Gravel biking has become one of the hottest trends in cycling

Five years ago, Brad James went for one last ride, then sold his road bike. He’s never looked back.

These days, you’ll find him exclusively riding his gravel bike on the unpaved dirt roads throughout Boulder County.

For 50-year-old James — and many other Colorado cyclists — gravel riding is now king. Instead of riding from stoplight to stoplight on paved roads and living in constant fear that a distracted driver will hit them, cyclists riding on gravel can more or less relax and enjoy the scenery. They can head out on their bikes and just explore, turning down random dirt roads and seeing where they lead.

“I would get on my road bike and say, ‘Let’s go hammer out an hour-and-a-half, two-hour ride and I want off the bike,’” said James, who owns the Sports Garage bike shop in Boulder. “‘I’ve seen the majority of these roads a thousand times, there’s tons of traffic. Let’s just get a workout in and be done.’ The gravel bikes give you the ability to explore. You could’ve lived in Boulder for 30 years and there are places you’ve never seen on your road bike.”

Maybe you’ve heard people talking about gravel riding, one of the hottest trends in cycling. But what is it, exactly? And what makes it so special? Perhaps more importantly, how do you get started and where can you ride in Colorado? We’ve got answers.