How to Ride All Year Long
The Pikes Peak Region is a bicyclist’s dream. None of the area’s cities are quite Portland, Minneapolis or Boulder, and they don’t rank in the top 50 communities for bicycle commuters.
BUT, There is a passion for cycling in Southern Colorado that comes with being home to USA Cycling, Sram, Carmichael Training Systems and half a dozen small bicycle manufacturers. Serious cyclists are drawn to the easy access to mountain roads and to mountain biking trails. A few snow flurries, short days and cool weather doesn’t dull that passion during the winter season. While the days are shorter, temperatures cooler and the road occasionally snow-covered, cyclists still get out and ride regularly.
Lots of snow on the ground? That’s great biking weather–as long as you have a fatbike. Borealis Fat Bikes are manufactured in Colorado Springs. “After a good snow, most of our normal bike trails–Ute Valley Park, Red Rocks Open Space, Palmer Park–can be ridden with fatbikes,” said Allen Beauchamp with Bike Colorado Springs. “Riding a fatbike on snowy trails is just a hoot.” Of course, riders need to be careful to go when there is enough coverage that they’re not sinking into the mud.
For more consistent snowy conditions, cyclists can head to Buena Vista. Fatbikes are available for rent near the end of East Main Street. Both the Midland Hill and Four Mile trails offer superb snowy terrain for fatbikes.
“A lot of the ski resorts now are starting to groom single-track trails for fatbikes,” Beauchamp said. “They wind around in the trees and it’s just as fun as mountain biking in the summer, but with more clothes.” Resorts are also offering up ski biking experiences. That’s essentially a bike with skis instead of tires.
Bicycling winter or summer in Colorado is pretty great. With sunny days and mild temperatures, the winter is just as good for most cycling – better even because roads and trails are quieter without the tourist traffic.
The Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort will take advantage of the quiet season to host training clinics and retreats, said Torie Giffin, new owner of the hotel. Giffin and her family purchased the historic Buffalo Lodge near the south entrance to the Garden of the Gods in the Spring. After operating it through the busy summer months, her team has begun transforming the small cabins, suites and sleeping rooms into modern bicycle-friendly retreats catering to cyclists. While anyone is welcome at the motel, it’s particularly alluring for cyclists. Three organized rides depart from the resort every week, and staff is equipped not only to tell visitors about where they can get a good breakfast, but also about where they can find the toughest climb, the least traffic, and the best conditions to avoid mud during the melting season.
Giffin experienced the essence of what she wanted to create when she decided to develop America’s first official bicycle resort while organizing the Buena Vista Bike Festival. All of the organizers, many of the riders, along with the band and the beer rep all stayed at the same motel. There was so much energy and enthusiasm. Everyone went on great rides together, explored and made new friends. “That’s what I wanted to create here,” Giffin said. “There’s just this cycling culture that brings everyone together.” The resort has 47 rooms, most with their own kitchens. The
location on the very western edge of Colorado Springs is ideal and offers easy access to Garden of the Gods and all Westside cycling.
Every season is cycling season
The mild winters in Pikes Peak Region means there’s little interruption to the area’s bike culture. Pikes Peak Mountain Biking Tours, which hosts guided rides down from the summit of Pikes Peak and from Gold Camp Road during the summer doesn’t offer winter rides on the Peak, but is still available for Gold Camp and other area rides with an advance reservation. Colorado Springs Cycling Club still hosts regular rides in the winter, including a long Saturday ride, a skills-building Sunday hill climb and a number of more casual and relaxed rides throughout the week. The Sunday Social ride sometimes becomes the Sunday snow-cial ride, Beauchamp said. “They used to cancel if there was lots of snow,” he said. “But nowadays we have a lot of people with studded tires and fatbikes. So, we just go out anyway and enjoy ourselves.”
If the weather in Buena Vista or Colorado Springs is a bit too frosty for some cyclists, Colorado’s Front Range has alternatives. “There are conga lines of vehicles carrying bikes to Pueblo and Canon City every winter,” Beauchamp said. The Oil Well Flats near Canon City have become a popular winter mountain biking destination. For those who want something easy to reach and in town, the Urban Singletrack Project is providing plenty of new mountain biking options in downtown Colorado Springs. Founder, Jon Severson, has a goal to get 20 new miles of trail installed within five miles of downtown. At the current rate, he’s fairly likely to hit that goal within three years. Four miles of new singletrack opened downtown this fall with the trail taking off near Cimarron and Tejon streets. That combined with the Banker’s Lunch Loop, which winds around near Urban Steam, and another project planned just north of Fillmore Street will create a big network of downtown mountain biking options. “It’s fun stuff that beginners can enjoy where they aren’t likely to be hurt,” Severson said. “But it’s fun for advanced riders too. I can challenge myself by going faster or working on developing new skills.”
Severson said he’s gaining traction nationally for his Urban Singletrack Project and that other cities are considering adopting it. “It’s great because it’s something people will have to come here to see in action,” he said. Bicycle enthusiasts and businesses as national conferences have Colorado Springs on their radar, he said. And projects like his are serving to make the city and region even more appealing to cyclists.