How do you use your bike? What kind of bike is it? Here in Steamboat, you see a big cross section: older steel road bikes, ultralight carbon road bikes, really old vintage road bikes, cruisers, hybrids, comfort bikes, old mountain bikes, shiny new full suspension mountain bikes, fat bikes and everything in between. I haven’t seen any bamboo frames in town, but there’s probably at least one hiding somewhere nearby! Most of us use our bikes for recreation and fitness, whether that’s a casual ride on the Core Trail or grinding up Rabbit Ears Pass.
But bikes aren’t just toys. They’re a useful tool. Bikes are a great transport option, especially for short distances, and you can carry a surprising amount on them. Maybe the idea of biking to work or for errands intrigues you, but you’re a little nervous about how to make that happen? Start with small trips on routes you know well and are comfortable riding. The Core Trail is a great resource for getting from one side of town to the other, so that you aren’t biking in traffic the entire trip. Try just going to the movies or biking to dinner. As you gain confidence, see where else you can ride to. Summer is a great time to expand your options!
Almost any bike can be used as a commuter ride, and all you might need is a backpack for a change of clothes or your lunch. If you want to haul more, a rear rack with baskets or panniers will make a huge difference. I can manage to tote up to three full grocery bags of food home, as long as the third bag has items that are light and somewhat rigid. A front rack adds even more cargo capacity. There are specific cargo bikes which will allow you to carry more groceries, bulkier objects or even small children. Bike trailers are also available, although probably overkill for daily use.
If your drive to work is a little longer than you care to ride twice in one day, try driving to work in the morning, bringing your bike with you and extra clothes for the next day. Bike home that night. The next day, ride to work and then drive home with your bike at the end of the day. Repeat as desired! Or drive part of the way. We have friends who sometimes drive to town, park at Stockbridge and then bike the rest of the way. They get to change up their journey and spend some relaxing time together. You can also use our great local bus system to extend your commute range without overextending your ride. Steamboat Springs’ transit is great about accommodating cyclists! The buses have bike racks so you can bike to a bus line, load your bike, relax for a few miles and then ride the final distance to your destination. All for FREE.
Front and rear lights are helpful if you’ll be riding in dim lighting conditions, and obviously reflective trim or vests make you more visible. If your route includes riding on the street, make sure you ride predictably and follow all the rules of the road. The more you behave like a car, the easier it is for drivers to work with you. When it’s wet outside, consider adding fenders. They really make a huge difference in your commute!
Biking on errands is a great way to get in a short workout as well as add fun to those mundane trips. You also get great parking since you can always get much closer to the door and can lock your bike almost anywhere. Traffic jam on Lincoln Avenue? Not on the Core Trail! You can skim along the river when everyone else is stuck at the red light on 3rd Street. And the next light. And the light after that. Or while others are circling for a parking spot on Yampa Street, you pedal up to the front door and hop off the bike. If you need more reasons to feel good about riding in town, remember that your carbon emissions are zero, and you’re actually reducing the size of the traffic jams by not being in your car. Get on your bike and use it to make your life easier!
Routt County Riders is the local source for grassroots advocacy and information for all types of cycling, be it road, gravel, trail, dirt jump or BMX. If you need help or advice, contact us. Find us at facebook.com/rcriders, routtcountyriders.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holly Weik is a Routt County Riders board member and volunteer.