The roads less taken: Bicycle tour takes riders from Durango to Farmington - Albuquerque Journal

The roads less taken: Bicycle tour takes riders from Durango to Farmington

Hoodoos and other interesting sights await riders of the Durango-Farmington Bicycle Tour. (Courtesy of Neil Hannum)

What started out as a random thought in Neil Hannum’s head has crystallized into reality: a multi-discipline bike ride from Durango, Colorado, to Farmington.

“Along the route, there’s probably not a discipline covered,” he said. “We have a BMX track, gravel county roads, gas field roads, and then we hit some single track with small stretches of slick rock, so that’s kind of fun. Even in the Farmington glade, kids have made some big jumps do you can hit some big jumps if you are into that.”

The Aztec Adventures-sponsored Durango-Farmington Bicycle Tour is just that, said Hannum, one of the owners of Aztec Adventures. The Oct. 23 event is a leisurely, 50-mile ride through areas most people do not get a chance to see.

“I’ve ridden my bicycle from Durango to Farmington on the back roads since 1992,” he said. “I got three of my friends and we got to New Mexico by riding in through in the gas field. So I’ve been doing this for the past 30 years. We go to Farmington the day before and park cars, then drive back to Durango and do the ride the next day.”

That got him thinking that he should do something to make the beauty of this unique area available to more people.

COVID, however, presented the opportunity he was looking for as he was able to focus his attention on developing the ride in a way that would make it amenable to a larger segment of riders.

Of course, the virus still put the kibosh on the last year’s plans, but Hannum was determined to make it a reality this year.

“I’ve been working with the (Bureau of Land Management) and Farmington and discussing with all the stakeholders and getting insurance and permit to make this thing an official event,” he said. “I think it will help tie these two communities together, as well.”

Those who have ridden the course recommend a dirt bike with perhaps slightly wider tires to help negotiate a few sandy stretches.

Lane Waldrop, 55, who now lives in Georgia after years of living in Durango and has done the ride with Hannum in the past, said it’s a wonderful adventure.

“The last 10 miles of the ride are in the Farmington Glade, a mountain bike area that was created decades ago,” he said. “That part is a serious load of fun. We would typically ride down there and ride that part. That is like the reward after the road grind. There were about 20 to 25 people when I did it. It was a good time. You can stop at a natural arch on the way down, where we had lunch. It’s a giant sandstone arch, one of the highlights of the ride.”

The ride is definitely a lot of fun, said Jim Mackay of Durango.

“It’s remote. It kind of starts next to a busy highway and very quickly gets away from that, once you get past the oil wells,” he said. “You have natural gas access roads, then it switches to single track, and I believe most of these trails were made for motorcycles, so they’re perfect for mountain bikes. Then you up to the top of these amazing ridges. It’s like riding a great, big roller coaster. You have great views, with hoodoos and arches. All of sorts of little things that not a lot of people get to see because of the remoteness of it. I had a good time.”

Mackay has added it to his list of go-to spots.

“I’ve gone out and ridden smaller sections of it just on my own because it is so pretty out there,” he said. “If I get bored in the winter, I’ll take my dog out there and hike. It’s great in the winter, not necessarily for biking but for hiking and exploring. I’ve found all sorts of cool things out there. It’s a very unique ride being multisurface. Neil is a local institution when it comes to the cycling community here, and he’s put in a ton of work on this.”

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