Car-Free Recreation

mountain riding

In 2008 Wolverine Farm Publishing put out a local, grassroots sustainability guide called the GER (Great Ecstatic Reporter). They let me do a piece on Car-Free Recreation that went in the Transportation section. I used to ride to soccer games I played in and refereed, I rode to trail run and boulder in the foothills, and I rode to the gym regularly, so I always felt that it just made sense.

I say tfall mtn bikinghat as fit as we’ve become, with ultra-marathons and Ironman distance triathlons, and as extreme as we can be, we have no excuse. It can’t be as hard. Especially trail runs or mountain bike rides can be done without getting in a car. There are so many bike-hikes close to Fort Collins that it should be more of a trend.

I had a housemate in the early 90’s who left a big impression on me. He was a climber and telemark skier. He also had just spent five years in Mali, Africa with the Peace Corp. I remember once someone was trying to one-up Jack. They told this elaborate story about Macgyvering a broken down, motor-powered surf board two miles out with sharks circling.  After explaining how he did it mechanically, he asked Jack, “what would you have done?” Jack says, “I don’t know because I don’t rely on fossil fuels when I recreate.”

But Jack did use a car and fossil fuels to get to the back country for skiing and climbing. So I say let’s go a step further. When going to play outside, let’s stay outside and get there on a bike. Yes, you can’t get as far, but the trade-offs are worth it, like enjoying and getting something out of the whole trip. In Fort Collins there are so many recreation opportunities within biking distance. Then the more you do it the further you can get. You can build up to bigger trips. But for everyday and weekly recreation, from bouldering, going to the gym, to soccer and all other team sports, they are all accessible by bike in Fort Collins.

I feel that biking to the soccer complex north of Budweiser is only 8-15 miles from almost anywhere in town, and makes for a great warm-up and cool-down before and after playing a game. Just be prepared. Have plenty of food and water, appropriate gear for weather, and a flat repair kit and pump. Also, make sure tires are aired up properly.

bike and golf clubsThe gym and other in-town sports are obviously more feasible by bicycle. Going to the gym by bicycle makes for less time at a cardio station, or else gets you more ready for that ultra-whatever you’re training for. Even golf is something we can do by bike. 

Another outdoor activity that’s more fun by bike is taking the dog to the dog park or for a close hike. It might take some work training a dog to ride in a bike trailer, but I’ve seen many dogs riding happily in bike trailers. Cycletote, based here in Ft Collins, makes a large and small bike trailer specifically for dogs,

Here is a sample of what’s in The Car-Free Recreation Guide to Northern Colorado;

  • In-town Opportunities (Ft Collins) – The city bike map is available at bike shops, city services and Our bike system accesses everything from gyms to disc golf, and team sport facilities to real golf.
  • Edge of town
    • Bouldering –Rotary park – County fee area, Day passes $7, four bikes per pass or one car. On Centennial Drive by road bike, right above the ‘A’; top of Maxwell trail by mountain bike.
      The Piano Boulders – City non-fee area, bikes can be locked to fence, located two miles south of Rotary Park on Centennial Drive.
    • Trail Running and Bike-Hikes – All four city Natural Areas on the first foothill, Reservoir Ridge, Maxwell, Pineridge and Coyote Ridge are less than 10 miles from anywhere in town and all have a place to lock your bike. Bobcat Ridge and Soapstone Natural Areas are both city owned, within cycling distance for a strong rider, and both have wonderful hiking.
    • Wildlife Viewing – The city’s many great Natural Areas are accessible by bike and you can see everything from Pelicans and Bald Eagles to beavers, deer and other wildlife. Also, the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program at The ELC has large birds of prey that were injured in the wild and are on display for educational purposes, while being nursed back to health. Donations accepted.
  • Bike camping This guide highlights two different 2-3 Day Adventures from the Fort, The Comanche Peak Summit and The Pawnee Grasslands Camp
  • Cultural Opportunities Bingham Hill Cemetery is an early pioneer cemetery with graves from the 1800’s, and only 1/2 mile from the bike trail and Overland Trail road.

Click on this Copy of carfree for your own printable version of The Car-Free Recreation Guide to Northern ColoradoThanks to Desmond Yap and Susan Hazel-Rich for laying it out, to Jason Shelman for writing the Pawnee Grasslands Camp, Todd Reinert for photo. Also thanks to WFP for including it in the GER!


Bike Touring                                 bike tour with friendly cows

From weekend getaways to summer-long rides, bike touring is a great way to have a car-free vacation. There are so many benefits, from not spending money on gas to being outside more. It also makes you a stronger year-around bike commuter, and provides gear for commuting by bike.

Here are some great resources to help you get started:

  • Adventure Cycling Association – This non-profit has mapped out bicycle friendly routes across the country, up and down the country, and all around the country. The maps are so helpful that I felt like I was cheating when using them. They let you know about all amenities along the way, so you can know your options throughout the trip. They also offer much more, like guided tours where you are self-supported. to trails bridge
  • Rails to Trails – These are old railroads turned into long trails. If you live close to one you can ride to it, then out and back, without getting in a car. What’s really nice about being on one of these is that there are no cars on these trails.
  • RAGBRAI – Started in the 70’s, Iowa’s cross-state bike ride is run by The Des Moines Register newspaper, which is where the acronym comes from, Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. This was a very fun way for me to be introduced to bike touriRagbrai breakfastng. I rode it in ’93, along with 10,000 other people. We did it officially so we were supported. That means our gear rode in the trucks and we were able to camp at the official sites. The photo is of Todd and friends’ self-contained bikes while at breakfast. 
  • Supported tour companies – Experience Plus is a company based here in Fort Collins that offers all level, supported bike tours in Europe and South America. These are great ways to see other parts of the world, by bike, with guides and supported. It is also a great way to get familiar with bike touring and learn about it.


This is Goran Kropp in front of Mount Everest. He rode from Sweden to Everest in 1995-96, where he reached the summit by himself, without extra oxygen, then rode back to Sweden. Extreme Car-Free Recreation!

You don’t need to rely on a car and fossil fuels to have a great vacation or to go outside and play! Hope this helps.

Thanks for reading my blog!



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Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources - Colorado State. Promoted alternative transportation, especially bicycles, for four years at City of Fort Collins SmartTrips Program. Rob's Bike Courier Service for nine years. Completed solo, self-contained, cross-country bike tour, riding over 6,000 miles in almost four months. Created the Car-Free Recreation Guide to Northern Colorado, published in 2008. Owner and operator of Get Reel! Push Mowers, a push-reel mower sharpening service. Gardener. Composter. Car-free almost 10 years.

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