The dividing line

In the outdoors, motors separate Craig from her neighbor

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To motor or not to motor.

That is the question that may differentiate the ways in which people in Craig and Steamboat Springs like to spend their recreational time.

Either atop a motorized bike or on a mountain bike, it's clear that people in the Yampa Valley enjoy turning the wheels.

According to some motorbike enthusiasts, the high desert terrain in the outlying areas of Craig, make excellent riding conditions. Conversely, trails around Steam-boat Springs' forested Alpine country call to hundreds of mountain bike enthusiasts each year.

Though the towns differ geographically, residents' biking preferences can't always be characterized by their surrounding environments, some bicycle and motorcycle shop owners said.

Peter VanDeCarr, owner of Backdoor Sports in Steamboat, owns a strictly non-motorized sports store. Though he doesn't sell anything that runs on gasoline, he considers himself a "motorhead," adding that time spent speeding around on a motorized vehicle at Sandwash near Maybell is "heaven on earth."

"I'd be motorized if I lived in Craig," he said about running a business.

But while riding his motorbike in areas around Steamboat such as Hahn's Peak, Rabbit Ears Pass and Big Red Park, VanDeCarr said he regularly sees other Steamboat residents.

That challenges a theory that demographics are responsible for how people choose to recreate, he said. Historically, a higher cost of living promotes a trend toward non-motorized sports, he said.

Steamboat has a higher cost of living than Craig. According to the 2002 Yampa Valley Indicators Project, a family with two children in Moffat County should have a combined income of $60,327 to live in a "sustainable manner." In Routt County the same criteria requires a family to earn $73,767 per year.

Still, Steamboat generally is geared more toward non-motorized recreation, VanDeCarr said, citing the town's extensive bike path and mountain bike trails that are accessible from town.

"There's an attitude here that promotes non-motorized biking, though everyone drives around with their bicycles on top of their cars," he said.

Rusty Zimmerman, owner of Z's MotorSports in Craig said selling motorized bikes is related to population density. Per capita, the company's stores sell more bikes on the Front Range, though bike owners may live farther from areas where they can ride them.

"Compared to dealers there, we're rather small," he said.

Zimmerman estimated 50 percent of Moffat County residents own either snowmobiles or ATVs and 25 percent of the county's residents own off-road motorized bikes. The close proximity of the Yampa Valley Sports Riders Complex, which was rated best in the state this year, helps promote the sport of motorized riding, he said.

"It doesn't hurt sales," Zimmer-man said, but he questioned whether areas around Craig were better suited to motorized travel than those near Steamboat.

Jerry Downing, owner of J & R Cyclery owns Craig's only bicycle shop, while 10 years ago there were three shops, he said. Craig has at least two motorized bike shops, while Steamboat has four according to telephone book listings. Steamboat has at least five non-motorized bike shops.

"You have to remember there are a lot of differences between Steamboat and here," Downing said.

Craig's bicycle crowd is subtle but it isn't non-existent, he said. Six Craig bicyclists entered the Ride the Rockies bike tour and many of Craig's youths bicycle across town, Downing said.

It may not be as common to see adults on bicycles in Craig, said J & R Cyclery employee, Aaron Ruybalid, because some people aren't aware how much bicycles cost.

"You always get that guy who expects he can get a bike for $50 when I think our cheapest one is $150," he said.

"People are shocked that they cost so much."

Ruybalid said he thinks more youths in Craig are into BMX biking more than their Steamboat counterparts.

He has noticed much of that trend by the number of self-built jumps and dirt tracks around town.

"Almost every kid goes through the stage of jumping their bikes at Sherwood," Ruybalid said of the dirt track north of City Park.

Barbara Pughe once completed an "observation study" of Craig and Steamboat for a report toward a graduate degree. She noted that Steamboat has five social levels while Craig has one, a "blue-collar" working community.

That may explain why more Steamboat residents drive convertibles, and Craig residents drive work vehicles, such as trucks and vans, she said. As an extension of that, Pughe estimated that more people in Craig owned "toys," such as snowmobiles and ATVs, while Steamboat residents tended to upgrade their cars, and participate in more non-motorized sports.

"It's very interesting," she said. "There are more rural types of things to do here and people travel a lot in Moffat County.

"Craig people have their toys and Steamboat residents do too, but (Steamboat residents) tend to do other things. For example they go in for a kayak to take to the lake instead of a boat."

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