Dec 052010
Authors: Allison Sylte

No matter how mercilessly cold or wet it is, Fort Collins City Bike Coordinator Dave “DK” Kemp rides his bike to work every day.

“I work a city job, so when I get to work I’ve got to be dressed fairly formal,” Kemp said. “It’s a challenge on some days to ride in the snow wearing a pair of dress slacks. But if I can do it, anybody can.”

Kemp, in conjunction with Fort Collins, is mounting a campaign to promote safe bike riding in the winter, with events scheduled throughout the month of December to raise awareness about winter cycling.

Upcoming events include a Bikes Talk Lunch with Kemp on Wednesday at Home State Bank on Mountain Avenue, where attendees can discuss prominent issues in the cycling community.

On Dec. 15, commuters will be served free breakfast at 20 stations throughout the city for Winter Bike to Work Day.

“I always say if you can dress to ski, you can dress to bike,” Kemp said. “If a student lives within two or three miles from campus, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t ride.”

Surveys say winter cycling decreases by nearly half compared to summer months, Kemp said, and the aim of the campaign is to boost these numbers, raise awareness about proper riding technique in winter conditions and increasing rider visibility.

Kemp handed out 500 free bike lights and replacement batteries at one event, Light Up the Night, on Friday.

“We had a huge turnout, and it’s really a good indicator of the healthy bike culture in Fort Collins,” said Molly North, the assistant Fort Collins bike coordinator. “Biking is becoming more and more legitimate, and we want to keep increasing that legitimacy by promoting safety and awareness.”

Despite success in getting more Fort Collins cyclists access to lights, Kemp said, there’s a lot more necessary to be a safe winter cyclist.

“If you’re riding your bike past 4:30 p.m., wear a light –– no excuses,” Kemp said. “It’s amazing how many people don’t do that. More people need to start wearing helmets, brightly colored clothing and be a little bit safer on the roads and not swerve in and out of the bike lane.”

In terms of equipment, Kemp recommends investing in knobby bike tires during winter months and reducing tire pressure to have better traction on icy and wet roads. Most importantly, Kemp recommends riders install both front and rear fenders.

“After all, it doesn’t really help your image to show up to work covered in mud,” Kemp said.

Because of Fort Collins’ flat terrain and mild weather, Kemp said it’s the perfect place to ride year round. The city makes sure to keep bike lanes and trails clear immediately after snow, so Kemp said not even fresh snow should stop most riders.

“A little bit of cold weather isn’t a bad thing,” Kemp said. “If you keep riding year round, you’re saving money, you’re one less car contributing to traffic and pollution and you’re getting some exercise. You don’t want to be that guy who just has to ride his car everywhere.”

Outdoor Life Beat Reporter Allison Sylte can be reached at

  1. Be careful of low angle sun during winter, as cars may not be able to see you.
  2. Wear bright, visible clothing and obey all road rules. Ride # defensively at all times and do not assume that vehicles see you.
  3. When riding at night, ride with front and rear lights.
  4. Always wear your helmet.
  5. Take extreme caution of slick train tracks during wet winter weather. Slow your speed and cross at a 90-degree angle.
  6. Wide tires with widely separated knobs work best on snow. Studded tires improve traction on ice. Use low tire pressure.
  7. Try to pedal smoothly and relax your upper body, especially on ice and soft snow. When the bike starts going sideways, make small corrections rather than over steering and weaving down the road.
  8. If you can dress properly to go ski, you can dress to winter bike.
  9. Wear eye protection in case of snow or strong headwinds.
  10. Store your bicycle indoors to protect it from the elements
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