by Vince Winkel
Boulder is a special place for bicyclists. With more than 300 days of sunshine, more than 300 miles of dedicated bikeways, and an active culture that encourages it, biking is one of the best ways to get around Boulder.
The City of Boulder's dedicated bikeways include on-street bike lanes, contra-flow bike lanes, designated bike routes, paved shoulders, multi-use paths and soft-surface paths.
And it gets better.
The rolling 13-mile Morgul-Bismark loop is a legendary course used by the Red Zinger and Coors Classics bicycle races. Located just south of town, the circuit offers wide-open views of the Front Range peaks. If you want to climb, and we mean climb, Flagstaff should top your list. Starting in the stunning Chautauqua Park, the 5-mile Flagstaff climb gains 2,100 feet of elevation, or turn off early to the Ampitheater—a popular option also used in Stage 6 of the 2012 Pro Challenge. For ripping-fast singletrack, drive 20 minutes to Lyons for the Hall Ranch trails. The 9.6-mile Bitterbrush-Nelson loop offers rocks, roots, technical climbs, and fast descents amid 3,000 protected, open-space acres of wildlife and landscapes.
But Boulder as biking mecca didn’t just happen overnight.
The late Boulder resident Al Bartlett got the idea in the 1960s, when he made a map of potential bicycle routes around Boulder and began presenting his plan to service clubs and anyone else who would listen.
It was all about safety. Bartlett said children should have a way to get to places, like school and parks and the Boulder Reservoir, without having to risk their lives on busy streets. Remember, this was decades before helmets became the norm.
In 1968, when the Beatles were still producing hit records, Bartlett and his student assistant, Ted Wells, sent a document to the city entitled "Bikeways for Boulder." He recruited his daughter's Girl Scout troop to help. The girls from Troop 476 rode all of the streets around the school and identified safe routes.
Bikeways leaflets were distributed to kids attending bicycle safety clinics. The flyers suggested calling the city to show support.
The effort gained momentum.
The city council got involved in 1971. But the ride was still slow.
Another 6-mile stretch of Bikeways was added in 1973. Support for Bikeways grew gradually. In 1977, the Transportation Department released "The Boulder Bikeway Plan," which outlined a network of 77 miles of cycling routes.
That’s when biking in Boulder shifted gears, and the results are what we see today.
Boulder has a bike-sharing program, similar to those found in many cities around the world. There are 41 B-cycle kiosks located around town will allow you to check out a bike for 60 minutes or less, ride wherever you'd like and return it to any of the kiosks when you're done.
The Boulder Creek Path is a popular, leisurely Boulder bike ride that stretches from east Boulder into Boulder Canyon, winding along the cool, scenic creek – where you can jump in and cool off for a bit. You'll also find that many streets in Boulder have marked bike lanes, and many bike paths in town are clearly marked with green signs indicating "Bike Route."
The minute you arrive in Boulder, you'll see plenty of helmeted, lycra-clad cyclists, in groups, getting in a workout over their lunch breaks, riding to and from work or simply enjoying in a carefree weekend ride. Boulder's mild climate means a long cycling season. Cyclists take advantage of every sunny day, even in the middle of winter. Add to that the huge variety of rides available — long cross-country stretches, rolling hills, grueling climbs — and you'll begin to understand why Boulder has such a dedicated road cycling community.
Since 1987, the year of the first Collegiate National Championships, the University of Colorado Boulder has produced over 60 individual National Champions and taken home 12 Team Event National titles (Road Team Time Trial and Track Team Pursuit). Additionally, they have won the Overall Team Omnium at 12 National Championships. Many University of Colorado Boulder racers have gone on to the professional ranks after graduation and achieved success at the highest level of the sport.
SUGGESTED RED FOX CYCLING GEAR:
Find more rides and helpful descriptions of the best places to bike Boulder at 303Cycling.
By Vince Winkel
Photos courtesy of Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau