Gravel Riding in Estes Park

The Via Bicycle Cafe Rodeo Rally, hosted by shop owner Stefano Tomasello and Phil Elsasser of Rodeo Adventure Labs, was a ride on backcountry gravel roads from Estes Park, Colorado that pushes the boundaries of rideable terrain on drop bar bikes. The route consists of a loop south on gravel and forest service roads, crossing creeks and getting ‘back there,’ followed by an ascent up Old Fall River Rd. to Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.


Link to our route on Strava (includes a wrong turn or two)

Link to full ride route from Rodeo Labs

Yes, there was some walking…but don’t let that deter you.

There was also some killer terrain, incredible views and awesome new roads (to me) as part of this unsupported group ride on gravel bikes. The original plan was to do this gravel route on forest service roads, looping South out of Estes Park, and then a quick stop back at Via Bicycle Cafe for an espresso and snack before tackling Trail Ridge Road via Old Fall River Road.

The first loop took us about 2.5 hours of riding time. The full route of 73 miles, is estimated at 5.5 hours. I think this ride is worthwhile just incorporating the first loop if you’re not interested in biting off the full 73 miles. Riding through forest service roads, there’s approximately 15 creek crossings that are all rideable – save one that’s more of a challenge (see in video) and some really challenging terrain.

Unfortunately, mother nature rules at this altitude and dark clouds and wind made for an ominous forecast to try and attempt ascending up the incredible dirt, one-way, Old Fall River Rd. When we finished the first loop, we decided to call it despite wanting some more time in the saddle. A few of the Rodeo Labs folks did head out and made it up there despite what looked like certain, imminent destruction-by-precipitation. However, we never saw any of the people on this ride…more on that next.

Our proponent for motivating to get up to Estes for this ride, Dani Arman, was convinced the ride started at 930 and we planned accordingly. The ride started at 9, an honest mistake, and Stefano made every attempt to stall the 30-strong group until we could arrive. When we pulled up, the ride was just rolling out of the parking lot and we still needed to change, fill bottles, etc – which turned into an extra relaxed start for us, about 30 minutes behind the group. I thought for sure we’d catch them with the inevitable flats or mechanicals on a rough route for drop bar bikes. I was wrong.

While Dani Arman, Ryan Petry and I missed the start time, we did manage to grab some footage of the ride! We did what I like to call “pac-manning” around the route – chasing the group at an equal distance the entire time. Enjoy the video above to get an idea of what this route is all about!

Equipment Used

-Bike: Focus Mares Cyclocross Bike
-Gearing: Single ring 40T with 11-32t cassette (not advised for this route)
-Tires: Clement USH Xplor 35 tires @ 35/40 Front/Rear PSI

Dani Arman:
-Bike: Firefly custom titanium
-Drivetrain: 40t single ring with 10-42t cassette
-Tires: Clement MSO 40 front, USH Xplor 35 rear

Ryan Petry:
-Bike: Scott Addict Gravel 20
-Gearing: 36/52 semi compact crankset with 11-32t cassette
-Tires: Maxxis Rambler 40’s @ 40-45 psi

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