By Devon Balet
Crested Butte, Colorado has long had the reputation as a world capital of mountain biking. After a short trip to this end-of-the-road mountain town of Colorado, you will quickly realize why. Open up a trail map you will be completely overwhelmed with the number of lines that weave their way through, around, and over the mountains of Crested Butte. But you better have your high elevation lungs and climbing legs because these trails are no joking matter.

One part of biking and Crested Butte that is a joking matter (or maybe a party is the better word) is the Chainless Downhill Race that has been a part of the Fat Tire Bike Week of Crested Butte, running for 30 years! This crazy costume party begins on the summit of Kebler Pass, just a short seven miles outside of town.


Now some of you may be curious when I say chainless downhill race. Many things can come to mind. Imagine yourself 9,980 feet above the waves of any ocean, jagged Colorado Rocky Mountains surrounding this bike costume party. Bikes and costumes of all shapes and colors are spread out around the top of the rolling pass.

If you know Kebler Pass, you may wonder if you could even keep the speed to be able to coast your chainless bike the seven miles back to town. Even though the pass seems pretty well flat, the 1,130 feet of elevation drop created more than enough excitement for 150 costume-clad participants this year.

The colorful collection of bikes and attire took off during Le Mans-style start that looked like a small child’s first experience with crayons. Random screams of excitement mixed in with yells of “On your right” or “Coming in hot!” It quickly became apparent this was going to be a race like no other.

Mother Nature was kind enough to grace the race with a light rain, and CDOT was so kind to Mag chloride the road earlier that morning. A tasty tire spray left competitors thinking of only the beer garden awaiting all the racers at the finish.

The finish area was PACKED with fellow bike lovers and tourists, all out to see the excitement created by these crazy bikes and costumes. The last stretch of the race course went from paved road to a loose left turn gravel road, which created tons of excitement and a few spills. As riders approached the last turn onto Elk Avenue the cheers of the crowd packing the streets escalated. Flying onto the pavement of Elk Ave. participants could have had visions of a World Cup downhill race from the volume of the crowd.

As the last riders crossed the finish line the beer garden filled to the gills. New Belgium saturated the party with more beer than Crested Butte could consume, which is A LOT! Blurry eyed and salty coated, the crowd slowly went their own separate ways. But worry not bike loving friends, that was only the start of the 30 year-running Fat Tire Bike Week of Crested Butte CO.
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