Exploring Montrose on two wheels

You wake before the sunrise with Steppenwolf’s anthem about big motors, open highways, and wind-blown freedom turning over in your mind. Your big-displacement motorcycle awaits outside your hotel room door, still tucked in under its night cover. You pull on your jeans and boots, stuff your belongings into your saddlebag liners, uncover the bike, and kick over the engine. The relaxed throb of the engine’s cylinders echoes across the parking lot in the early morning chill. There’s an eye-opening latte waiting for you down on Main Street, and a whole day of natural beauty waiting to be discovered right outside of town. You’re in Montrose, Colorado, the epicenter of great motorcycling on the Western Slope. It’s going to be a good day.

Brothers and Sisters

Whether you ride a full-dress touring machine like a Honda Gold Wing, a destination-decal bedecked BMW adventure tourer with clunky aluminum box panniers, or a chopped, custom Harley-Davidson, the beat and rhythm of the song of the open road is the same. You’ll see scores of other bikes and riders today. They’re the brotherhood and sisterhood of the highway, signified by the exchange of the two-fingered wave.

What unites this family of enthusiasts? Answers vary. There’s a sense of freedom; an open-air “in the wind” closeness to the environment; the challenges of difficult roads and inclement weather; tolerance for and acceptance of risk; a sense of non-conformity and youthfulness.

The Western Slope of Colorado is a magnet for motorcyclists, and Montrose is a natural crossroads for all kinds of riders. The intersection of U.S. Highways 50 and 550, two excellent motorcycle roads themselves, brings hundreds of bikes right into the heart of town. Access to this hub of motorcycle activity is facilitated by Interstate Highways 15, 25, 40, and 70, so Montrose sees a plethora of out-of-state license plates.

A Personal Ride of Discovery

As one of those lucky ones from out of state who discovered the less populous side of Colorado, I found myself identifying with the lyric of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”, “ … coming home to a place he’d never been before ... ” My find occurred a few years ago, while I was editor of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association magazine and fortunate enough to lead a small group of close friends on Honda Gold Wings out of the big city furnace of Phoenix across the USA to the association’s annual rally. These trips were usually a “fourday burn” to reach our destination. I planned the routes we took each year and recall passing through Fruita and Grand Junction on I-70, thinking to myself that, someday, I needed to find out about the towns west of the Rockies and south of I-70. I had a premonition that I was being drawn to this area.

Not long after that, I attended a three-day Gold Wing rally held in Montrose. Everything about the town felt right: the shade trees; the American flags on the front porches of the houses downtown; the folks browsing the shops along Main Street; the majestic San Juan Mountain peaks gazing down; the easy-riding byways just moments beyond the edge of town. I knew I’d found something special here, something that I never wanted to leave. A year or two later, I made Montrose my home. As I said, I was one of the lucky ones.

Rides for All Seasons

What draws visitors on two wheels to Montrose and the surrounding areas? The pleasure of marvelously uncrowded riding. Out of the congestion of big city traffic, roads here are well-maintained, scenic, and interesting. In those early spring days when the cold grip of winter has dissolved into iridescent greens and brilliant yellows of forsythia, the whole world feels newborn.

Then, as the elm and cottonwood seeds gather on the roadsides, few experiences equal the laid-back pleasure of burbling between fields of cornstalks, inhaling the summertime scents of hot pavement, and feeling the abrupt cool when passing by roadside irrigation water.

As autumn harvests are gathered, the sweet aromas of apple orchards cling to the foothills as the greens of summer give way to the rich tapestries of golden aspens threading between the reds and yellows that intertwine across the Cimarron Range.

Interesting Destinations

All rides lead to unique destinations. Our section of Colorado abounds with historic towns, friendly small-town Main Street shops and restaurants, and luxurious hot springs. For the adventurous, there are gold and silver mine tours, whitewater rafting and paddling, and the relatively little-known geological marvel of the Black Canyon National Park.

Astonishing natural beauty awaits around every sweeping corner of every highway. Endless expanses of desert stretch westward to the red rock canyon walls of neighboring Utah. To the south, pockets of snow cling to the towering Rocky Mountain peaks of the San Juan Mountains even in the summer months. Historic railroad routes carve their way through the deep greens and brilliant yellows of our autumn forests.

Riding Weather-Wise

Western Slope weather patterns usually cooperate to make open-air touring on motorcycles beautiful and predictable during the most popular Aprilthrough-
October riding months. Cool, starlit nights give way to clear, bluebird skies until an afternoon shower rolls through the Rocky Mountains and out toward the plains of eastern Colorado. A good rain suit and helmet handle the showers as you wind your way back to the comforts of your campsite or hotel. At day’s end, Montrose has a wide choice of lodging options, restaurants, and service stations. And standing by to service your bike are two local motorcycle dealerships.

A variety of motorcycle clubs and associations have staged their rallies in Montrose, thanks to welcoming event facilities, motels, and restaurants. The GL1800 Riders Internet Forum returns to Montrose every fall, and Gold Wing, Harley-Davidson, and BMW riders groups have convened in Montrose in recent years. Advance rally planning is facilitated by our helpful Visit Montrose staff, always at-the-ready to provide superior hospitality.

So when the urge to “get your motor runnin” and go “lookin’ for adventure” strikes, pack your saddlebags, rev up your engine, and head to Montrose, a place where riders find wonder spread out just beyond their handlebars.