Pretty much every business in Durango banks on the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic for a strong entry into summer.
But even more important, business owners and business leaders say the cycling classic, now in its 48th year, is key to branding Durango as an outdoors mecca.
“It helps our town. It’s totally unique,” said James Allred, owner of Eolus Bar and Dining, 919 Main Ave. “It’s one event that features the mountains and the historic train, and it’s attainable to most people. It’s something you can train for and say you accomplished it.”
Allred said he believes out-of-town cyclists come to the Durango area and realize they can also raft, rock climb and hike, and that leads to return visits.
Eolus, he said, has strong bookings all week through Sunday.
The longevity of the event also helps.
Karen Barger, owner of Seasons Rotisserie & Grill, 764 Main Ave., said she has regular riders and their families who come every year.
“People come in after the ride and treat themselves. They make it a tradition,” she said.
Iron Horse, she added, turbocharges a busy three-day weekend that includes graduation ceremonies for Durango High School.
“We’re definitely seeing a bump for sure,” she said.
Tim Walsworth, executive director of the Business Improvement District, said Sunday events focus on downtown.
“My understanding is that there are about 2,000 to 2,500 rider spots, and they max those out every year. April is typically a slow month for sales, but May is always significantly more than April. I attribute that to the Iron Horse,” he said.
Cathy Wakeman, owner of Animas Trading Co., 742 Main Ave., said, “There are a lot of people in town, and the people who aren’t riding are out shopping. Sunday, a day when Iron Horse events are focused on downtown, is always our big day.”
Dave Howard, owner of Pedal the Peaks, 598 Main Ave., said he has been busy all week assembling road bikes – people from all over ship him their bicycles for assembly for the ride and disassembly for shipment back home.
“This is what I consider the official start to summer,” he said. “We’ll be busy from here on out.”
Christian Robbins, spokesman for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, said interest in Memorial Day weekend rides are always strong, and the Iron Horse just adds to an already busy week.
The real value for the Iron Horse he said is that it is a unique event that “helps get the train’s name out there,” something he said the train benefits from year-round.
“It’s a lot of foot traffic,” said Russell Zimmerman, owner of Durango Cyclery, 143 E. 13th St.
He expects he’ll be busy just like all previous Iron Horses – his shop is adjacent to Buckley Park, one of the main Durango party venues.
DeAnne Gallegos, executive director of the Silverton Chamber of Commerce, said the event has also worked hard to build events in the mountain town.
“They’ve really built up the party in the park, and this year, they bought us steel guardrails that we can use for other events. That’s something we’d never be able to afford on our own,” she said.
Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, said the Iron Horse is significant to Durango.
“The Iron Horse adds to the image of Durango as a biking mecca,” he said.
Walsworth added that the event has long-term benefits for the town by keeping Durango at the forefront of cyclists’ minds.
“The Iron Horse is a bucket-list type of event for riders,” he said.