Spoke Talk: Parks for the bikes | SteamboatToday.com

Spoke Talk: Parks for the bikes

Wendy Tucciarone/For the Steamboat Today

Spoke Talk is a weekly column by the Routt County RIders.

— Steamboat has a bounty of community parks. We have parks just for ball players, parks especially for dogs, parks with playgrounds for kids, a botanic park for nature lovers…and we have parks for our bikes.

At the base of Howelsen Hill is Steamboat's community BMX track. It is one of nearly 400 USA BMX tracks located throughout the country, and each track has its own personality. According to USA BMX, while every course has a starting gate and a finish line, that is where the similarity begins and ends. The lengths of the tracks will vary as much as the size and arrangement of obstacles.

Steamboat's professionally-designed BMX track is 950 feet in length with three bowl-style turns. It has a steep start hill with "doubles" — that's two hills spaced just enough apart to encourage air. Next comes a "step up," or a short hill followed immediately by a taller hill. The eight-pack "rhythm section" rounds out the track — this combination of jumps is less about the size and more about the timing and flow.

Created by kids, for kids, the sport of BMX was first called pedal-cross, but eventually became bicycle motocross, or BMX for short. Here in Steamboat, approximately 30 local youth play, practice and compete at the BMX track regularly, along with many other casual users.

Races are planned each Thursday evening through Aug. 7. Just last weekend, 200 young racers and their families descended upon Steamboat and its BMX track for a state qualifier race. Approximately 86 percent were from out of town, and in many cases, three generations were represented.

Every Tuesday, Routt County Riders supports a group of dedicated volunteers that shows up at the track to groom and maintain it. Come by between 5:30 and 8 p.m., lend a hand and gain some knowledge of the sport — tools, Brooklynn's pizza and beverages provided!

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Not far away — at the west end of town at the end of Lagoon Drive — another group of bicycles enjoy their time at a park — the Bear River Bike Park. Last year, Routt County Riders led the charge in securing a $33,000 grant from Bell Helmets, which enabled the addition of intermediate and expert jump lines to the then-fledgling bike park.

Since that time, use has exploded. A trail counter installed at the bike park has recorded an average of 271 passes on any given day between June 2 and July 6.

The Bear River Bike Park features beginner and intermediate pump track loops alongside its more advanced jump lines. The four-acre park provides riding for all abilities — from toddlers on strider bikes to advanced riders seeking big air. Loops become progressively more challenging, starting with beginner hills and curves, moving up to intermediate loops with bigger hills and jumps, and finally the expert jump line.

Each Wednesday, Routt County Riders leads trail work sessions at the Bear River Bike Park from 5:15 to 8:15 p.m. After the work, the volunteer crew feasts on Blue Sage pizza and beverages, then pumps and jumps. Consider bringing your kids and bikes out for an evening at the park.

Wendy Tucciarone is a Routt County Riders member, volunteer and the club's administrator.