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!



A Home Compost System is the Backbone to a good Garden!

composter and leaf compactor openIt also helps reduce the greenhouses gases your food waste emits rotting in a landfill.

When we throw our food waste into the trash, sending it to the landfill, it decomposes anaerobically, or rots, without oxygen. This puts off ten times more methane and more carbon dioxide, harmful greenhouse gases, than food waste decomposing aerobically, with oxygen, in a good, home compost system.

Leaves are an integral part of a good traditional system.

By using a combination of:

  • yard waste, especially dead leaves for a carbon source
  • food waste, like fruit, vegetables, and coffee grounds
  • garden waste, with nitrogen rich biomass and clingy dirt full of working microbes

..we can create the perfect, local, organic fertilizer for replenishing our garden from all nutrients taken last season.

Traditional composting is basically just combining carbon, ‘brown’ material like dead leaves, and nitrogen, ‘green’ material such as food waste and garden waste, with oxygen, and a little water.

So, if you collect most of your leaves and store them next to your compost, it’s easy to layer, or ‘lasagna’, your food waste with dead leaves.leaf compactor

Here is the leaf compactor I made with some free bricks, a couple pieces of plywood and cinder blocks. I was able to compress almost a whole yard of leaves into that small space, a little at a time. The plywood in the back is important for protecting the house.

For my composter, I found a shop drawer on the side of the road with a ‘free’ sign on it. I put a lid on it with plywood and hinges then extended the divider. For one person this wcomposter openorks well. It can be closed, which keeps animals out and keeps a little more heat in.

  1. I add food waste and leaves on the right side, to start the compost process.
  2. Then I use the left side to finish, continue to turn and add oxygen, and maybe water.
  3. I just use a shovel to turn it weekly, both sides separately, adding oxygen and combining the materials.
  4. Once a month or so, or when I need finished compost or more space, I take the bottom layer of the finished side out. I shovel the top layer into an empty bucket, then take the finished material from the bottom. I usually put it directly on the garden, wherever there’s space, throughout the year.
  5. Then I do the same to the right side, the ‘add food’ side. I put the top, newer layer into a bucket,  and move the bottom layer to the finishing side. Then I dump the top layer from the bucket into the bottom now, add some leaves and it’s ready for kitchen waste.

I drilled holes in the bottom so that worms can get in and out and then I put it in a sunny spot for maximum warmth, both helping the compost process.

You can easily find instructions online for building compost bins, especially made with used pallets. Pallets work well because the gaps allow oxygen and you’re re-using materials.

There are so many ways to set up your compost system, from a store bought unit to multiple bay systems, just do what works for you.

Another benefit of having some type of compost system is that it reminds us of how much food we waste. Which helps me waste less.

I don’t put any meat in my compost. But I don’t eat too much meat and try not to waste any. 

Other Tips

  • Banana peels are bad about attracting fruit flies. Freeze your banana peels before composting them and they won’t attract fruit flies.
  • Store bought composters work best when adding dead leaves with food waste also.compost heating
  • Covering my composter with a blanket and black tarp helps to add and trap heat which also speeds up the compost process. This especially helps in the winter.

Cost$ of owning a car v. bike commuting costs









“Quite simply, a human on a bicycle is the most efficient traveler among all machines and animals.” Happy City by Charles Montgomery. Page 184.

Of course powering a vehicle that weighs 100 times more is going to take more energy. The average bicycle weighs about 30 lbs. and the average car on US roads weighs about 4,000 lbs. It takes about 35 calories to fuel a bicyclist one mile, but it takes more than 1,800 to fuel a car one mile. Even with four people in the car, the bicycle is a ten times more efficient means of transportation when it comes to energy consumption.

So let’s break it down. Here are two different links to AAA reporting the cost of owning and operating a car:

The average American spends just under $9000 a year on their car according to AAA. This is based on the average American driving 15,000 miles a year in a sedan, mid-size car.

As a full-time bike commuter I ride fewer miles a year than I ever drove as a car commuter. Even with the bike courier service I was only riding about 10,000 miles a year on average. I’ve learned to be much more efficient with my transportation. Mostly, I plan and combine trips, live close to work and just commute less, but live more. I’m very content not going as far as often but being outside more. 

Bike costs

I went to two bike shops in the campus / Old Town area in Ft Collins, Lee’s and Brave New Wheel.

Lee’s had a commuter bike set up with suggested accessories. The bike is a Trek 7.2 FX that retails for 499.99. It is set up for commuting with;

  • Fenders (front and back) at $50
  • rear rack at $45
  • light set (front and rear) $45
  • Kryptonite U-lock $45
  • shopper saddle bag for $50
  • trunk bag for $75

So that’s $310 in commuter accessories, and they give you 10% off with the purchase of a bike, which is a common bike shop practice. So about $800 for this nice, basic, brand new, commuter bike.

Lee's commuter bikes

Lee's commuter







Around the corner at Brave New Wheel they have some nice, affordable bikes easy to set up for commuting. They carry the Torker Graduate with fenders and disc brakes for $629. It is a 1 x 9 spd. with braze-ons, ready for a rear rack. They have:

  • a Delta rear rack for $28
  • a nice set of Ortlieb waterproof panniers for $180 or Sunlite panniers for $85
  • light sets that range from $15 to $100 for a rechargeable light
  • locks from $22 to $36.

Again, you could have a nice, brand new bike set up for commuting for about $800. With decent rain gear or snow gear, you’re set. You can get a good pair of rain pants that fit over jeans for $50 to $100. If you ski or snowboard you probably have clothes that will work, a shell and layers. If you can dress to ski in it, you can dress to bike in it!

It is also good to have at least a flat repair kit with you, and know how to use it. Many bike shops offer free flat repair classes in the spring and summer, especially around bike month. You should be able to get a portable pump, tire levers, a patch kit and spare tube for about $50.

Then an annual tune-up for a bike is about $50, to $100 at the most. Replacement tires are anywhere from $20 to $80 per tire, and tubes are only $5 to $10.

Just in dollars alone, it is obviously much cheaper to use a bicycle for personal transportation compared to a car.

The indirect costs of using a car instead of a bicycle are so much more, and will take way more than one blog post to illustrate.

Thanks for reading my blog!




What do Roger Rabbit, George Bush Sr and Cuba have in common?

They are all in this blog post and they all make a case for driving less or biking more.          Rogerpoint

Did you know that Who Framed Roger Rabbit is really about The Great American Streetcar Scandal?

In the late 1940’s a fake company was formed by major corporations from the oil and big auto industry. This fake company went into 60 different cities throughout the U.S., bought the trolley systems, ripped out the tracks and junked the cars so that we would be more dependent on their products, cars and gas. No need to go into detail here, check out the 1996 documentary Taken for a Ride on youtube. Have a sustainable movie night and watch Taken for a Ride first then Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and you’ll really see the back story.


The trolley system was the predecessor to light rails. Just think what it would be like now if those 60 cities had been able to develop their light rail systems for the last 60 years. Our country’s infrastructure would be completely different and more sustainable had it not been built on greed. The highway act followed in the fifties, which allowed Americans to drive across the country with ease, but it also separated and polluted low income neighborhoods in big cities across the country, among other things.

Not to be too negative, it is just important that we know this so that we can think differently about our personal transportation. It is also important to recognize what the auto industry and big oil has done to trick us and how they’ve shaped our landscape.

So, that being said, now I have some positive points to make. And they are from George Bush Sr. and Cuba, really.

Bushes on bikes 2In the 1970’s George Bush Sr. was the U.S. Ambassador to China. In a letter to the Bicycle Network he wrote: “The more I think about our US transportation problems from this vantage point of  halfway around the world, the more I see an increased role for the bicycle in American life. Obviously, some terrains make it more difficult, obviously some climates make it more difficult; but I am convinced after riding bikes an enormous amount here in China, that it is a sensible, economical, clean form of transportation and makes enormous good sense.”

George Bush Sr. understood that bicycles work as vehicles for everyone. We don’t always need 3,000 lb. vehicles fueled by gas that comes from either dirty (shale and tar sands) domestic oil or dirty (causes wars and costs US taxpayers $8 trillion to protect the Strait of Hormuz for the safe passage of oil) foreign oil, when we already have bikes. 

We had bicycles before we had cars. The first paved roads were built for bikes. There is a recently published book about this,

LAW, The League of American Wheelmen, was an early bicycle organization that had a major impact on modern roads because they required better roads than horse-drawn carriages. In 1894, Harper’s Weekly reported that 90 percent of the nation’s highway advocates and builders belonged to LAW. Then the automobile came along and took over the roads.

Now we’re getting them back. Look at how cities like Memphis, who was named one of the nation’s three worst bicycling cities in 2008, are investing millions of dollars in real, effective bicycle infrastructure. They even took two lanes from cars on a mile and a half section of Riverside Drive and gave it to bikes and pedestrians. See article, , or this one,

With everything happening in Cuba right now, we’re reminded how it makes a great case study for bicycles.

Cuba bikesBecause of the US embargo, then the break-up of the Soviet Union, their source for cheap oil, Cuba had a transportation crisis by 1990. Between 1991 and 1995, The Special Period, the Cuban government imported over 1.5 million bicycles from China. Not only did this alleviate their unique transportation problem, but it also helped with fitness of the general population, lowering the rates of diabetes and heart disease,

Bikes work as vehicles. In some places public transit works as well. We should support both for so many reasons.

I also think we should try harder not to support big oil and the auto industry. They both spend more on advertising and lobbying than any other industries. And they both have been tricking us then profiting from it for years.

Thanks for reading,



Hi, I’m Rob.


I feel that we consume too much, especially oil, and don’t realize the global effects. I think it is part of our culture, but we were tricked into it. And it does not have to be this way. It was not going to be this way. I think we have to turn it around, and we can. The solutions exist. For example, a 30 lb. bicycle can do so many things that a 4000 lb. car can do for the average commuter. But the big oil and auto industries have been telling us that we need a chainsaw to cut butter.

Bikes were here and used before cars. The first roads were built for bicycles. Bikes are now being used and celebrated more and more. There are commuter bikes in Ford truck and McDonald’s commercials, among others. Cities across the country are investing billions of dollars in real, effective bicycle infrastructure and programs.

I truly appreciate the bicycle and reel mower as efficient and effective human powered machines.  So using both to promote consuming less oil is easy for me. I’ve spent so much time on the bike seat thinking about this stuff, that I need to start this blog.

Hopefully it will stay solution-based, from experience, and a way to share ideas. Part of the solution though is facing the facts, and I will try to address the issues I know and am passionate about. But I will also try to bring up the positive ideas to an issue, but welcome more knowledgeable, productive input.

I live a relatively low-impact lifestyle for an American, so I want to share my view and what works for me, and others I know.

Thanks for visiting my blog!