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​Welcome To The World’s Oldest MTB Festival

Absolutely classic riding in Colorado’s Elk Mountains. Jake Fojtik photo.

Here’s a quick history lesson. In the late 1970's, Crested Butte was already considered the Mecca of mountain biking. While Marin County, California may have had the bikes, Crested Butte certainly had the trails. The tiny town, right smack in the middle of Colorado’s Elk Mountains, paved the way for modern mountain biking, blazing trails high into the mountains surrounding town, all focused on one thing: two-wheeled access. For the last 40 years, Crested Butte has been forging a path through the ever-growing world of mountain biking, all the while staying true to its roots.

The scenic route to CB via Kebler Pass devolves into utter mayhem during Friday night’s Chainless DH race. Max Ritter photo.

When Crested Butte’s infamous Fat Tire festival (now called CB Bike Week) first started in 1983, it already had a cult following. In fact, it was the world’s only mountain bike festival at the time, attracting like-minded individuals from all over the country. These days, it’s grown into afull-blown party complete with skills clinics, film screenings, live music, multiple races, and cruiser rides.

Bike Week 2018 brought us everything: the forever classic mass-start Chainless DH race from the top of Kebler Pass, two-days of pro-level enduro racing courtesy of Big Mountain Enduro, the Fat Tire 40 cross country race, CB Adaptive Sports Center’s 24-hour townie ride, and countless skills clinics put on by the best in business.

This could be the world’s best commute. Enjoying a lap on the aptly-named Happy Hour trail, which connects the bike park to town. Max Ritter photo.

The easy way home. Crested Butte offers free shuttle service between town and the mountain. Max Ritter photo.

Participation numbers were equally impressive: 350 chainless racers, 275 enduro racers, 300 townies, 140 cross country racers, and 150 youngsters racing in the CB Devo events. The numbers showed not just at the events, but in the timeless party atmosphere after hours in the many watering holes on Elk Avenue.

The sign says it all. Max Ritter photo.

With a dry summer season so far, the trails were running fast and loose in the mountains, but the high-alpine wildflowers made for a stunning backdrop. In between watching racing, fine-tuning riding skills at clinics, and eating slice after slice of pizza at the town’s two famous pizzerias, we got a chance to explore some of the classic rides around the area: Doctor Park, Teocalli Ridge, and the newly completed Baxter Gulch trails.

Blasting through the trees is a surefire way to escape the relentless summer heat. Jake Fojtik photo.

Doctor Park, stage two of this year’s Big Mountain Enduro, features a seven-mile descent through aspen forests and wheel-destroying rock tech. Teocalli Ridge, another true classic, starts in the high alpine and blasts down a series of steep, techy rock chutes in yet another mountain-sized aspen grove. Finally, Baxter Gulch, an eight-year project of local trailbuilders and the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association, is a challenging out-and-back from town that follows an old mining bench cut through a never-ending alpine valley. 

Stage two of the BME race, Doctor Park, features a warp speed descent through the aspens before a mile of wheel-destroying rocks. Max Ritter photo.

The wheel-destroying rocks. Racers battled their way through the mile-long tech section at the bottom of Doctor Park on day one. Jake Fojtik photo.

All three trails offer something unique, showcasing the massive variety of riding available in the area: everything from high-alpine rides through stunning wildflower fields, to gnarly rock tech in the woods.

Check back for more stories on Crested Butte’s legendary mountain bike scene.

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I get it. Mountain biking is expensive. Like really, really, expensive. And in all honesty, unless you have the money, it’s really not worth buying a brand-new bike. Like a car, it’ll lose a good bunch of its value immediately (not that it matters, since the value truly comes from the fun times you and the bike get out on the trail). That being said, if you look in the right places, you’re more than likely to find a fully-capable used bike for a good bit less than a new one. Or better yet,