Is riding a bicycle built for you?

Cycling is a sport for all ages, skill levels
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal features editor
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Has the Amgen Tour of California inspired you to grab life by the handlebars? This might come across as a “no duh” statement, but the foothills are the perfect place for cycling, and you don’t have to be Lance Armstrong in order to take advantage of the sport, say local bike enthusiasts. “It’s healthy and it’s fun,” said Auburn Bike Works’ Colin Maydahl, who enjoys road riding as well as mountain biking. “It puts a smile on your face and makes you feel like a kid again.” Larry Matz, president of the Sierra Foothills Cycling Club, said there are many benefits to road riding. “Cycling can be part of a healthy lifestyle that provides aerobic exercise essential for cardio-vascular fitness, helps reduce and/or maintain a healthy weight, and enables riders to experience our beautiful foothills in ways travel in cars never allow,” he said in a recent e-mail. “Traveling by bike is environmentally beneficial by reducing greenhouse gas production and helps to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” Riding in the foothills can be quite inspiring and challenging, Matz said. “We have roads with amazing views into deep river canyons from high forested ridges and oak grasslands in lower elevations,” he said. “Our rural foothill roads provide challenging climbs and exciting descents with typically good road conditions and minimal car traffic. We can ride to small Gold Rush towns, old mining areas, towns that grew around railroads and reminders of those legacies are everywhere. There are no boring rides in the foothills.” In other words, there’s a little bit of everything, said Bill Marengo, owner of Auburn’s Bicycle Emporium. “It’s like a cycling smorgasbord,” he said. “You can pick your flavor out of Auburn, being that we’re at the base of the foothills. We have rural roads still, and we’re not in suburbia yet, so that lends itself to fun.” Those looking to dive right into the sport can buy a quality road bike for as little as $500, Marengo said. Or, take it slow and rent a bike — Bicycle Emporium loans out bikes for $25 per day. Marengo suggests getting to know the bike instead of just strapping on a helmet and barreling down Highway 49 toward the confluence. “Go to the American River Bike Trail to get to know your bike,” he suggested. Bella Fiore, Bicycle Emporium’s ladies cycling club, holds weekly beginner bike trail rides that depart from Beals Point in Granite Bay. Matz advises against going it alone when hitting the road or trail. “Ride with an experienced cyclist who is willing to help explain shifting, braking and safe riding habits,” he said. “Choose a short route that’s as flat as possible and ride at an easy pace. Don’t overdo it — it takes time to build skills and conditioning.” Wondering what to bring, other than your bike? A cyclist can’t go wrong with a helmet, bike shorts and gloves, Marengo said. “If your rear end’s happy, your hands are comfortable and your head’s safe, you can ride a clunker of a bike,” he said. Matz offered additional suggestions. “Helmet mirrors are highly recommended to enable riders to see what’s behind them without turning around,” he said. “Riders should always carry ID and emergency contact information. Everyone should carry at least one spare tube, a pump, small tire tools, water, a few dollars and a cell phone.” It’s never too early to ride safe, said Auburn Bike Works’ Colin Maydahl. “For your own safety, ride like cars don’t see you, but obey the rules of the road,” he said. “Try and think two steps ahead. Also try to take roads with less traffic.” It’s also important to ride with respect, Maydahl said. “I’ve seen lots of cyclists ride two abreast, which is a big no-no,” he said. “You’re a bigger target, and if you’re on a busy road it’s harder for cars to pass you.” There are a few things to keep in mind to guarantee a pleasant ride, Matz said. “Understand basic safety standards, make sure the bike is in good condition and safe to ride, wear appropriate cycling attire, try to wear bright colors to make it easier to be seen, don’t ride at twilight or in the dark without adequate lighting, and practice basic shifting and stopping in a safe vacant parking lot until your familiar with both,” he said. “Talk to other experienced cyclists to learn potential hazards, additional safety issues and to increase enjoyment. Join a cycling club to find other similar riders and provide a source of cycling knowledge and experience.” Bottom line, Maydahl said, is to have fun and enjoy the ride. “Young and old, we can always ride a bike,” he said.