The biker’s guide to Colorado State

A person on a bike leisurely rides down a sidewalk in the front of the CSU Student Rec Center as a dog trots beside them and the sun sets on the foothills in the background.

You don’t need to spend much time at Colorado State University to realize that we are a biking community. Bikes are one of the primary modes of transportation for the thousands of students, faculty, staff, and working professionals in Fort Collins.

As a student who didn’t bring a car to campus and rarely rode my bike before coming to college, it was odd transitioning to the daily rider I am now, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Whether you plan to ride a lot or a little, I’m here to help you fit into our top-rated university and city for bikers.

Where to go

On campus

A student rides on the bike trails at CSU.

Bike trails are everywhere! There are about 10 miles of bike trails on the CSU campus alone. You can use them to get around campus quickly and efficiently.

Around town

A photo of Spring Creek Trail.

If you need to get around town, most major roads have bike lanes. These allow you to ride safely without sacrificing the efficient routes available to cars. As a cyclist, you get both road and trail privileges since you are legally a road vehicle. This also means that any traffic tickets you could get driving a car also applies to you on your bike.

Top pick: Spring Creek Trail

Spring Creek Trail is my personal favorite. It runs just south of campus, and you can connect with it easily from campus using the Prospect underpass. This trail can take you as far west as Dixon Reservoir or as far east as the Poudre Trail. It winds through urban and natural areas, showcasing the best of Fort Collins.

The Spring Creek Trail is well marked, and periodically informs you of your distance away from College Avenue so you can plan your ride accordingly.

A close second: Poudre Trail

The Poudre Trail is another beautiful option. It parallels the Poudre River and runs along Old Town. It is well-marked with beautiful scenery, and it’s usually less busy than the Spring Creek Trail.

North to south: Mason Trail

If you need to travel long distances North and South in Fort Collins, Mason Trail is a great fit. It parallels Mason Street and the MAX bus line, making it a perfect option for biking commuters who live along College Avenue. You can take your bike on the bus, and bus fares are waived with your student ID.

Mountain biking

A student mountain bikes along Horsetooth Reservoir.

Beginner: Dixon Reservoir

Dixon Reservoir has smooth dirt trails that loop around the reservoir for a beautiful ride.

Don’t feel like you need a fancy mountain bike with suspension to ride it. The trail is suitable for any bikes with a fat tire, regardless of suspension.

For the experienced: There’s a variety

For more experienced mountain bikers, the mountain bike project has put together a compilation of trails with maps. There are several recommended trails in the Fort Collins area, and many mountain bikers say that the Blue Sky Trail near Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins is a “must ride” because of its views.

Take my favorite route

One of my personal favorite rides in Fort Collins is along the Spring Creek and Poudre Trails and through Old Town and campus. I like this route because it uses my two favorite biking trails, shows both Old Town and campus, and is perfect for either a workout or a leisurely weekend ride.

It’s about 10 miles in total and takes about an hour and a half. Here’s the map.

Your gear

#1: U-lock (and cable lock)

A properly fitted U-lock on a bike.

The U-Lock is the number one must-have as a biker in Fort Collins! Bike theft is the number one crime on campus, but don’t fear. The large majority of bikes that are stolen were not locked properly.

How to lock your bike

There are three main parts of your bike that you should lock: the frame, the front wheel, and the back wheel. If you can lock all components of the bike with a U-lock, there is virtually no chance of getting your bike stolen.

You can also purchase a cable lock that can loop around your U-lock, so you can lock all three components more easily. Always keep in mind that you should secure anything on your bike that has a quick release.

#2: Helmet

A row of helmets.

Helmet isn’t number one?

Even though a helmet is the most-important piece of safety equipment, it isn’t very helpful if you don’t have a bike to ride on. That doesn’t mean a helmet is unimportant. Helmets save lives, plain and simple. Your brain is what got you here — and it’s what will keep you here — so protect it!

OK, now that the safety spiel is out, let’s talk about the real reasons we may not want to wear a helmet. You did your hair, and don’t want to mess it up? That’s totally understandable. There are helmets specifically designed to keep your hair in tact.

You think a helmet looks dorky? Actually, that’s not always true! Many helmets out there can keep you safe and have cool designs. Good places to start are nutcasehelmets or this article from the experts.

#3: Bike lights

A bike light on the front of a bike on campus.

This is one of the most under-used yet important pieces of biking equipment.

Here in Fort Collins, you’re required to have a front white headlight (~200 lumens is recommended) and reflectors on the rear and sides of the bike. Attach the front light to your handlebars and the red light/reflector to a spot that it will shine behind you.

If you ever forget your bike lights or a light goes out, you can use the flashlight on your phone as a temporary substitute. A great tip to avoid this situation altogether is to buy a bike pouch that mounts under the seat and store your lights there.

#4: A plastic shopping bag

Tie a plastic bag over your bike seat to avoid it getting wet.

As a biker, few things are more frustrating than walking outside to find your bike covered in water from a recent rainstorm. If you keep a plastic shopping bag with you, you can put the bag over the seat to keep your pants and butt dry when you ride.

#5: Windbreaker and gloves

Get a pair of gloves for the colder months.

A great thing about the bike trails in Fort Collins is that you can use them year round. Even after it snows in the winter, plows clear the bike trails early in the morning so students can still ride to school.

A good windbreaker and gloves can make your cold-weather biking experience exponentially better. Even if it isn’t a windy day, you will still go fast enough that wind chill is a concern.

Honorable mention

If you have the funds and want to be fully prepared, I also recommend a bell, a water bottle and u-lock frame mounts, a tire repair kit, and pant leg clips.

A biking community

You won’t have a hard time finding fellow biking enthusiasts at CSU. We’ve done a lot of work to make sure that campus is a bike-friendly place. And with our student Cycling Team and an on-campus bike repair shop, it’s pretty easy to meet students who like to ride.

Photo of Austin

Austin Hazelhurst studied Business Administration with concentrations in Marketing and Finance. He was an admissions ambassador and honors student. Outside of the classroom, Austin loves to play guitar, hangout with friends, enjoys pick-up basketball games at the Rec Center, and to ride his bike. He also likes to camp and hike, and likes that Fort Collins has so many opportunities for all of his interests.