By Brian Cooke
I have my cousin Barry to thank for my recent interest in cycling. Barry was born with a rare blood disease that led to cascading health issues as he grew older. Despite his disability, Barry repeatedly rode his bike from coast to coast, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for worthy causes. When Barry passed away a year ago and his gear was respectfully distributed among his siblings and cousins, I got a very nice road bike to replace the aging commuter bike that I brought with me when I moved to Fort Collins from San Francisco.
Last month, I flew to Barry’s hometown in Texas to ride in the MS-150, a two-day, 150-mile ride from Houston to Austin in support of multiple sclerosis research. It’s an event that Barry used to ride without a second thought, although I required months of training.
While I was in Texas, I found myself being quizzed by my fellow riders on northern Colorado cycling, Fort Collins activities, and Odell Brewing Company's 90 Shilling Ale. As a distance-biking newbie and mountain biking novice, my responses were embarrassingly limited. So when I returned to Fort Collins, I set out to find out more about the city’s cycling resources.
My first thought was to call Bob Williams, a local biking guru. Bob’s company, Beer & Bike Tours, leads cycling tours around the world, including Fort Collins and Colorado. Bob was leading a tour in Belgium when I contacted him, but he took the time to answer a few questions.
Northern Colorado: A great cycling destination
Not surprisingly for someone who has seen the world but has chosen to make Fort Collins his home, Bob’s a huge fan of cycling in northern Colorado in general and Fort Collins in particular. In his own words, “Northern Colorado’s a great cycling destination because of the community we have and the places we can ride, and Fort Collins is one of the best cycling cities in the country. As a community we support each other. An example of this is the Wounded Rider program at Your Group Ride, which is a great resource for finding local rides and races. We also have quality bike lanes, routes with good signage, and fun stops along the way.”
Where cyclists go in and around Fort Collins
A lot of cyclists come to Colorado to ride, and many of them — whether for road rides, cyclocross or mountain biking events — stick around to explore. One local ride that I’ve signed up for is Bike MS: Colorado, which loops around Fort Collins in late June. Another local ride is the Foco Fondo, a gravel-road ride that starts and finishes at New Belgium Brewing Company. Looking beyond Fort Collins, there’s the long-running, annual Ride the Rockies and Triple Bypass rides and dozens of others that can be found on Bicycle Colorado’s Events webpages.
When cyclists come to Fort Collins, Bob tells me, “they also pause to go hiking, rafting and relaxing in the parks and natural areas. They also visit the breweries to celebrate and laugh about the rides they’ve done. This is often where I meet them if they’re not on one of our trips. On any given day you can see a number of cars with out-of-state plates and bikes parked in Old Town.”
But what about local rides for the visiting cyclist? Here’s what Bob recommends: “For the beginner I always suggest they ride some combination of the Spring Creek and Poudre River Trails. For the slightly more advanced I send them out to the Poudre River Trail over Bingham Hill Road out to the Howling Cow Café and back to town. For the ambitious, I send them along the Horsetooth Reservoir hills or out to Eden Valley on a rolling and at times challenging ride. If they’re into mountain biking I send them to Lory State Park or Soapstone Prairie Natural Area.”
Time to hit the road
As usual, when I research a blog for Visit Fort Collins, I get more information and inspiration than I bargained for. I think I may have to invest in a mountain bike next, and I definitely need to find some cycling shoes that actually fit me. But the most important things I learned are that there are a lot more Fort Collins cycling resources than I realized, and a lot more must-do rides in the area. And although my cousin Barry never made it out to visit me here in Fort Collins, I’ll be thinking of him as I ride.
Another great resource for cyclists visiting Fort Collins is FC Bikes, which provides links to city programs, clubs, services, stores and more.
A volunteer blogger for Visit Fort Collins, Brian Cooke has worked as a writer and editor for more than 20 years. His past volunteer work has included leading night tours on Alcatraz and answering questions about fire lookouts and the U.S. Forest Service at Deadman Lookout Tower near Red Feather Lakes. Brian currently writes for a market research firm and for the Forest Service. He also writes blogs for History Colorado. Brian’s LinkedIn page is www.linkedin.com/in/bcooke1.