Ready to ride

The change in seasons brings out the cyclists

The change in seasons brings out the cyclists

April 11, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

In the 1980s, Scott Gordon was a 250-pound powerlifter who took up cycling to build up his cardio.

Today, Gordon, 44, is a 167-pound cycler and bike shop owner in Williamsport.

"I went from one extreme to another," says Gordon, owner of River City Cycles.

You don't have to be a "Scott Gordon" to get into cycling. But most first-timers start off like Gordon -- inexperienced, but ready to ride.

When it comes to biking, a person's age and fitness level don't make a difference. You can build your fitness and strength levels over time, if that's what you want. Some people simply like the head-clearing effect of a leisurely ride through the neighborhood.

"I don't feel like I'm 66 years old when I'm on my bicycle," said Dick Cushwa, president of the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club and the club's affiliate racing group, Antietam Velo Club.


Regardless of your intentions, if you live in the Tri-State, you'll find plenty of support. In fact, it was support and gradual improvement over time that took Gordon from being an occasional bike rider to a full-on cycling enthusiast.

"It's like when you go to the gym," Gordon says. "You wouldn't lift 350 pounds the first time you go."

Social rides and races

Gordon is a member of the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club and the Antietam Velo Club.

Cushwa said Antietam Velo Club is intended for more serious riders who want to compete in races. The Cumberland Valley Cycling Club hosts social rides throughout the week.

On Wednesday, April 16, social riders will meet up at 5:45 p.m. at Williamsport High School. Rides will be held every Wednesday.

"It's one of the better attended rides," Cushwa said.

Cumberland Valley Cycling Club has 125 members. Cushwa said attendance at the social rides averages 20.

Bill Smith, former president of the Frederick Pedalers Bicycle Club, a Frederick County, Md.-based cycling club, says most novice bikers start off on social rides.

The Frederick club will be hosting a 20-mile ride on Saturday, April 19, which Smith described as "slow (and) easy going."

Rookies should consider with caution the Frederick club's ride on Sunday, April 13, a 74-mile trek from Smithsburg to Mercersburg, Pa.

"That ride's not for the faint of heart," Smith says.

In Washington County, seasoned cyclers can compete in races hosted by the Antietam Velo Club. The club hosts four to five races a year, Cushwa said.

Each year, the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club hosts the Cumberland Valley Century, a fundraiser for San Mar Children's Home in Boonsboro, which provides group-home care, foster care and shelter care for young people. The event is not a race, but will include 23-, 63-, and 100-mile rides. Cushwa said last year's event raised $2,500 for San Mar.

Find a bike that fits

First-time cyclers should think about the kind of bike riding they plan to do before spending money on a bike, said Dennis Hudson, owner of C&O Bicycle in Hancock.

He said that if your bike-riding aims don't stray far from a leisurely ride a couple times of week, you should consider getting a comfort bike, which costs between $300 and $500. Comfort bikes are intended for comfort, not long rides or racing.

"Anything beyond $500 is in the enthusiast range," Hudson says.

Cushwa recommends hybrids for first-timers hoping do more biking on the road or in places like the Western Maryland Rail Trail in Hancock. Hybrids -- a cross between a mountain bike and a comfort bike -- cost between $350 and $700, Cushwa said.

New bikers will also want to consider what the bike is made from.

Tom Peperone, owner of Wheel Base bike shop in Frederick, Md., advises buyers to avoid getting bikes with steel parts. Steel is strong but heavy, and Peperone says that heaviness is its disadvantage.

The metal pops up on cheaper bikes, in wheel rims and frames, Peperone says. Steel wheel rims look shiny, he says. Steel bike frames are harder to detect because frames are painted. You can tell if a frame is made of steel if a magnet sticks to it, Peperone says.

Instead, bikers should look for bikes made with aluminum. Aluminum rims look dull. And aluminum does not attract magnets.


Hudson says first-time bike buyers will also want to factor in the cost of accessories that don't come with the bike -- a helmet, a water bottle and water bottle basket, lock, kickstand, a patch kit and pump, and a mile/speed measuring device.

Smith said clothing is also important. In cold weather, bikers should dress in layers, taking care to cover their legs and purchasing jackets that offer both wind protection and ventilation.

In warmer months, Hudson said riders should pay attention to the shorts, going for ones that are padded on the rear for extra comfort.

"They don't have to be the skin-tight ones you see on ESPN bike races," Hudson says.

There are padded shorts that look just like gym shorts, Hudson said.

"You can wear them anywhere and nobody would know the difference," he says.

Regional events and local clubs

Here is a partial list of bicycling events coming up throughout Maryland.

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