Steamboat Springs, Colorado, also known as Bike Town USA for its myriad trail choices and plentiful road and gravel bike routes, finally has its first mountain bike guides approved for tours on a public trail network. Ride Workshop, founded by Corey Piscopo in 2020, started leading small group tours on the Emerald Mountain trail network this summer, a unique opportunity for the area brought on by demand from new riders, but also in response to trail traffic and user conflict in the Northern Colorado mountain town.
After working in the bike industry for more than 20 years, spending time at bike shops, and at the well-known Steamboat brand Moots, Piscopo started Ride Workshop after seeing a void between when a customer buys a bike and when they hit the trails.
“There’s no shortage of bike shops and companies that are product-oriented and do a great job of selling top-shelf product,” Piscopo says, “but there was this continued demand, especially in Steamboat for service, experience, and expertise, and a lot of it coming from beginner and intermediate riders trying to get into the sport.”
When it comes to buying a bike, most shops will help with a basic fit, finding the right gear, and setting the suspension, but learning how to use and navigate a multi-use or public trail system is usually left to the rider.
Ride Workshops’ guided rides include a one- to four-hour tour where the customer can rent gear, and go for either a gravel or mountain bike tour, and choose a package with a varying level of guide input. Want a great gravel route and a place to ship your bike? Ride Workshop can do that. Or maybe someone just bought a new mountain bike and wants to take it out for the first time on a trail network. They can help with that too.
Ride Workshop gained approval from the City of Steamboat after going through an application process. While the bigger backcountry trails surrounding Steamboat Springs are on U.S. Forest Service land and largely off-limits to commercial activity such as mountain bike guiding, the front country Emerald Mountain trail network is now open to the shop, but because of increased traffic on the trails, the permit comes with limitations such as guiding only on weekdays and including rider education.
“There’s no way around it,” Piscopo says. “Our trails are super busy.” Conflict between user groups on the town’s mountain bike trails has been noticeably higher in recent years he says, and some locals had concerns about running guided tours on the trails.
Piscopo said the idea to limit the guiding on Emerald Mountain to weekdays was his idea. The town imposed other restrictions such as group size and the number of sessions allowed per year. Ride Workshop can’t have a group with more than five riders including the instructor and they can hold a maximum of 200 sessions per year. The other stipulation is rider education.
“Education is a major component,” said Steamboat Parks and Open Space and Trails Manager Craig Robinson. “And we’ve kind of given them a bullet point of what that etiquette looks like, but it’s pretty standard to what IMBA or anybody else has, you know, respecting other trail users, respecting wildlife don’t go out when it’s wet.”
Steamboat Parks and Open Space has been using other approaches for safety and rider education recently too. Like many other booming mountain towns, Steamboat is dealing with an influx of new residents and increased traffic in the parks. The town enacted a pilot program for e-bikes on various trails, though Emerald Mountain was the exception and eMTBs are still not permitted on the city’s natural surface trails.
Piscopo was one of two outfitters approved from a handful. He believes that being a long-time resident of Steamboat helped his approval.
As a long-time resident, mountain biker, and small business owner, Piscopo has grappled with the duality of creating a business which relies on tourists and making it sustainable for the city he lives in. He doesn’t see his business as having a growing appetite for more permits to operate on other mountains. The idea around Ride Workshop is to help new riders better better integrate with existing trail users.
“My goal with these guided rides is I want people to leave feeling empowered, as better riders and to have more confidence to navigate trails and deal with other trail users. That’s definitely part of the vision.”