Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Original Growler bike race returns for another year

Celebrate Memorial Day in the saddle

by Than Acuff

Now in its 12th year of existence, the Original Growler continues to attract throngs of mountain bikers to Gunnison every Memorial Day weekend for two days of action-packed mountain bike racing. When the race started back in 2008, close to 100 signed up for either the 64-mile Full Growler race or the 32-mile Half Growler race. Now, more than 600 riders are signed up, with hopes the race may draw 700 in the end—with all of the proceeds going to Gunnison Trails.

Gunnison Trails director Tim Kugler and a slew of volunteers are gearing up for the 12th annual Original Growler, powered by SRAM and supported by Ergon at Hartman Rocks Saturday and Sunday, May 25-26. He believes that the energy of his predecessor, Dave Wiens, who started the race, is responsible for its growth over the years and feels the course and weekend energy keeps people coming back.

“A lot of it comes down to the race course, having Hartman Rocks as the canvas,” says Kugler. “Hartman Rocks makes for an incredible race venue.”

While so many courses on the cross-country race circuit involve long sections of doubletrack and fire roads, the Original Growler separates itself from the rest.

“This race is 70 to 80 percent singletrack,” says Kugler. “Crazy incredible riding. Plus, it’s the combination of a challenging day but well supplied. Now we have four fully stocked aid stations.”

The Original Growler has a little bit of something for everyone, with races spread out over the two days. People have the choice between the 32-mile Half Growler and the 64-mile Full Growler.

Saturday, May 25 will be the high-speed showdown Half Growler, with numerous race classes including collegiate and high school age races.

“That’s the one for people who are hungry to compete,” says Kugler. “If you’re in it to try to stand on the podium, that’s the race.”

Two races are then offered on Sunday, May 26, with another Half Growler and the 64-mile Full Growler.

“Yes, it’s a race and got some pretty fast cats, but it’s also a fun day on the bike where you get fed along the way,” says Kugler.

So much so that the infamous Skull Pass aid station will have a total of 80 pounds of bacon for riders over the two days.

“I have no idea how many hogs that equates to,” says Kugler.

Two years ago a section named Graceland, created with the help of funds generated by the Growler races, was added to the course to eliminate the horrific Powerline sandbox. The course this year will be exactly like last year’s, except in reverse direction, or counterclockwise.

“The good thing is that a lot of the trails ride well in both directions,” says Kugler.

Registration is still open and will be open until the day before the race. Bib pick-up and last-minute walk-up registration will be at the Western Colorado Fieldhouse on Friday, May 24 from 3 to 9 p.m. Bib pick-up for Sunday’s races will be on Saturday, May 25 at the same times and same location.

“You can still sign up Friday and we won’t turn you down,” says Kugler.

One more thing: While the race course is 32 miles or 64 miles at Hartman Rocks, there’s still the two and a half mile neutral pedal start from downtown Gunnison and the untimed two and a half mile return to downtown Gunnison from the course finish line not factored into the course mileage.

“When your Garmin is telling you you’re at 64 miles and there’s still a hill between you and the beer tent, you’re not happy,” says Kugler.

Anyone who doesn’t want to ride but wants to help, contact Kugler at

All proceeds from the weekend go to support Gunnison Trails. Gunnison Trails, in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management, maintains the trails at Hartman Rocks as well as spearheads the creation of new sections of singletrack, helps with the Signal Peak trail development and pays for trail crews to put in 20 weeks of trail work this year alone.

For more information about the race or to register go to

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