Behind the scenes in Bike Town USA: member spotlight on Routt County Riders
Through hard work and collaboration between volunteers and local businesses, our fellow advocacy organization Routt County Riders has helped build an amazing trail network and thriving bike culture in Steamboat Springs—also known as Bike Town, USA—and the surrounding area.
I talked with four tireless advocates who help lead Routt County Riders: Alan Perkins, Holly Weik, Eric Meyer and Gretchen Sehler. Here are their advocacy lessons and inside tips on the best of biking in Steamboat:
What kind of riding do you do?
HOLLY: My husband and I mountain bike, commute on vintage 70’s Raleighs and ride touring bikes for day trips or week-long adventures.
ALAN: I ride to escape. I ride to think. I ride to be fit. I ride for me. I go out and enjoy every turn of the pedal. The older I get the more I enjoy the ride, pure and simple.
What do you love about cycling in Steamboat?
HOLLY: So many people have built this place into a biking mecca, and their efforts are the reason we decided to move here.
The Core Trail and the backcountry network are amazing. We can ride straight from the house and run errands on bikes year-round. We leave our car in the garage unless we’re going out of town or have a big grocery trip planned.
The roads around Steamboat provide a plethora of short or long road riding loops, without being limited to an out-and-back format. And I am so grateful that many non-cyclists in Steamboat do share the road and give us room.
GRETCHEN: I love the tight, twisty single track. I also love the animals we see while riding. Moose, bear, elk, ermine, playful pine marten…just yesterday I saw a small salamander walking down the trail.
Looking at Steamboat’s amazing trail system, what accomplishment makes you most proud?
HOLLY: I’m thrilled every time I ride across the boardwalk on Blair Witch because I helped do the decking. Four screws per board, who knows HOW many boards…
ERIC: Helping secure funding under the 2013 2A vote that dedicated $5.1 million to trails over ten years. 70% voted yes.
ALAN: I’ve done nowhere near what others have, but I personally volunteered more than 20 days building the 4.25 mile Morning Gloria trail, touted as one of our best new trails.
GRETCHEN: Working with my husband Marc for 20+ years on the Emerald Mountain trail system. We’ve worked with all kinds of landowners and stewards—first with the city, then with local landowners, the state land board, Routt County and the BLM. The result of all this hard work and collaboration is a large trail system accessible from the center of town with almost 50 miles of trail, connecting city trails and BLM trails.
What advocacy challenges have Routt County Riders encountered?
HOLLY: Getting people who ride the trails around town to understand that those trails don’t happen by magic, and their help is needed to maintain or expand the network.
ERIC: Time. It takes way more time than most expect.
ALAN: Since we’re all volunteers, we do what we can, when we can. Our challenges: growing from a club to an organization with a strategy, goals and a staff who can execute on those and uniting a very diverse set of people and professional experiences to work as a cohesive unit.
Why are you a bike advocate?
HOLLY: I want the freedom to ride or run on the road without being afraid of being hit by a car, and I want city planning to take all modes of transit into account, including bikes and pedestrians.
ERIC: For the kids and myself. I want it to be easier and safer to ride bikes not only on trails but also in and around town. The town network is more complicated and costly, so our hope is to prove the trail concept with backcountry trails first, and then spread to the in-town connections as Park City did.
ALAN: I love the promise of a bike. It’s life consuming. If everyone rode a bike to work at least once in their life, things would be really different.
GRETCHEN: I love to ride, and I love to see people ride the trails with a smile.
What advice would you give someone hoping to get involved in advocacy?
HOLLY: Join your local bike club and help out there for starters.
ALAN: Seek advice, start small and pick tiny achievable goals you can accomplish immediately. Once you achieve those, pick the next on your list. Those successes help build your organization’s resume. Start tactical, gain experience, then build a more strategic vision.
GRETCHEN: Keep fighting for what you want. Better trails, roads and paths make the community a better place. Never accept no—figure out a different way to get through the red tape.
Who are your local allies?
HOLLY: There are a lot of people in city staff, county and city government who ride and understand that planning needs to include bikes. If we want to position Steamboat as BikeTown USA, they realize we truly need to be bike-mindful or it just becomes a marketing gimmick.
ALAN: Lots of great local businesses: Moots, the Tour de Steamboat and Eriksen Cycles are great partners. And SkiCorp, owners of The Steamboat Ski Resort—we love those guys! The crew at BAP (Honey Stinger, Big Agnes, and Helinox) treat us so well, they are fantastic. Plus our local bike shops: Orange Peel, Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare, Ski Haus, Wheels and Classic Crank.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we need the government agencies. The City of Steamboat, Routt County, the BLM and USFS all play a super important role in our success on the road and mountain. Sometimes we don’t thank them enough, but it’s true. We need them.
Where’s your favorite place to ride in Steamboat?
HOLLY: Too many to choose, but maybe Pioneer on Mt. Werner.
ERIC: Bear River Bike Park for a quick spin with the kid is really great.
ALAN: I really enjoy getting out into our USFS land—nice trails and a crew who works really hard to keep them amazing.
GRETCHEN: Emerald Mountain. It’s just out my back door.
What would you improve about Steamboat’s bike offerings?
HOLLY: Better bike racks downtown. I use a cable lock because it gives me more flexibility, but it’s less secure. Thank goodness so many people here are honest!
ERIC: The dirt trails are in the pipeline, so it has to be the connections through town.
ALAN: I have three! How about a 6 foot shoulder on every road in our county? Plus a dedicated bike path from Stagecoach State Park to Yampa River State Park to Steamboat Lake State Park.
Last, a full-blown old-school Sir Chris Hoy wooden track velodrome! Bump skiers and nordic combined hard-cores racing track in the summer? Wow…that would be so cool.
Feeling inspired? Find out if there’s a local bike advocacy group near you.
Photo credit: Eric Meyer, Alan Perkins, Gretchen Sehler and Routt County Riders Facebook page