Beyond Bananas – Urban riding in Ft Collins, CO

30 June – 11 July 2022

50 miles or so

I was back where it all began. Back to where I felt like I belonged for the first time in my life. Back to where I found people like me. Back to where I rode every night for hours. Back to where the bike became a lifestyle.

Oh, I have always been a cyclist. It has been my favourite activity since I first learned to ride at age 5. And I’d ridden pretty much every day from Year 7 onwards. While living at a public boarding school in my last years of high school, I practiced flatland freestyle tricks every day and rode my BMX bike all over that town, neighbouring towns and far out into the country. If I wasn’t studying, I was on the bike.

So I’ve always known the joy and freedom of riding. But it was in Ft Collins, CO while attending CSU, where bikes became a lifestyle. Bikes were already a big thing for Ft Collins back in 1994. There were already heaps of bike paths and bike lanes on most roads. And the number of bike rack spaces on campus probably already out-numbered car park spaces. It was a bike town then and I fit right in. I didn’t own a car, so I did everything by bike and never once felt like I wanted a car.  

I met guys who rode, who improved my skills and who challenged me to push my limits. I met some wonderful friends whom I still keep in touch with today. My uni years were probably my golden years, when every part of life was full and in the exact right proportions. No worries, no real responsibilities, no concerns about the future – just work hard, play hard, study hard and party a little bit (I’ve always been a nerd so I liked studying more than partying!). Physically, emotionally, spiritually – life was full and fun and easy.

This is where it all started – Newsom Hall at CSU. I lived on the bottom floor over there when the trees were a lot smaller and there was no vegetation near the building.
When I lived in Newsom Hall, this was a parking lot across the road. Now there is a huge on-campus football stadium just across the street. I can’t imagine living across the street from that on game day!

So when I needed a place to sit out 7 days of isolation to ensure I didn’t pick up covid on the way to America and then pass that on to my parents… it made a lot of sense to do that in Ft Collins rather than Denver, Colorado Springs or elsewhere. Plus, I could see a couple of friends who still live there that week, too.

The holiday rental advertised that it had a couple of cruiser bikes you could use.

Well, the better fitting one had a front wheel that was terribly out of true. The lump on each revolution was like riding over a large rock with each roll. Once was enough. Something was rubbing somewhere, too, so that bike was very hard work.

So the smaller bike didn’t fit me well at all, but it was more rideable. They were not really cruiser bikes, but rather old Schwinn single-speed clunkers. But if it rolls, I’ll give it a ride.

And so I rode that old clunker all over town.  The first foray was out to my friend’s sister’s house for a fourth of July party. It was hard work on the hills but nothing fell off the bike and it rolled okay, so I figured I could take that thing on a longer ride.  And so I did. 25 miles here and 20 miles there and little rides in between. I checked out a bunch of the bike paths that didn’t exist in parts of town that didn’t exist when I lived in Ft Collins in the ‘90s.

One of the routes I rode. That 15 min google time is by car, mind you, even though a car can’t go on a bike path. No wonder people get lost or bogged following google directions!
Ft Collins has over 300 miles of bike paths and bike lanes are everywhere. Some of the bike paths follow the creeks through the neighbourhoods like this one.
Most of the foothills west of town have large open space areas for hiking and biking. Bike paths connect a lot of these.
This area of town was still prairie when I lived here, but you can make a nice long ride out of all the bike paths in town and not have to get on the streets at all if you don’t wan’t.
But there are big-arse bike lanes all over the place like this that makes road riding easy, too.
Another route ridden. All of the green lines indicate bike lanes or paths.
You know it’s a bike town when entire sculptures are made out of bike frames.
..The old part of town has lots of nice and shady streets with lots of beautiful old homes. I’m not used to so many trees and all of this green!

During my ‘isolation’ week, I was fortunate to be able to catch up a few times with my old roommate and her family outdoors and another friend I knew from working up at the uni’s mountain campus. Good times and so good to check in with friends in person after several years.

No COVID for Em – but I took all the masking, distancing and hand-washing very seriously. My ears were so sore after 63 hours of wearing a mask.

My parents came from Salida to pick me up.  They stayed with me at the holiday rental and we went to our old favourite restaurants and did a couple hikes along the Poudre River Trail. My old roommate and her family hosted a BBQ for us one night, too. It was a really relaxed start to a trip and 10 low-key days were just what I needed after the mad dash to pack up my unit, get everything into storage and finish up all the stuff at work before flying out 5 days after finishing up my job.

Lunch with the folks at Avo’s, an old favourite. A toast to being together after 3 years separation.
It’s very popular to float the Cache La Poudre River through town.
Of course the guys got to float, too!

If you ever have the chance to check out Ft Collins, grab the opportunity. The cycling options there are immense and the town still has a great vibe and is super, super bike friendly. It’s one of only five cities in the US considered a ‘platinum’ level bike town by the League of American Bicyclists. 

There are endless opportunities for bike porn in Ft Collins – soooo many cool bikes out and about in such a bike-friendly town.

After my time in Fort Collins, I have had lots of opportunities for hiking and biking with my parents in Salida and surrounds. I’ll try to get those bits of fun documented here over the next week or so and get this journal caught up. I did not have the USB-C to A cable that I needed to access my camera photos, but now have one.

My brother and his girlfriend come to visit for two weeks on Friday – so the hiking and biking opportunities will diminish. My brother is not an outdoorsy sort.

I will then go to Denver on the 10th for a touristy weekend and more friend catch-ups before I fly out on the 13th of September and head home to head out on the bike. Yippeeeeee!

6 thoughts on “Beyond Bananas – Urban riding in Ft Collins, CO

  • Fort Collins certainly is a cyclist’s dream. We are watching Itchy Boots motorcycle through Colorado at the moment – she is hitting a lot of snow and ice which we thought odd in summer. Is Fort Collins at a lower altitude and so gets a summer?

  • Ft Collins sits a bit below 5000 ft and has pretty hot summers. This summer has been quite hot down there with lots of highs in the mid-upper 30s with La Nina. A typical summer high temp would be around 30-32. My parents live up near 8000 ft and there high temps are usually in the low to mid 20s. A really hot day for them would be 30. There is not usually much snow that falls in the mtns in summer and it melts very quickly. There is no snowpack around at the moment, BUT the snowpack after a good year can take until mid-late July to totally melt. It definitely snows in the high country in May and in September, but I’m surprised she’d be finding snow up there anywhere right now. My parents’ place looks out at 14,000 ft peaks and there is no snow. You’d certainly encounter snow around in May and June with the snowpack and can get caught in snowstorms in Sept. But July and August doesn’t usually have snow in the mtns that sticks around much at all.

  • It must feel so great to see you parents again IRL, and to be cycling in Colorado again. What a relief, eh? I’m looking forward to reading more about your adventures.

  • I gotta get me to Fort Collins. Actually, a couple of my buddies and I passed through there on our way back from backpacking in the high country of the White River National Forest. That was about 30 years ago. (I’ll have to dig up my old journals to find the exact year.) Maybe you were a student then and we saw you cruising the streets on your bike. I remember eating at a Quizno’s sandwich shop there. Before we got to Fort Collins, we camped along the Cache La Poudre River where we saw mountain goats grazing on the cliffs above. It was a National Forest campground called “Ansel Watrous.” We still get together every couple of years and always reminisce about that place.

    • Ah, I didn’t get to Ft Collins until 1994, so I probably missed you. I know Ansel Watrous well – it’s a popular spot to put in for tubing. The Poudre Canyon always sort of felt like our backyard. The lower canyon burnt in 2012 or 2013 and the upper canyon burnt in 2021 – so it’s not quite the same as you’d remember it. There are also tons more people up there these days. The population of Ft Collins has almost doubled since I lived there, so everything is much busier. It’s still a great bike town though, and I still love the old parts of town and the area around campus. I’ve got so, so many great memories from my time there. And my apologies, I’m certain you’ve been out on some more mini-tours, but I haven’t been on cycleblaze to read and comment. I hope you and The Feeshko are well and I will try to get over and check out your latest adventures very soon!

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