The Origins of the Iron Horse
Brothers Tom and Jim Mayer concocted the idea behind the first Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. Jim worked as a brakeman on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, which had operated the steam-powered line between Durango and Silverton since the 1880s. Tom was a young bicycling enthusiast who enjoyed riding alongside the railroad tracks.
One day in 1971, Tom challenged his older brother to a race to Silverton. Steam engine versus bicycle. They wagered a candy bar on the results.
When Jim pulled into the Silverton station, there was Tom, waiting for him. He’d beaten the train, despite having a longer road and having to climb two mountain passes. He won his candy bar, alright, and he had no idea that he had just started a famous race that would draw thousands of riders to southwest Colorado.
You can read more about the story of the Iron Horse by visiting Tom Mayer's website here:http://abundantadventures.com/IronHorse/IronHorseClassicOrigin.html
The First Iron Horse Bicycle Classic
Tom decided the best way to get others to try his favorite ride was to start a race. So in 1972, a group of 36 riders celebrated the train’s first run of the spring by accepting his challenge. Five of them managed to beat the train to Silverton, and it's been all uphill since then.
For the last half-century, the Iron Horse has become one of the premier bicycle events in the West. Durango is centrally located between Denver, Albuquerque, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City.
Now, riders travel to the Iron Horse from every state and several foreign countries. Each year, thousands of riders experience the thrill of descending into Silverton with hopes of beating the train. And whatever the results, simply finishing this classic ride is an accomplishment that keeps people coming back year after year to one of the best rides around.
Growth of the Iron Horse
Throughout the years, several events have been added to the traditional ride to Silverton. We now host Quarter Horse and Pedal Assist Quarter Horse rides to Purgatory, the Mountain Bike Race, the Kids Race, the BMX Straight Rhythm, and the La Strada La Plata Gravel Ride. We have events for professional racers and everyday enthusiasts. Memorial Day weekend in Durango is always full of cycling events and festivities. In 2018, we welcomed more than 3800 participants across all events, and we’re constantly evolving to welcome new styles of riding.
Come ride with us, and take part in this inclusive and exciting adventure we call the Iron Horse!
1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m: Steamworks Packet pickup and late registration party. Beer garden, food, live music, cycling vendors, e-bike demos, and kids’ activities. Buckley Park (Main Avenue and 12th Street)
7:30am: Start of Coca Cola Road Race to Silverton start: Buckley Park – Main Avenue and 12th Street in Durango, CO
8:00am: Start of McDonald’s Citizens Tour to Silverton: College Drive and Camino Del Rio in Durango, CO
8:15am: Start of Quarter Horse to Purgatory: College Drive and Camino Del Rio in Durango, CO
8:15am: Start of Pedal Assist E-bike Tour to Purgatory: College Drive and Camino Del Rio in Durango, CO
9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Race and Citizen Tour finish at Memorial Park in Silverton. Beer garden, food, vendors, and kids’ activities.
9:45am-11:00am: Road Race Awards ongoing at podium finish line (Approximately 20 minutes after each category finish)
3:00pm-7:00pm: Bicycle pickup at Durango High School (Main Avenue and 24th Street) for those who have purchased Return Transportation.
8:00 a.m Kid’s Sprite Race Registration at the starting line at Buckley Park– Main Avenue and 12th Street in Durango, CO.
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Downtown Durango bike festival at Buckley Park– Beer garden, food, vendors, ebike demos and kids’ activities. Main Avenue and 12th Street in Durango, CO.
9:00 a.m: La Strada La Plata Gravel Ride start. Buckley Park– Main Avenue and 12th Street in Durango, CO.
9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m: Kid’s Sprite Race. All age groups must be ready to race at any time during these two hours. Older riders will start first.
9:00a.m. - 2:00 p.m: Kids Village: Buckley Park, Main Avenue and 12th Street in Durango.
11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m: Moreheart Murphy Mountain Bike Race. Buckley Park, Main Avenue and 12th Street in Durango. See Mountain Bike Race page for specific start times.
1:45 p.m -5:00 p.m: Mountain Bike Awards ongoing at podium/stage (Approximately 20 minutes after each category finish)
5:00pm: Durango Cyclery Cruzer Crit: Buckley Park, Main Avenue and 12th Street in Durango.
Information credit: Iron Horse Classic