Late Summer Bliss on the Steamboat New Belgium Ramble Ride

A few years back, you might recall a story that Radavist author and contributor Kyle Kelley wrote, regarding a trip called the Steamboat Ralleye. There was even a video! 2015 seems like a long time ago, but that ride operates as a segue into this morning’s tale.

“Come to Colorado, see the aspens, ride a Moots to Fort Collins” pretty much sums up how I got to this point. An invite surfaced from Peter Discoe, the founder of the Ramble Ride, coinciding with my friends at Moots, to take on 220 miles between Steamboat and Fort Collins, Colorado, via steep and daunting mountain roads. We’ve covered the Ramble Rides extensively on the Radavist before, but I wanted to sink my teeth into some Colorado dirt before summer was over.

After a quick stay in Moab, Utah, I found myself walking the factory floor at Moots HQ a few days before we would embark on the ride. The guys set me up with a Moots Baxter, to which all my Porcelain Rocket bags would be affixed, supporting my ass for three days of late summer bliss.

Now, about the Ramble. Peter Discoe has been in the industry for some time designing and selling products. After a while, he realized that while they’re nifty, products don’t give you life memories, or alter your existence as a cyclist. Peter wanted to do something more meaningful, more memorable, and honestly, more fun! This year marks the third year of the Ramble – an event born from that Niner Ralleye ride Kyle wrote about in 2015 – now with a bigger agenda, support, and a title sponsor, New Belgium beer. In the early days, the Ramble was a “fend for yourself” ride, with breakfast and dinner supplied each day, but that’s it. No water, no lunch, no support. Nada. You were on your own.

For the event to grow – not only into something bigger and better – Peter knew he had to change it up a bit. He knew if he added on-course support and the option to shuttle your camping equipment, he’d get a wider variety of people to sign up. These changes were never about bringing in more people – Peter caps the ride to 75 registered riders, which turns out to be 90 or so after other private invites are included – it was more about offering a challenge, no matter what your expertise is.

I spoke with people who had never bikepacked or toured before. Some had never even camped before! The idea of riding by themselves over the mountains to Fort Collins seemed insurmountable, yet the Ramble offers up a safe and secure environment for them. On the other side of the spectrum came the seasoned cycle tourists, carrying everything they needed to be self-sufficient on the ride. And since the only deadline was the setting sun, no one was really racing, and due to everyone’s bike being loaded at different capacities, it encouraged a pleasant conversational environment.

As a photographer, lover of the outdoors, and seasoned cycle tourist, I had my hands full on this ride – for the duty of photographing it alone would have been a daunting undertaking. Riding in the event, carrying everything I needed, and keeping my eyes open for spots to set up shots, created quite a challenge. This ride was not easy!

At the end of each day, a wonderful meal was provided by Tanesha Hartnagle and her Mountain to Desert Catering Company. As a substitute to the freeze-dried backpacking meals or greasy spoon burger, it made going to bed at 9pm all the easier.

Meanwhile, as we were traversing the mountainous route laid out for us, Peter Discoe was in the middle of a sag-wagon confessional. Come the second day, a lot of riders were cracking and rightfully so. If you look at the elevation profile, you’ll notice ample elevation changes. I’ll admit, the thought of bailing out crossed my mind a few times. For Peter, however, he got an earful in the van as he shuttled cracked cyclists to the finish, careening through the golden forest and down hairpin gravel roads. We had a good laugh discussing the finer points of being the support vehicle driver and event organizer, but not without a few beautiful anecdotes – like the guy from a Ramble two years ago, who was in his 30’s, wanting to lose weight and challenge himself, only to go on to be a seasoned bikepacker, taking on the Tour Divide Route, two years after his first Ramble. On that ride, Peter had to convince him to not bail out and he thanks Peter to this day.

This “bite off as much as you can chew” environment makes for great stories, told over cold beer at the finish of the route, inside New Belgium’s facilities. I think everyone was glad to be done with the course, but were far from being done with bicycle touring. Instead, I heard battle cries about springtime tours, or even trekking to South America for the winter. Everyone had aspirations of taking on more ambitious experiences on their bike and that, to me, was the most impressive byproduct of this event. No one was cracked. Everyone was stoked.

Thanks to the Ramble Team, as well as the sponsors, Big Agnes, Chamois Butt’r, Giro, Honey Stinger, Ibis, Moots, Nuun Hydration, Ortlieb and New Belgium!

Check out my data at Strava: Day 01, Day 02, Day 03.

You can find the above images and more in 2000px wide format at my Dropbox. Please, these are for personal use only!

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  • Aaron Best

    Great gallery. The wife and I rode from Steamboat to Ft. Collins on our Utah to Ohio trip recently. Was pleasantly surprised that they allow you to pitch a tent in Walden’s city park!

  • Chris Pollack

    Seems like this is one of the best bangforyourbuck supported rides out there, by a thousand or more dollars! So so tempting to sign up for this particular route. I love Fort Collins and riding this would be incredible.

  • stateofnonreturn

    The colors look absolutely stunning! Hope there is some left for my first visit to CO next month.

  • Locke Hassett

    Really cool stuff. The attitude reminds me of the old FreeCycles group tours, except for this is alot cleaner and more well organized haha.

  • Andrewthemaker

    I really wanted to do this ride this year. Thanks for sharing the stoke John!

  • terriblemcnaughton

    I would love to see more photos of that flat bar Hakka. I’m always intrigued when I see flat bar Hakka, Salsa and OPEN builds.

    • I’ll add it to the list! I think Scot might be at Grinduro.

    • Peter Discoe

      I have that bike still with the Ramble fleet as we get ready for our last Asheville event. I’ll take some pics and post them for you on the @rambleride Instagram. It’s pretty sweet (and unfortunatly not my size)!

  • Superpilot

    Man, #70 looks like it’s downhill even though it’s uphill to me today, must need more sleep!
    Genuine query, what’s the deal with button up collared shirts? Do they ride ok? Is there some benefit I’m naïve to? I’m considering getting a lot less serious, and riding Hawaiian shirts more often (long story, but good reason!), but I’m just wondering about chafing and flapping on a ride like this, or even trail riding. Done a CX race in one, but had a full jersey underneath (temperature). Perhaps it’s just aesthetics, and more power to that too.
    Love these stories. Have to try get this into life somehow.

    • I just wear vintage Levis and Wrangler shirts I find at thrift stores if I’m not wearing thin merino long sleeve shirts. They usually ride great, just as long as the sleeves are long enough…. and yeah, look a little better than lycra when rolling into some small town.

      • Superpilot

        Thanks John. Just got to the brewery pics. That building is insane… Cheers!

        • My favorite was the flavored sparkling water on tap! Not many breweries take care of people who don’t drink like that.

    • Thad Hoffman

      I would say the comfort/non-chafing would depend on climate. When I lived and rode in TN, I couldn’t wear anything but thin wool or lycra because of the oppressive humidity. Even the Club Ride button up cycling clothes wouldn’t breath and it would just be chafing and soaking wet. Once I moved out to the more arid west, suddenly there were more riding options available from flannel, to jeans, etc. I also am able to commute to work (7 miles) in my work clothes and not sweat through them. In TN, I’d be soaked through by the end of the drive way. So, climate I feel is the real limiting factor.

      (edit: Also, the morning temps in Steamboat are 36-40 degrees warming up to the mid-80’s in the afternoon. So several of the button up shirt photos are the colder temp times. Can’t speak to once they got over Buff-pass as the heat and wind closer to the front range is insane)

      • Superpilot

        Thanks for the insight! Those wrangler shirts sure are tough, so I can see how they might not be that breathable. Then you get those flimsy thin cotton shirts, which actually might be quite comfy. Will def give it some thought before committing, thanks!

  • Alex Hillis

    Looks like the bikes on the trip were split between monster cross, hardtails, and rigid plus tires. Any thoughts on the best rig for the job? I think it’d take stronger legs than mine to push a 1:1 over that route with a loaded bike.

    • I really liked the Di2 Ultegra XT gearing I had on my loaner Baxter. The drops were comfy after 11 hour days in the saddle and the 2x setup offered great range. I’d say the 1x drop bar bikes were geared favorably, but I didn’t see any take advantage of the super compact range possibilities (i.e. a 36t front ring with a 10-42t cassette for touring.) I wouldn’t want to do this tour on flat bars, personally. There was so much flat-ish hellish headwind sections that if I didn’t have drops, I woulda been bummed.

  • Bluejaystr

    Would love to see a gallery and write up with your thoughts on the Moots you rode… Please :)

  • Bryan Heller

    Man, that Tomac Raleigh is so inspired!

  • Alyx_xylA

    North Park is by far my favorite areas of Colorado. So many gravel roads mixed with sky scraping peaks to the east and west and don’t forget the occasional moose and streams for fly fishing. Great write up with photos! Cheers.

  • hannah

    I was in the CO mountains last year at this exact time. Never ending beauty!

  • Chris Valente

    Beautiful gallery as always. A number of years ago I had a pretty spiritual experience on an Aspen lined river deep in the Kings Canyon backcountry. Always makes me nostalgic when I see them again. Those fall colors tho…

  • slighfleep

    Wonderful photos (as always, like Chris Valante just said too), thank you. Those photos of the blue sky, white tree trunks and yellow leaves, they’re like paintings, beautiful.