Thursday, July 1, 2004
Start spinning your wheels
Beginner to racer, bikers can find niche
By Shannon Russell
Enquirer staff writer
Mason resident Corey Green says there's nothing better than a bicycle ride's cool winds, scenic views and quiet solitude.
Cycling enthusiasts will find everything from competitive road racing, like the event in these photos, from Hyde Park to Morrow, to casual trail rides in the Greater Cincinnati area.
Photos by STEVEN M. HERPPICH/The Enquirer
Since moving to town eight years ago, he has discovered a network of Cincinnati-area cyclists, clubs, trails and races. With so many options, his biggest problem is finding enough time to go.
"This is a really good area to bike in," said Green, 35, a husband and father of three. "There are enough clubs and teams that you can always find someone to ride at your pace."
Though events like Saturday's start of the Tour de France are designed for elite racers, competitive and recreational riders show their cycling love on area trails and roads galore. As long as the sun's shining and the roads aren't slick, it's easy to find mountain bikers on off-road paths, road racers angling for victories, or cyclists just cruising about.
The Cincinnati Cycle Club is the area's biggest leisure-riding group, with an estimated 1,200 members of all ages who ride in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The club doesn't race, mountain bike or travel long distances, focusing instead on fun group excursions.
Club president Paul Patterson said safety is always one of the biggest concerns with riding. While helmets and cautious riding are key, it's important to recognize the two schools of thought when it comes to choosing a route: Avoid roads, or share roads with motorists.
"We're more of the share-the-road type," Patterson said. "For those starting out, I'd recommend learning the rules of the road or learning the law. If anything, follow along as if you are a car."
There's no better way to convey the basics than teaching children, which is why Queen City Wheels president and director of youth programs Doug Dobrozsi does exactly that. Queen City Wheels is the oldest and largest grassroots cycle-racing club in the area.
Its July and August summer league, Kids on Bikes, introduces basic riding skills to children ages 8 to 14 in weekly sessions. After two months, camp participants know how to start and stop, the difference between endurance riding and sprints, and how to bump and rub elbows while going fast without panicking. Dobrozsi said it builds the foundations for an activity kids can take into adulthood.
"It's the greatest sport in the world. If you get interested, you get into it," Dobrozsi said. "In places where cycling is big, (kids groups) like this happen. Some places have cycling programs the way we have 4-year-olds play soccer."
Queen City Wheels hosts weekly events for its elite and novice adult racers, from cyclocross in the fall and winter to the Ault Park Series, a five-week summer racing event in June.
Cycling's popularity is reflected locally in racers such as Bob Rich, a Loveland man who in June started Race Across America - a 10-day, 3,000-mile bike race - but had to drop out five days into the race because of health concerns. Todd Williams (Wyoming), Tom Brane (North College Hill), Fred Heiselman (Loveland) and Joe Martin (Park Hills) biked 783 miles in 90 hours or less in last August's Paris-Brest-Paris in France.
Jim Ray, of Western Hills, cycled from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., in 24 days in May to raise money for the Hamilton County Special Olympics.
Much of the appeal of competitive cycling, Green said, is the escape it provides. Green races with the Cycle Dots, a regional racing team sponsored by Cycle Sport in Loveland. A 15-year biking veteran, he has competed on three racing teams and spends about 12 to 15 hours a week on his bike.
Competitive biking is physically taxing, but recreation riding is "one of the lowest-impact sports around," Green said. Expect physical endurance during a ride, but design an outing the way you want it to be, whether it's for fun or for exercise.
There are plenty of places to cycle, besides roads, neighborhoods and parks. Thousands of bikers and skaters flock to the Little Miami Scenic River Bikeway, 68 paved miles from Milford to Springfield, Ohio. For long-distance cyclists, the Ohio Department of Transportation offers cross-state treks. Cycle clubs have events and special destinations throughout the year.
"Bike riding in general gives you a freedom of being out there on the road," Green said. "As long as you're not riding in traffic, it's so peaceful."
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