By Misty Kaiser, Longmont Magazine

Summer is the time for cycles. From the Tour De France in July to Colorado’s own USA Pro Challenge in August, you will probably see them flying over winding courses in a brightly colored blur, legs pumping,  wheels whirring.

Since 2011, The USA Pro Challenge has brought together competitors from the world over in a seven-day staged race. This year’s, USA Pro Challenge cycling competitors will traverse Colorado, from Aspen to Gunnison,Vail to Denver and other stops between.

Seeing these examples of athletic perfection whizzing by may pique a question in your mind. ‘How can I do that?’ or maybe just, ‘How can I look like I can do that?’

Quite easily in fact, because cycling is a sport that welcomes a wide range of ages and abilities. Becoming a cycling enthusiast may take a little bit of set up and a little bit of knowledge, but it’s well worth the effort.

 

Equipped for success

The start-up cost for biking, much like any other sport, can vary greatly. Bikes are like cars; there are Fords, Ferraris and just about anything in between. What you get depends on how much you’re ready to spend. Whatever your price point, there are a few necessary things to look for.

The first thing to consider when purchasing is the type of usage you expect to get out of the bike. Whether you need a road bike, a cruiser, a mountain bike or even a recumbent, depends on where you intend to go with it.

Once you’ve settled on the style of bike you need, it’s important to size the frame correctly. The size of the frame has an impact on how comfortable you’ll be when riding and how easy the bike will be to control. Trial and error is generally not the way to go. There are websites, videos and tutorials that can walk you through the process. However, as always when making an expensive purchase, the help of a professional is preferable.

Even after a professional fitting, Robin Torres, owner of Peleton Cycles in Loveland, highly recommends demoing a bike before making a purchase.

“More often than not there will be more than one bike that will check all the boxes for a customer, that’s when it’s vital to test ride the bike were and how you intend to ride it,” he explains.

No matter what type of bike you choose, don’t skimp on the helmet.

For the highest level of protection, the type, size and fit should be individually tailored. Again, your local bike shop should be able to help determine what size is needed, and instruct on how to adjust the exact fit.

 

Basic Maintenance

Even the best laid plans have a way of going awry. A flat tire or slipped chain can turn a beautiful bike ride into a very long disgruntled walk lugging a useless and cumbersome piece of equipment.

When planning for emergencies, Torres recommends the following don’t-leave-home-without-them items;

  • An extra tube or patch kit
  • Tire levers
  • An air pump or carbon dioxide cartridges
  • Plenty of water
  • Last but possibly most importantly, a helmet.
  • While not altogether necessary, he also recommends a good pair of bike shorts. You will be thankful half way into a long ride.

Having all of that equipment is a good start, but only when coupled with basic maintenance knowledge.

Torres says, “Every rider should know how to change a flat tire. Having all the supplies does little good if you don’t know how to use them.”

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Safety first

Regardless of age, any new biker needs to be educated on the safety aspects of the sport. On-road cyclists are often sharing road space with motor vehicles, while off-road they must constantly be aware of pedestrians, animals and unavoidable obstacles.

The City of Longmont issued the following recommendations for basic safety, whether on or off trail.

When using shared roads:

Ride in the right lane except when passing another vehicle, preparing for a left turn or avoiding hazards.

Ride on paved shoulders and bike lanes when present and free of hazards.

Ride no more than two abreast, returning to single file if riding two abreast would impede the flow of traffic.

Make eye contact with drivers at stops. Assume motorists do not see you and that you don’t have the right of way.

Wear passive safety equipment to protect yourself: helmet, classes, gloves, visible clothing, etc.

Expect the unexpected; your first responsibility is to be safe.

When using multi-use trails:

  • Obey all local regulations.
  • Use common sense and courtesy on the trail.
  • Ride on the right side of the trail.
  • Obey traffic control signs and markings on trail.
  • Pass on the left when the trail is clear of traffic.
  • Give audible warning before overtaking other trail users; ring your bike bell or loudly and clearly call out, “Bicycle on your left.”
  • Listen up! Headphones prevent you from hearing warnings.
  • Use hand signals to indicate turns and tops.
  • Don’t stop on the trail, blocking other users.
  • Ride single file so that other users can pass safely.
  • Look for traffic before entering a trail.
  • Watch for the unexpected, especially with kids and dogs.
  • Slow down when the trail is crowded and travel at speeds that are safe and appropriate to conditions.
  • Yield to uphill cyclists.

As always, when sharing the road with motor vehicles, all traffic laws apply. Above all, be conscious of other traffic and be courteous to others in your path. A verbal warning to pedestrians when passing is not only the nice thing to do, it’s the law.

The Longmont Area Beginning and Returning Cyclists hosts a variety of cycling classes covering topics from traffic skills to group riding etiquette to something as simple as fixing a flat. Check their Longmont Bike Classes Facebook page, facebook.com/pages/Longmont-Bike-Classes/183882081648188, for up to date class listings as well as other informative posts.

 

Pick a trail

Picking a trail that works for you might be a little bit more difficult than it has been in years past due to the massive damage sustained in last year’s floods. Don’t let that deter you though.

Rather than focusing on expansion, the primary goal, concerning Greenways and multi-use trails, has been to repair existing trail systems and prevent future flood damage.

“Our biggest challenge with trails depends on channel work to the St. Vrain,” says Holly Milne, Multi Media/Marketing Specialist for the City of Longmont.

Engineers are working on plans to make the Greenways, parks and trails less susceptible to the kind of widespread destruction seen with the floods.

To help mitigate the cost of such large projects, Holly says a $20 million dollar bond to help with channel repair to support future flood flow, will be up for public vote on June 24.

“Extensive repairs are needed on the St. Vrain Greenway, which will take a couple of years to repair,” Kim Shugar, Natural Resources Division Manager, points out. There is a schedule though. According to Kim, repairs on the section from Boston Ave. east to S. Pratt Parkway should be completed in June and the area from the confluence of Lefthand Creek at Hwy. 119 to the confluence of Dry Creek just east of County Line Rd. should be completed sometime in September or October.

Though much of the main Greenway, St. Vrain, is at least partially closed, Holly encourages people to get out and explore other areas, such as the Lefthand Greenway or Lykins Gulch, instead. Look at it as an opportunity to get to know different places. You might just find a new favorite haunt.

Current maps and additional information on bike lanes and city maintained trails are available at  ci.longmont.co.us/public_works/transportation/bicycling.htm.

If off-road is more your style, singletracks.com is one resource for mountain biking nationwide. Maps, difficulty ratings, and reviews of each trail make it easy to choose a spot to test your wheels.

Ask other cyclists for recommendations or join a club. Cycling clubs, like the St. Vrain Chain Gang (meetup.com/St-Vrain-Chain-Gang/) or Longmont Area Beginning and Returning Cyclists (meetup.com/longmont-on-bikes/) are great ways of getting to know the best places to ride while being supported and challenged.

If you want something low-commitment, Bicycle Longmont began hosting their Wednesday night ‘Bike Night’ on May 14, which is open to all ages. Bike Night Meets at 6:30 p.m. at Roosevelt Park in the parking lot near the Senior Center, except for third Wednesdays of the month when they meet at 7 p.m.

 

For the health of it

To get the health benefits of cycling without dealing with the weather, safety issues or the start-up cost, indoor cycling, or Spin classes are something to consider.

Spinning is easily tailored to individual ability and fitness level, so when the weather gets too extreme they are an excellent way to get, or stay, in year-round cycling shape, no matter your starting point. Many classes also combine cycling with other forms of exercise such as weight lifting or yoga, giving participants a well-rounded workout.

The Longmont Recreation Center  currently offers group cycling classes at several different times throughout the day Monday through Friday, as well as once each on Saturday and Sunday.

If those times don’t work for you or you are getting into more serious training, visit Breakaway Cycle and Strength Studio at 439 Main St., in Longmont.

Breakaway is a workout studio dedicated to cycling and TRX (Total Body Resistance Exercise) Suspension Training.

Not only do you get the aerobic and endurance benefits of cycling, you also have the opportunity to build strength and muscle through TRX.

Whether it’s for the health, the fun or the freedom, cycling is an excellent way to add a lifetime activity to your lifestyle. Be smart, be safe, and be successful.