, I’ll refrain from going on about it. So far, I’ve been a good boy, and have remained on the wagon for the entire 2.5 weeks now.

Sunday morning, I woke, and got everything situated for the day’s ride, and Ben showed up at about 9:45. This was the first time I had met Ben. We had set up details on line through the Spoke Junkies forum, but the whole thing was just funny. Funny strange, and funny ha-ha.

I’m not usually a very loquacious person unless I know you, or you are less than 3 steps of separation away from anyone in my “circle”, and I think maybe I throw a lot of people because of this. Anyhow, Ben and I got along well, and on the down to Cortez, we learned that we shared an interest and history with the whole bmx/freestyle scene that evolved in to todays free riding stuff (loosely). We got so involved in conversation that we drove past the trail head and had to double back.

We were fashionably late, Moab and the rest of the riders had already taken off on the trail. Ben and myself got geared up, and while I was checking over my bike, I noticed that I left my camelback at home on the porch. And camera. And tools. And helmet. No, Ben didn’t have an extra either. I opted to ride nicely without one, and endure the scorn of all those that are happily following the rules of trail safety. I promised myself I wouldn’t go too crazy. umm hmmmm.

Phil’s World is classic desert cruising. Mostly slick rock, loose pack, junipers and other spikey flora. Not a lot of climbing, maybe a 1,000 feet or so. But nothing too steep or undoable. The trail sort of undulates as you go along, which is a nice change from the UP then DOWN nature of things around town. Some nice technical stuff, tricky rock placements, ledges, and some of the stranger ones have a run outs in case you’d rather just not test your skills at that particular time. On the second half of the trail it gets a little more interesting. It becomes more like a roller coaster than a mountain bike trail – closest thing I can compare it to is Bearclaw Poppy out in St. George, though I think this trail is a little more gritty, not quite a smooth, but every bit as fun – up and down, little kickers, and banked turns all over the place. And we still had not reached the “Rib Cage”, which was loosely the goal/reward portion of the trail, and was supposed to be even more like a roller coaster.

The Sette single speed frame performed perfectly, and newly added hydraulic discs were a nice touch on the trail too. The Hutchison Barracuda tires gripped fair – but had a tendency to slide out in the looser stuff. About how you’d expect a high knobbed tire to behave in desert trail conditions. For the most part, I grooved in to the trail pretty well, the way it is laid out, you sort of get in to a rhythm and can keep a flow going pretty well. That is, until your freewheel explodes.

I have never broken a freewheel before. Not in all my bmx/freestyle years, and not since I started mountain biking. Of course, it had to fail two-thirds of the way through this trail, grrrr. Ben was cool enough to walk with me back to the vehicle, and besides, by that point we had gone about 12 miles or so, and I had not drank a drop of anything or eaten a powergel or anything… still disappointing.

After I got home, I was able to fix the bike – I had another rear disc wheel to put on, but it doesn’t have black spokes – grrr.. but it works. Anyhow, Phil’s World – for sure an all thumbs-up ride. Great trail for sure, perhaps the most fun within 40 minutes of Durango. Out of 5 stars, I give it 4, only because I didn’t get to ride the whole thing. And, it was cool to meet and ride with Ben, hopefully we’ll be able to hook up more for future rides.

When we got back from the ride, I walked down town to get some Chinese food – and was rewarded with the Woman’s stage of Morehart Subaru Criterium. A sort of figure-eight style road course set up through downtown here. I did have to pause to watch for a few minutes, as the woman’s class always seems a bit more energetic than the guys. I snapped off a few shots but decided eating and fixing the bike was more important. I don’t know who won, sorry. Also, there was a time trial today as well, but I had to get out and ride some more. By the time I was done, the trial was over.

Speed weekend!

So, that was my Iron Horse weekend. I’m seriously considering doing the ride next year, if I can pick up a cyclocross bike sometime this year. Don’t think I want to tackle that one on the fixie. Hope you all had a great Memorial Day experience, and have a great week!

Enjoy the ride,
Hazard – SSD Rogue Reporter

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