Nothing beats getting outside, surrounding yourself in nature, and being a part of a community you care about.
Since 2019, SBT GRVL has invited cyclists of all experience levels and backgrounds to take on the challenge of traversing gravel roads in and around beautiful Steamboat Springs, CO.
With a mission of inclusiveness, SBT GRVL puts a big emphasis on camaraderie and a sense of belonging when they set out on their racing events.
In honor of Women’s History Month, BOCO’s Don Reichelt recently sat down with SBT GRVL’s founder, Amy Charity. They talk about how Charity came to be a leader in the cycling community, how she holds down her place in a male-dominated field, and the women who have inspired her throughout her career.
Check out the interview with Charity and get inspired to hop on your bike and tackle some gravel!
Read Full Video Transcript Below
Hey everybody. This is Don Reichelt with BOCO Gear, and I am here with Amy Charity and Amy with is with SBT GRVL.
Amy, how are you today? And tell us a little bit about yourself.
Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me this morning. My name is Amy Charity and I am the co-founder and owner of a gravel bike race in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, called SBT GRVL. And it’s an event that’s been happening since 2019. That’s really my main gig.
In my former life, I was a professional road cyclist, and prior to that was in financial services. So I’ve had quite a career path that’s not the most logical path, but I’m loving where I am right now in Steamboat running SBT.
That’s amazing. Well, tell us a little bit about the race. I believe you said earlier it started in 2019. There have been some interesting things in the world since then. So tell us about 2019 until today and a little bit more about the race.
Yeah, absolutely. The background of it is that two partners and I got together and we were traveling to other gravel events and this is in 2018, gravel was still becoming popular, but there wasn’t a big event in the Rocky Mountain Region. And we thought, “We live in Steamboat, this is one of the best places in the country — if not the world — for gravel riding. And we live in a town that is used to accommodating tens of thousands of visitors with our ski season.”
So we thought, “Why don’t we put on a gravel event and let’s go big! Let’s make this not a regional event or a local event, but let’s try to make it appeal to people across the country and even internationally.”
And so there are a lot of pieces that went into place to make that happen. And we did sell out in our first year with 1500 riders in just a handful of days.
And then 2020 happened, we sold out for 2020, and then that happened and we became a virtual ride. And 2021 was really a critical year for us to see if the demand was still there if people were ready to get back into riding. And so we opened up registration and in less than 10 minutes sold out to 3000 people.
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So needless to say, the demand was there, people had had a really good experience in 2019. And so that’s where we are now. We think 3000 is about the right number, where it’s a big event without a doubt, but you still feel like you have a personal experience.
I think everyone who participates in SBT would say that they got a lot out of it and that it didn’t feel like they were just a number, that they had this great experience. And that’s really one of our guidelines in how many people we’ll have.
So this year we’re in August, August 14th, and we are sold out again and we’ll have 3000 riders and then our community comes out in droves to make this happen with volunteers and supporters. It’s an incredible weekend. It’s more than a one-day event. It’s a really fun weekend.
That’s so fun to hear, 3000 is an impressive number.
It’s a lot.
Yeah. It’s one of the things I wake up at night thinking, oh my gosh, we have 3000 riders and their families. So it’s definitely a lot.
What are the distances that those races cover?
So we thought a lot about this when we were planning out what we would do for SBT, but what we wanted was a race that would appeal to those who are interested in big endurance rides. So that longest one is 144 miles and has 9,000 feet of climbing.
So by any stretch of the imagination, it’s a long race, it’s a hard race. We will also be at elevation, we’re above 6,500 feet in our Downtown area. And so we wanted to appeal to that group, and that is really the trend that gravel has followed, is long endurance rides.
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And we also wanted to appeal to somebody who maybe hasn’t done a bike event before, or they’re just getting started or they’re learning to ride, or they’re getting their fitness back. And so we have a 37-mile course as well. And we have two in between, we have a 100-miler and a 65-miler.
So we think those four distances hit all the desires out there. You can go really long or you can have kind of a shorter day and then enjoy the rest of your afternoon. We really tried to create an event where there was something for everybody.
That’s awesome. Well, tell us a little bit about that, that post-race experience and maybe a little something special to get at the finish line.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, SBT, when we started out the race, we talked about investing in the riders. And I would say that is not only just post race, but it’s also when you get to Steamboat that during the expo, you get this incredible swag bag, we have amazing partners and sponsors.
And so you’re already pretty excited about what you’ve received at that point. And then race morning, we have free coffee for everybody!
And I think that’s just an old something that came out of my racing background, it’s just an absolute essential. And I know when I’ve been at races, I don’t have money with me and I really want coffee and I’m looking around and you can’t find it. And so coffee for everybody.
And then we have these incredible aid stations. So when you’re out on course, we have volunteer groups. We have them almost every 30 miles. And so you can carry your own food, but you don’t have to, there’s plenty out there. And we just wanted to make them fun. So we have things like Twizzlers out there, M&M’s, or PB&J, plus Honey Stinger is our nutrition sponsor and they’ll have all the nutrition that you could need as well. And just fun, surprise, and delight areas as well.
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We had something called Mount Butter. So Shammy butter put on a party at the top of our last climb. And they had pictures and costumes and music and bacon and bourbon and you name it. So just really something where people could stop and celebrate if they didn’t want to keep riding as fast, or if they’re not in the contention for the win, they could stop there and hang out for a while.
And then when you finish, you get a post-race meal with local food vendors. You get a beer if you want it, we have these amazing BOCO finisher hats, which I’m sure you’ve seen them around. They are our trademark for SBT GRVL. They’re color-coordinated — so if you do the green course, which is our shorter course, the 37 miler, you get a bright green hat and it’s super cool with our logo on it.
And then we have the red course, the blue course, and the black course. And so these hats you’ll see around town, I’ve literally seen them in airports around the country, and it’s amazing to see. And we change them up a little bit every year, BOCO comes back to us with a great design. So that’s something that looks out for when you’re traveling around and something that our riders consider a great perk is getting those hats.
That’s so cool. All right. Well, I’m going to switch the conversation a little bit. It’s been amazing learning about the ride, but now I want to learn a little bit more about you. Specifically, we’re in Women’s History Month. And you’re obviously in an industry that for the most part is dominated by a lot of males.
So I’d like to hear from you about your experience being a female leader in the outdoor industry, and maybe even tie into you also were a professional cyclist, and that’s not a well-known area for women as well on the national stage. So I would love to hear some of your experiences and thoughts in those areas.
Yeah, no, thank you. I think having a conversation about it is so important, so thank you for asking. It’s definitely a challenge. I think like you mentioned, it is a male-dominated industry, without a doubt.
What I will say is things are changing and they’re changing pretty rapidly. So when I look across at my peers for even event directors, Kristi Mohn, was one of the founders of UNBOUND Gravel, which has become an iconic gravel event. Rebecca Rush is another great example of somebody who is in a similar position to what I’m in and leading the charge. And I think the more that people see that women are in these roles, the more the respect is there, the more they are used to it.
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And so what I found in kind of owning and running a business, I’m seeing changes and I’m seeing changes in the right direction, even in the few years that I’ve been involved and running SBT GRVL.
Being a bike racer, I raced from 2013 to 2015 professionally, and it wasn’t equal. There’s no doubt about that. We could go down the gamut of anything, whether it’s media exposure or salaries or any of those things, but there are so many strong women who are paving the way to help get that changed. There are strong teams that are making that happen.
Trek is an example of one that’s really put their stake in the ground. EF, it has a women’s version of them, there’s a women’s and a men’s pro-teams right now. So there are definitely really positive changes that are happening on the world tour level with professional cycling for women, and the opportunities are growing. So I’m optimistic about it.
I think there are still challenges. There’s no doubt that we’re not in that kind of equal setting yet, but what I find really exciting is I’m in a position to help drive that change. Even in our first year with SBT we had a very concerted effort to bring in more women, we had over 30% women and in a mass participation cycling event, that’s huge.
It’s not 50/50 yet, but it’s moving in the right direction. So I think being in a position where we can drive change to me is really motivating.
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That’s amazing. So if you had to give advice to other women in your type of position, BOCO is a woman-led company, our leaders are incredible Kay and Hillary and the team.
So if you could think of advice for maybe upcoming leaders in the industry that are female, what would you give them and how would you tell them to keep pushing?
Yeah, I would say put yourself out there. I think as a female leader, you’re constantly second-guessing yourself. I know I do a lot, and it’s really knowing that I think I do have the answers and I think it’s okay that I can sit on Zooms all day long and there are six men and it’s me, but that’s okay.
So I think know that you belong there and know that you have a seat at the table and that it takes a little bit of kind of courage to be in that position, but know that you belong and know that you are making a difference by being there. And then I think in a race or an event situation, it’s inviting women. It’s understanding what their challenges are and breaking down those barriers, if you can.
So I think that’s a lot of conversations that you have with different women to understand what their situation is, and then make sure that you can help resolve some of those issues. Sometimes they’re very solvable.
Yeah, that’s great advice. Thank you for sharing that. And the final question I want to wrap up also with the theme of Women’s History Month is who are the women that have inspired you in your career and that have helped you get to where you are today?
Oh, gosh, I could spend the next several hours on this. And I think some of it is… I will have a hard time narrowing down to one, but what I would say is getting started on racing teams is really challenging.
And somebody like Heather Fisher and I were on DNA together, and she was just a phenomenal leader, really helped me know that I belonged there. She knew that I was a rookie and really helped me kind of understand and feel like I fit in and that I did belong.
I would have to call out also, Rebecca Rush is incredible. She has a really strong racing background with mountain biking. And she has taken that, her knowledge of mountain biking and her business sense and applied it to raising a lot of money for nonprofits and her own charity causes. And then also so putting on a bike event.
So I think she’s finding ways to constantly move the needle with cycling and move the needle with women specifically. So those have been two role models.
I would say that all of my teammates from racing on the different pro-teams were just phenomenal. And those are people who are…So many of them are still racing, such strong women, leading the charge in the sport of cycling.
That’s awesome. It’s good to have those people in your corner and people you can rely on to learn and grow yourself.
So to wrap it up, how can people find you? How can people find your race? Are you on Instagram, or what’s your website?
Yes, SBT GRVL is @sbtgrvl. We are on Instagram. We also have a website that has a ton of information, everything from bikes and tires to Steamboat to what our event is about.
And then you can find me, it’s @amymcharity. So on Instagram, Facebook, all the classic places. So yeah, definitely look us up, look up SBT if you want to learn more about the event.
Getting involved is something that we would love to have more people volunteering. It’s a great weekend in Steamboat.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, Amy, we really appreciate it, and good luck with your races here.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
BOCO and SBT GRVL Custom Running Hat Collaboration
While the race in Steamboat Springs this summer is already sold out, there are plenty of other opportunities to get involved with SBT GRVL and put your cycling brawn to the test.
BOCO Gear has been so inspired by Amy and SBT GRVL, we created awesome custom hats they’ll be sporting when they hit the trails this spring!
If you’re in need of your own custom cycling or running gear for your team, event, or brand, our in-hour design team will blow you away.