The Copper Mountain Cycle Fest 2004

Text: Greg Smith • Photography: Greg Smith

I had looked forward to the Suzuki Cycle Fest at Copper Mountain for over a year, ever since the first reports of the first event in 2003. But the weekend didn't start out sporting much a festival atmosphere. Here I was, at home in Denver, putting on every bit of cold and wet weather gear I had with me. Thursday had been great and I had taken advantage of it to enjoy the mountain roads. But the weather turned. Worse, I was to pick up my wife at the airport, and she had never before, not once, experienced foul weather on two wheels.

The weather report called for rain all day and even snow at the higher elevations. The more pessimistic reports included a warning for up to two inches of accumulation over ten thousand feet. On the map, Loveland Pass is clearly between Denver and Copper Mountain, and it's also over eleven thousand feet. "This might not be fun," I thought as I finished gearing up and rode to the arrival area at the airport.

My wife finally arrived and geared up with trepidation. She stiffly sat behind me, on her first great motorcycle adventure. We rode out of town into the rain and wet, and approached the foot of the mountains. Above the freeway, an electronic sign read "poor visibility ahead." In the not so far off distance, taillights disappeared into a thick, white fog bank.

We rode conservatively up the hill. Sure enough, arriving at Loveland, snow flakes swirled. Fortunately, none of them were sticking and the roads remained clear.

As soon as we passed through the tunnel, it was as if Mother Nature had waved her hand to salute the few brave enough to make the journey. On the west side of the tunnel, the clouds were already breaking and the sun shone on dry roads. Not far ahead, the town of Frisco seemed a beacon to a weary traveler. From that point on, the weather was nothing less than spectacular!

Friday's weather had limited the number of attendees. All of the lots were wide open, and only a few riders had confronted the weather to get there. Still, demo rides were going out regularly. All of the morning rides had been cancelled, and the higher roads, like Mount Evans (over 14,000 ft.), had been closed due to weather.

Many people elected to save a few dollars on lodging by staying nearby in Frisco or Dillon. However, those of us staying at the resort had great amenities. Resort condos provided underground parking and restaurants right down the hall, instead of down the street. Our room was at the base of a ski slope, on a fairway.

We managed to get in one demo ride on Friday afternoon, on a Honda Gold Wing. Honda was well represented, and there were many other options available for riders interested in testing the latest and greatest. Triumph brought several models, including the awesome Rocket III, a 2300cc beast. Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha all brought both cruisers and sport bikes. Buell arrived with plenty of bikes, and even the Italian makes were represented by Aprilia, Moto Guzzi and Laverda. All types of bikes were available, including sport bikes, cruisers, dual sports, adventure and sport tourers, and full tourers. For those so inclined, several makers also brought out their latest scooters! There were even demo rides available for dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles.

The best chance to take advantage of the demo bikes was on Friday, since there were so few attendees. Saturday morning was fairly wide open, but sport bikes were quickly reserved. Sport bikes and tourers were also very quickly claimed for the entire day on Sunday, but there were plenty of cruisers available.

The demo rides were all very well managed and supervised. Each manufacturer required a waiver form and a valid motorcycle license. Every ride included a comprehensive safety briefing about riding in a staggered formation, riding within the law, and what not to do (wheelies, stoppies, etc.). Groups were led by professional riders, with a second rider trailing behind. Sometimes a third guide in the pack provided an additional measure of safety.

Demo rides lasted around a half hour each, depending on the make and model. Most rides elected to go up the mountain about ten miles to the little town of Climax, where a mine provides a good turnaround point. Some riders were given the option of a freeway jaunt to Dillon Dam, about ten miles away. The rides were very well attended and managed, and were worth the trip from Dallas on their own. We took advantage of several, including trips on the Yamaha FJR 1300, the Triumph Rocket III and the Kawasaki Vulcan 2000.

Guided group rides were also available. Those who purchased their event tickets online ahead of time were given passes to the weekend ride of their choice as a bonus, while others paid a small fee to provide for the guides or lunch. Riders could choose from a street-only ride or a dual-sport ride in the nearby wilderness.

As with the demo rides, the guided rides were both well attended and well managed. On the Saturday street ride, we gathered as a group at the local service station near the resort, where we were introduced to our lead and trail guides. These riders were locals, enlisted for the event, and provided in-depth information about the area as well as a professional and safe environment for riding.

We began with a thirty-minute jaunt up the mountain to Leadville. The quaint and historic main street was enhanced by the presence of a group of restored Model A Ford cars and trucks parked nearby. After pausing long enough to grab a coffee and bagel at the local coffee shop, the group headed toward Camp Hale, where the famous 10th Mountain Division had formed and trained during World War II. According to our guides, the Colorado ski industry actually started there as well, as those soldiers returned from the war to start local resorts.

We pressed on further down the mountain toward the town of Minturn. There an ongoing local farmer's market only added to the enjoyment of the ride as we rolled into a parking area for lunch at Chilly Willy's, a local Tex-Mex eatery. Lunch was provided as part of our ride, and it was a great chance to talk with other riders from as far away as Los Angeles and Kansas. Lunch signaled the end of the formal ride, and most people found their own way back to Copper Mountain, a few miles away on the Interstate.

The centerpiece and main attraction of the event was unquestionably the two rounds of AMA SuperMoto racing. If you haven't seen this sort of racing live, you really need to! The fans are right up against the track, a combination of dirt and street racing that provides exciting, very close action. There were heat races and finals in several classes on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The racing action was fast and furious. Heats lasted only about fifteen minutes, and riders rode flat out, sliding their tires around the turns. One of the most enjoyable and interesting races featured the future stars of the sport, all under fifteen years old and riding Honda motorcycles in an exciting and close race!

On both Friday and Saturday evenings, live music played at the resort center, and there were great items given away by the sponsors. Many people left the event with new gloves, a jacket, or sets of Dunlop tires! In a terrific effort to enhance the traffic at vendor tents, each attendee was given a "passport" with their passes. Vendors stamped the passports at their tents so attendees could turn in a full passport book for entry to prize drawings. This was a great idea, and surely helped to make sure that vendors saw more traffic, and encouraged guests to see more vendors!

The weekend was well worth the trip, with more to do and see than there was time in the day. According to resort workers I spoke with, the event was far larger and even more successful than the first annual event held in 2003. We had been unable to make it last year, but we're already making plans to be there next year. If you haven't been to Cycle Fest, you really should join us! Here's to Suzuki, RPM, Copper Mountain Resort and all the other sponsors for a job well done. Let's hope they continue holding this great event.