Climbduro creator hopes to expand its offerings to riding hubs across North America and beyond
They’re popping up on trees, at the beginning of climbs, along mountain bike trails around southern Alberta—small orange signs that say START. Do they indicate the start of your suffering? The start of a challenge? The start of something special? In a way, they’re an indication of all three. These signs mark the beginning of a Climbduro segment—a stretch of trail, asphalt, or gravel that tilts upward and where, depending on your climbing prowess, you may find suffering. You will definitely find a challenge, whether you are challenging yourself or someone else. And best of all, you will find something special: a way to give back to your community just by riding your bike.
All this is designed to unite cyclists of different disciplines around one common challenge—the climb. So, what is Climbduro? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Climbduro?
Climbduro is the brainchild of Marc Walton and Jamie Calon, owners of Calgary based 54blue. 54blue is (as described on their website) a full stack brand consulting, design, fabrication and print studio. The company has worked with a range of clients in the cycling industry from local Calgary companies like Calgary Cycle to international brands like Oakley. Both Marc and Jamie have longstanding relationships with cycling. I sat down with Marc Walton to discuss what the Climbduro website describes as “the evolution of competition”.
Climbduro consists of two related yet distinct types of challenges:
- A series of digital challenges that are tracked via Strava and the Climbduro website.
- The Grand Climbduro, a once-yearly race where climbs are the main event.
Climbduro began running its digital challenges in the summer of 2019. The challenges are made up of a curated list of climbs chosen by the people at Climbduro. These climbs can take place on mountain bike trails, roads, and even in urban parks.
Each climbing segment has a corporate sponsor and each time a Climbduro member completes one of the climbs from the list, a sponsor donates a set dollar amount to the predetermined trail organization or non-profit of their choice. The sponsors, and the organizations they donate to, differ with each challenge. Donation amounts are proportional to the difficulty of a climb. An easier climb might net $2 per finisher, while a longer and/or more difficult climb could net $10 per finisher.
Each challenge is limited to a certain period of time. They all have a start and end date as well as a donation cap.
“Any of the prizes we give out are completely random. There’s no prize for being the fastest person.”Climbduro co-creator Marc Walton
In addition to donations, sponsors also supply prizes for the challengers. According to Walton, the digital challenges aren’t meant to be a head-to-head race, “Any of the prizes we give out are completely random. There’s no prize for being the fastest person.”
Joining Climbduro is easy. You simply sign up with your name and email address on the website. From there you link your Strava account, set up a profile and you’re ready to go. Each climb corresponds to a Strava segment and this is how Climbduro tracks challenge completions.
From your Climbduro profile you can, among other things, join challenges, follow other challengers to see how they’re doing and view an interactive map of all available challenges.
For more information on the Climbduro digital challenges, visit the Climbduro website.
The Grand Climbduro
The second distinct part of Climbduro is meant to complement the digital challenges. It is a more conventional race known as the Grand Climbduro. It is held once a year and is described by Walton as a sort of reverse enduro, where only the climbs are timed.
What sets the Grand Climbduro apart from most other races is the composition of the racecourse, as it can consist of very different types of terrain. For example, there can be sections of asphalt, gravel, road and mountain bike trail all in the same race. This mix of terrain types forces competitors to compromise. For example, they must choose the bike they believe will serve them best over the entire course. There are no bike or wheel changes permitted during the race.
“For the average person it’s just a pretty cool day in the mountains to travel a ton of ground.”Climbduro co-creator Marc Walton
Unlike the digital challenges, Grand Climbduro racers compete directly against each other. There are prizes for the top finishers, but all levels of cyclists are encouraged to participate. For Walton, the race is about getting people on their bikes.
“For the average person it’s just a pretty cool day in the mountains to travel a ton of ground … there’s support the whole way and there’s a whole bunch of other like-minded people out there,” he remarks.
The race attracts world-class racers, casual riders and everyone in-between.
For more detailed information about the race including results and technical manuals for past events, check out the Grand Climbduro website.
Where did the idea for Climbduro come from?
The idea for Climbduro grew out of an interest in trying to find a better way to connect riders with sponsors. Walton noticed that on platforms like Strava, there are commercial sponsors and there are riders, but there seemed to be a lack of meaningful engagement between the two.
“I join all their challenges. It hasn’t sold me anything,” says Walton. He and business partner Jamie Calon believed that there had to be a better way for brands to communicate with Strava users. And so, they began work on the Climbduro platform.
What Marc and Jamie came up with are the Climbduro digital challenges. They are a way to increase brand interaction by connecting riders with sponsors over the course of an entire season.
Bringing cyclists of all disciplines together
In addition to providing a challenge, Walton believes that Climbduro is about bringing cyclists together around their love of riding bikes. Climbduro isn’t just for mountain bikers, or road cyclists, or gravel riders, or commuters, it’s for all cyclists.
“At the end of the day, we’re all just riding bikes and most people are doing it for fun.”Climbduro co-creator Marc Walton
“At the end of the day, we’re all just riding bikes and most people are doing it for fun,” comments Walton. He believes that if you ride a bike of any kind, there is a Climbduro challenge for you. “Bikes should be for everyone and we just want to encourage riding,” he says.
The Grand Climbduro race may represent this spirit of integration the best as riders literally race against each other on their chosen type of bike. All that matters is this: what bike will get the rider up the hills the fastest and the choice is up to the rider.
Another way that Climbduro unites cyclists can be found in the digital challenges. These challenges are an opportunity for riders to work together in support of great causes. Each hill climbed, no matter the type of bike, results in a donation to a charitable organization.
Southern Alberta and beyond!
Right now, both the Grand Climbduro race and the digital challenges are confined to southern Alberta. But Walton shared his plans for the future with me, and they include expansion.
“We would love to have this thing worldwide eventually. There’s no reason why it can’t be.”Climbduro co-creator Marc Walton on expansion
“We would love to have this thing worldwide eventually. There’s no reason why it can’t be,” says Walton. He believes that the Climbduro concept has been well proven over its time in southern Alberta, and notes that users have adopted the platform quite well, especially the mountain bikers.
The eventual next phase of expansion could include cycling hubs such as Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler, Quebec and southern California.
For now, keep an eye out in southern Alberta for a new round of digital challenges. They will begin with the start of the winter fat biking season and then again once the snow melts in the spring. The Grand Climbduro will be back next summer for its third iteration.
Spotlight on the climb!
So, get on your mountain bike, gravel bike, road bike, fat bike, or any bike you choose and go climb some hills!
With the plethora of downhill-oriented events out there, it’s great to see attention being paid to the slower, and generally more painful aspect of cycling—the climb. Downhill riding and racing attract much of the attention, but there are many riders out there, myself included, who enjoy a good climb. That’s who Climbduro is for!
RideSphere will be following Climbduro as it adds new digital challenges, makes announcements about the Grand Climbduro, and expands to new areas. Join the Sphere by signing up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram to stay in the loop!