Sick of Traffic? Hit the Dirt…on Your Road Bike

Ah, recall the good old days–tranquil road rides; few cars; indifferent, if friendly motorists. Those were the salad days, friends.

Road cycling in Boulder has taken quite the nose-dive in recent years, with traffic and general gasoline-fueled mania driving us further to the right and in some cases, off the road altogether. But wait, there’s an alternative…

Ride some dirt. You’ll be happy to know the same roads on which Chris Grealish holds his Boulder-Roubaix races make for great training and casual riding, too.

How? If you’re serious, purchase a Colorado Gazeteer and you’ll find thousands of miles of dirt roads on which to ride. Few cars, lots of birds, same great Colorado weather and vibe. Otherwise, head north out of Boulder on Hwy. 36, make a right on Neva Road, and a left on any of the dirt heading north. Pedal, smile, repeat.

Fear not, your bike and bod can handle it. Find yourself some wider tires, like my Rivendell “Jack Brown” model (, which at 33mm wide, soak up the bumps and wear like iron. Some frames won’t accept a fat chunk of rubber, so drop by your fave shop–Vecchio’s or UBikes will help you–and tell ’em you’re looking to get dirty and you need the right tires. They’ll know.

Above you’ll see my one-and-only road bike, a Hampsten “Strada Bianca”, or “white road” ( Why “white road”? Simple: in Italia the unpaved roads are covered with crushed, white gravel and are consequently white. Strada: road. Bianca: white. White roads.

When I quit racing and went to “fun riding” and guiding bike tours, I opted for a more comfortable ride, with a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, and more relaxed angles. Stable handling, but a relaxed feel…unlike twitchy, quick road-racing frames. I had the Hampsten crew build my bike out of ti, so it would never break, rust, or bitch at me. A heavier rear triangle will let me tour with panniers, should I ever pack up and head out. Compact gearing (Campy, always) gets me up everything from Magnolia Road to the Stelvio. I also opted for S and S Couplers, which let me break the bike down and fit it into a suitcase–no charges on airlines and easy travel. Yes!

The traffic on the Front Range sucks; I hear you. But you can escape it–on dirt. Safer, quieter, and with the right ride…just as much fun. Hit it!

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