Bikepacking Steamboat Springs to Fort Collins Colorado
Some time at the beginning of this year, we were presented with the idea of signing up for a Ramble Rides event. In particular the Steamboat ramble!
What is a Ramble Ride?
It's a bike packing/adventure ride series that takes place over the course of 3-4 days in various locations across the U.S.! The ride we were interested in was their Steamboat ramble, it starts in Fort Collins Colorado and takes you on gravel roads all the way to Steam Boat Springs!
You can find more info by going to their website: https://ramblerides.com/
The total ride would be around 240 miles and 23k feet of climbing! If the ride itself wasn't challenging enough, Mo and I had both never fully bikepacked before. We had done a similar route in Thailand called the Mae Hong Son Loop but that was on the road and we credit card toured that one.
This route would be different, Ramble Ride would offer support in the form of route signs, sag vehicles, cooked meals at camp, and plenty of rest stops with water and nutrition!
You also have the option of bringing a small bag in one of the sag vans for when you get to camp each evening. We opted to carry all of our gear (sleep system, clothes, cameras,etc.) on our bikes. We went for this challenge because we wanted to take advantage of this "low risk" environment and test out how unsupported bikepacking would feel (minus the rest stops and catered food). Bikepacking has been on our bucket list for quite some time now but until now we never had all of the gear necessary to do it unsupported!
A month before the event we started gathering all of the gear we would need. We purchased our tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and pillows from REI during their semi-annual sale. Apidura supplied the bike bags, we went with their expedition series which turned out to be super durable and fitted our Ibis Hakka's perfectly! They even have a sizing guide where you can look up your bike to see what size packs would fit best on it!
(scroll to the end of the post for what we would change on the next trip)
Ibis Hakka Mx Gravel Bikes
(3L for Hannah's 53cm Ibis Hakka and 5L Tall for Mo's 58cm Ibis Hakka)
Big thanks to Ibis for the bikes and Apidura for supplying us with all the bags!
Not sponsored by Nemo!
Let's clear one thing up, lightweight bikepacking gear is EXPENSIVE and you don't have to have all of the top of line gear to go bikepacking.
When we were in Asia we used a shoe bag to hold everything we needed for 5 days of riding. Granted we were credit card touring but you get the point. If money is stopping you from bikepacking, buy some straps to hold on to your sleeping bag or buy an inexpensive bivy instead of an ultralight tent. You can get as creative as you'd like, just make sure you have some kind of shelter, food, and water. Go for an easy 20 mile, one night out and back! Keep it simple.
Day 1: Leaving Fort Collins
The ride started at 7 am in the Rei parking lot in Fort Collins. Ramble Rides fed us breakfast burritos to give us enough energy to embark on what would be the hardest day!
Day 1 was 65 miles and nearly 8k feet of elevation.
We were split up into 4 different cohorts, each cohort was to arrive and leave the REI parking lot at different times. We were cohort 4 so we left last around 7:30. The different cohorts helped ensure that we were all socially distanced from each other at the start of the day as well as on the ride although, that wasn't a huge issue since each day was long and naturally we all fell into a different pace.
We were greeted on day 1 with the most amazing views we've ever seen. We stopped a lot to take pictures and took our time. The first 20ish miles were pavement as we headed towards the gravel. We had a quick water break before the gravel started and a 20mile climb to the top of Pennock pass. At the top we were thankfully greeted with an aid station and then started a long descent to lunch at Crown Point.
Somewhere on the bumpy gravel descent, Mo's rear brake pads fell out. He had built up his Hakka only a week prior to the event and didn't really get to do a proper shakedown beforehand. We don't recommend doing that.
Unfortunately we didn't have a spare set of pads and neither did anyone else so he sucked it up, pushed the pistons back in and road his bike for the rest of the route with no rear brake. Yea. I know. He is an animal! Seriously.. who does that?
Lunch couldn't have come at a better point. Thankfully, the lunch stop was just after Mo's brake pads had fallen out. For lunch they served us the best peanut butter and jelly we've ever tasted... definitely had nothing to do with all the climbing we had just done! They also served us the best water and coke we've ever had!
Soon after lunch, we got to Poudre Canyon Road where we pedaled our tired legs past a seriously beautiful creek (pictured below). We definitely would have jumped into it if we had more time!
We peeled off the canyon road for a steep gravel road climb that would eventually take us to camp #1. We were delighted to arrive at camp and quickly set up our tent and sleep system. The tent was surprisingly easy to set up. This was only our second time trying to set up the tent. Yea, I know, not the smartest.
Other Ramblers opted to bring a bag in the van for each evening at camp. They wouldn't need to carry this bag on the ride. A pretty good idea...
Dinner was served shortly after we had set up our camp for the night. We ate veggie burgers and a kale noodle dish Christine the Ramble Ride chef prepared. Thanks, Christine!
Quick riders meeting to conclude the day presented by Pete, the Ramble Ride organizer, and founder!
Day 2: Up Deadman's Lookout and into Walden
Remember when I said that day 1 would be the hardest of all 4 days? Well, technically speaking this is true, we climb the most on day 1. But with day 1 underneath your belt, day 2 felt much harder.
Day 2 was only a little bit longer than day 1, coming out to 72 miles and 6600 ft elevation.
On day 2 we were met with a LOT of gravel, the only pavement we road was at the end of day 2 when we road into the small town of Walden. The gravel roads were beautiful!
Day 2 started off with the biggest climb of the day! There is something about climbing at the beginning of a ride that is much easier than at the end. We climbed for a while and eventually made it to the top of Deadman's Hill where the elevation was 10,269ft! I honestly couldn't have named this peak anything better, what a perfect name.
Thankfully Ramble Rides strategically placed an aid station at the top of Deadman Hill. We filled up our bottles and started the descent down! We stopped a lot on the way down for a few pictures and some epic drone shots.
The descent led us to a huge basin where we road past some farmland and a dirt country road. We stopped a lot here too, it was too beautiful not to!
We eventually made it to lunch where we again had the best PB&J and Coke we've ever had. After lunch, the ride got really hard for us. We didn't do an amazing job documenting from there on out because honestly we were beat. I (Hannah) started to develop a very bad sunburn on the top of my thighs and arms. Sunscreen is a must on this ride even Mo who doesn't burn easily developed a terrible burn on his nose, arms, and legs!
It was a VERY long slog all the way to Walden. There was an extra credit 10 miles near the end of the ride but like many others, on the ride, we opted out. We were happy we did, we still had another 2 hard days of riding ahead of ourselves.
Camp for night 2, Waldens city park. It was a lot nicer than it sounds, it doubles as a campsite for Walden. Thankfully it had outlets, toilets, and plenty of water spigots.
For dinner Chef, Christine cooked us some lentil Pasta which is just what we needed. Lots of protein, carbs, and good flavor!
Mo did have a craving for french fries so we went into town to get some as well as some more riding snacks. We are pretty particular about what we like to eat while riding!
Day 3: Getting lost and Entering Wyoming
Day 3 was the shortest day of all 4 which was what we needed. Even though it was still a long day, we kind of felt like we recovered a little bit on Day 3.
Day 3 came in at 62 miles and 3700 feet of climbing.
The day started out with about 20 miles of pavement which we enjoyed. Pedaling pavement is nice sometimes!
I (Hannah) pedaling out of the quaint town of Walden the morning of Day 3. Everyone there was super friendly!
Pavement miles made the day a bit shorter and gave our bums a little rest!
After about 20 miles of pavement, we finally hit a turn off onto a gravel road. Pete the event organizer had warned us that there would be a detour since some cattle were being moved on the original route. Unfortunately, the detour ended up being a little confusing. I don't blame the event, this was a last-minute detour that they had to do, completely not their fault.
The detour took us on a very unpopular single track that had a lot of sand which forced us to get off and walk in certain sections. Eventually, the single track broke off into what looked liked several new ones but they all connected to the same spot. We did reach a point following the single track where it kinda just stopped, leaving us pretty lost but we kept our tires pointed straight and tried our best to follow the other Ramblers tire tracks. We made it out just fine.
Soon after, we reached our first rest stop where you had the option of splitting off for an extra credit route that would add an extra 1k of climbing. As appealing as that sounded (this is sarcasm) we said no thank you and kept on keeping on!
Mo at the top of a short and gradual climb. What a view!
We pedaled this gravel road for a bit before entering farm country. We stopped a lot there to take photos with the cows.. we couldn't help it!
Near the end of our ride, we entered Wyoming where we were greeted with another rest stop (yay!) before heading into camp.
Day 4: Leaving Wyoming for Steamboat
Day 4 felt like the hottest out of all 4 days. I don't think the awful sunburns we had both developed by day 4 helped.
Day 4 was 66 miles with 4,600 ft of climbing!
Pandemic approved breakfast to start off the final day of the Steamboat Ramble Ride!
Day 4 started off with a climb which again we were grateful for.
Eventually, we popped out onto a highway that we descended to Steamboat Lake State Park, which was beautiful! For the first time in days, we saw other cyclists. We saw two ladies on mountain bikes that were also finishing up a bikepacking trip, we chatted a bit with them and then arrived at lunch were we scarfed down some veggie dogs! We took a couple of dogs to go as well which proved to be a great idea since that was the last aid station!
After a painfully hot 20 miles or so we rolled into the Steamboat Springs KOA campground where we of course took a celebratory "finish line" photo!
The KOA campground was amazing, there were hot showers, a creek to swim in, outlets, and running water! The city of Steamboat also has a free bus that runs throughout the town and makes a pit stop at the KOA. After some delicious Mexican dinner Chef Christine made for us we took the free bus into town to explore a bit. The town was really nice, Steamboat is a mountain town but one of the bigger ones in the area, they have loads of tourist shops, grocery stores, and bars.
The 2020 Steamboat Ramble Ride was more than we could have ever asked for, It was seriously rad and took us through some of the most beautiful mountain roads that we would have never seen if it weren't for this ride.
The ride also challenged us in a way we never thought possible, it pushed us through our breaking points and taught us what we are capable of.
Thanks to Pete and Christine for having us, we can't thank you guys enough!
Also, thank you to Ibis Cycles, Apidura, PNW Components, and our other sponsors DVO Suspension and Industry 9.
What would we change on our next trip?
Tent tent tent!
Sorry Nemo but your ultralight Hornet 2P tent is not a 2 person tent, it's a 1 person tent. Although both of our regular sized sleeping pads fit (barely), it was extremely crowded. With both of us inside the tent, we only have a small amount of space at our feet and absolutely none at our sides. We are planning to either sell this tent or return it to REI and get a Big Agnes 3 person, we'll take the 1-2 lb weight penalty any day for a comfortable night's sleep!
This one we are 50/50 on. The Nemo Tensor Insulated pads we got were kept us warm and were mostly comfortable but they were really annoying at night. We both constantly found ourselves taking turns getting stuck in between the 2 pads. The pads just wouldn't sit still.
We also felt like we were waking up the entire campsite every time we adjusted ourselves or got up to use the bathroom.
We are thinking about trying out a Thermarest pad or just sucking it up and getting a closed-cell foam pad but we are reluctant to do this because it will be pretty bulky and we aren't sure we would want to carry that on the outside of our seat pack.
Any recommendations are highly appreciated!!