Townie tour time: Bridges of the Butte up and spinning

“It’s still fun. It’s just not all night.”

[  By Katherine Nettles  ]

As the last bright days of summer come to an end, one of the final iconic, costumed events of the season has arrived. The 18th annual Adaptive Sports Center Bridges of the Butte Townie Tour officially kicked off on August 28 and runs for two full weeks through September 11 when a four-hour townie tour commences for the finale. 

While many long-time fans of the Bridges have missed the old 24-hour format of the fundraiser which filled local bridges with lit-up bikes, music and an all-night party atmosphere, Adaptive is planning for a festival vibe and major spectator opportunity along Elk Avenue on September 11. The CB classic welcomes participants old and young, new or seasoned to join in the fun, whether in the daily rolling event now underway, through the various pop-up riding and social media events and contests or for the grand finale that still includes costumery, four hours of pedal time and the ease of sweet summer daylight. 

Bridges of the Butte started back in 2004 at a time when there were fewer houses, longer stretches of dirt and fewer people. But as Adaptive’s development director Allison Butcher explains, it was always about sharing the love of biking and raising money to help people enjoy Crested Butte’s many outdoor activities through specialized equipment, instructors and disability adaptations.  

Butcher says pre-COVID, Adaptive was already working through some major kinks to their beloved event, noting the difficulty of finding enough course marshals and other volunteers to light the bridges and work an overnight stint, trying to manage the increasing number of unruly attendees and poachers, and keeping the spirit of the event all at the same time. 

The old format had become unmanageable as more people joined and complaints were issued from residents along the route about loud music in the middle of the night. “There were some close calls and from a risk management perspective it was a little overwhelming. Ultimately this event is a fundraiser and the people who were causing problems were usually not official participants,” says Butcher. “We want to engage the community and support our mission, which is to support people with disabilities. It’s still fun. It’s just not all night.” 

A hybrid that is more inclusive of all ages and abilities has emerged. The boom of virtual participation events helped Adaptive transition that way in 2020, and now the event combines a local experience and the ability to ‘participate from anywhere.’

“People get their friends and family in other places to participate, and it also allows people who aren’t into townies—maybe they are into mountain bikes or road bikes—to get into it too. They are like mini events,” says Butcher. People in the rolling ‘participate from anywhere’ event can set a challenge, share their personal fundraising webpage and join challenges along the way that include prizes.  

This year the event kicked off with a pop-up ride in Crested Butte South last weekend, beginning at the CB Dental block party. 

“We’re increasing pop-up events, and encouraging people to do it on their own with friends,” says Butcher. 

The finale happens on September 11 from noon to 4 p.m., with Elk Avenue blocked off and basecamp at Second and Elk. Adaptive is welcoming people who might wander in with day-of registration, and Handlebar Bike and Board will supply extra townie bikes “So people can borrow a bike and go take a lap,” says Butcher.  “It will be more of a daytime festival feeling,” with Tully’s supplying food and Irwin Brewing Company providing beer.

“This is meant to be a fun community event. So we hope people will come out and participate however they want to participate. Come out biking, sit on Elk and watch the bikers or we are still looking for volunteers and course marshals,” says Butcher. Last, she emphasizes the magic number of $125. 

“If people can raise $125 they can give a person with a disability the impact of a day of adventure with Adaptive,” she says. That can be summer rock climbing, biking or rafting, or a variety of winter sports.  

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