I love my bike. We haven’t been together long, but it’s definitely serious.
I have friends who are cyclists; some of them have ridden across the state, some across the country and some across local trails. I’m still working my way up to riding the two miles to work. In my own defense, it’s uphill — both ways. I know that sounds like the tale our grandparents used to tell us about how they had to walk uphill to school 10 miles each way. This really is uphill both ways. I swear.
The great thing about biking is that you don’t have to be any less of a novice than I am. My suggestion: Start a bike club. Clubs don’t always have to be large groups with their own logos or sponsors — or matching spandex (and sometimes that’s for the best); they can be a few people who just get together regularly to enjoy the freedom of riding.
There are several invaluable resources on biking. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s website has all kinds of information, including bicycle laws and trails. The Purple Lizard map, mapmyride.com, the Centre Region Bicycle Coalition/Centre Area Transportation Authority maps, and the Centre County Visitors map have trails or routes mapped. Maps also can be found at local bike shops and sporting goods stores.
Before venturing out on any ride, you’ll need the basic equipment, which means the following: Know how to change a tire. Penn State’s Health Matters program offers a maintenance class every semester, and the Bicycle Shop has a couple of on-line DIY videos. You can also ask about classes at other bike shops.
If you don’t want to start a club, join an existing one.
Great options are Nittany Mountain Biking Association or CRBC. See Jane Ride is a bike club for women that also holds lectures on topics such as nutrition, equipment and safety. Also, bike shop staff are some of the best resources for finding local groups.
The CRBC and NMBA sites have more information, with links to bike shops, other bike clubs and more. I recommend the site if you’re even considering hopping on a bike.
Cyclists are a helpful lot, so don’t be afraid to ask for guidance. I’ve yet to meet one who hasn’t offered to either show me how to oil a chain or change a tire or go on a ride with me.
The Centre Region is a great area for cycling. The Atlantic recently ranked State College the 11th best city for biking and found that high cycling areas have happier, healthier, more creative people. That should be even more incentive for you — and good reason for me to conquer my two-mile journey.
It really is uphill both ways.
Sherry Coven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.