Bricks and Bikepacking (Vol. 1): Velorution Cycles, Durango, CO
A local Durango shop that was built around bikepacking… before bikepacking was a thing.
To preface, Bricks and Bikepacking is a new series about companies and people that have built their business on the idea of adventure by bicycle.
When we walked in to Velorution Cycles, we expected to see a few seat packs and framebags on the shelves, but what we found was a bike shop that lives and breathes bikepacking, and has since 2012. Velorution is located on Main Street in downtown Durango and its showroom is a bikepacker’s nirvana. Camping gear, loaded Salsa bikes, Revelate and Bedrock Bags, and an incredible assortment of additional accessories are all intricately organized throughout the space. The shop is in an historic building with an elegantly crafted and inviting interior that’s adorned with artwork, relics, and maps that exude adventure. When we asked for some local trail recommendations, Joey Ernst, Velorution’s founder and owner, pulled a framed map down from the high ceiling rafters via a cable pulley system rigged with bottom brackets as counter weights. After discussing trails and routes, I decided to dig a little deeper; here’s an interview with Joey:
How did Velorution get started?
Joey: I started Velorution Cycles on January 1st, 2012. Durango has many bike shops, but in 2012 there was a definite adventure-shaped hole in the market. I had been working in the bicycle industry (shops, World Cup wrench, product R&D) since 1997 and I thought it would be a fun way to make a living. So VC happened.
When did you first start bikepacking, and why?
Joey: I lived in Colorado Springs for years, and had a wonderful group of friends that was into really big day rides. We’d go out and have a killer time doing routes like Ring The Peak and lesser known trails, but in a day. One of those guys, Doug Johnson, did the CTR (Colorado trail Race) in 2009 and placed second. That got me going, and I made my own bags and started doing multi-day trips in 2010. Now, two CTRs, one AZT 300, and countless tours later, I just love the feeling of chasing a never-ending ribbon until it’s time to sleep – and then doing it again the next day.
How does your shop cater to bikepacking (specialized products and offerings)?
Joey: We have carried bikepacking gear since Day 1. I brought in Revelate Designs gear just because I loved it, but assumed that it wouldn’t sell. Boy, was I wrong. We quickly became known as the place to go for bicycle travel, Bedrock Bags was started because of a conversation founder Andrew (super good friend) and I had, and we just added more and more gear until the current moment. We now carry bikepacking and touring gear from Bedrock, Revelate, Arkel, Salsa, Jandd, and more, along with UL camping gear from Nemo, Big Agnes, Vargo, and many others. We also stock a large selection of dynamo systems and parts.
What does your shop carry that might be hard to find elsewhere? Do you ship?
Joey: We carry so many things that are hard to find elsewhere! Of course, with the sudden popularity of bikepacking in the cycling mainstream, that’s not as true as it once was. But you know, experience doesn’t come quickly, and we have that in spades. We do ship, and in fact have a bikepacking/touring webstore that we opened after fielding call after call from around the country asking for us to ship gear to underserved riders.
Has the popularity of bikepacking changed the dynamic of your shop (if so, how)?
Joey: To be perfectly frank, bikepacking becoming a “thing” has been a little challenging. The core group that knew us through the years still knows the score, but all the newcomers to this pursuit tend to think we’re just another brand-new adventure shop, just throwing stuff on the wall because it’s in the magazines now. That’s a little difficult to take, and as more shops pick up the gear (although perhaps not the knowledge), I could see adventure-category sales actually decreasing a bit.
What is your favorite bikepacking route or trail?
Joey: Hands down, the Colorado Trail. I have ridden this thing once in each direction, and the variety of terrain, trail quality, weather, and internal highs and lows experienced out there is tops. I love the CT, which is why I keep sending them money and asking them to keep as much open to MTB use as possible.
Are there any new bikepacking related products that you are excited about?
Joey: Absolutely! Bedrock just released a new seat bag – the Coconino – that uses a mounting system I dreamed up while on tour last year. Andrew and I spent six months developing the concept, and it’s ready for primetime. It’s rock solid; most seat bags move around a fair bit, but the Coconino is completely bomber, while still being lightweight. And best of all, it’s almost impossible to break the mounting system – even if you did, it’s functionally redundant so you can get home.
Do you provide any bikepacking related programs, clinics, and events? Any upcoming events you’d like to mention?
Joey: We’ve done what we call Bikepacking 101 every year since 2012. The first year we had 3 people; the second, something like six; in 2014, we had 50 people crammed in our little shop. Yowza. Also, the CTR starts at VC in odd years. Finally, I’m launching a new bikepacking race/timed tour called the Velorution Venture. The ~220 mile route is a beautiful loop from Durango and will be held over Labor Day weekend. Details forthcoming, but you can stay posted at velorutioncycles.com/venture if you’re interested!
P.S. Don’t give your hard-earned dollars to the big guys… support your local bike shop when you can and keep places like this alive and well!