This spring, 360 is bringing you a four-part series on a sunny-weather pastime — bicycling. In the coming weeks, we’ll feature local bike paths while we explore mountain biking, biking with kids and road cycling.
By Michelle Schmidt, for inland360.com
Riding a bicycle, they say, is a skill you don’t forget. But if you take a few years off, there’s no telling how graceful that first ride will be …
The last time I got off a bike I felt three things:
* Irritation at the gears for not making sense at any point in the past 20 miles.
* Relief that I did not die ascending that last hill.
* That I did not wish to sit down again, maybe ever.
But I am forgetful and remember this only after I agreed to an Easy Does It Ride with Linda Rosetti. Linda, who works as a lactation nurse when she’s not cycling, coordinates these rides most months for beginners and slower riders.
Up to a dozen people generally show up for a ride and, when she cites older riders and moms who pull kids in bike trailers, I figure I’ll be OK. Even though the 20-mile, up-and-down-big-hills route she describes seems harder than the around-the-block route I am used to.
But it’s just the two of us who meet in the parking lot just beside the blue Interstate Bridge in Clarkston. There, she adjusts the seat of the road bike I had borrowed, so my knee bends slightly when I’m sitting. She fits my borrowed helmet, until it sits two fingers width above the eyebrow and doesn’t move when I tilt my head down. And she explains the gears, so I know how to ride easier or faster, using my left hand to make big adjustments and right hand to make smaller ones.
She sends me around the parking lot a few times and even though I do not fall off or run into any parked cars, at the end she suggests we ride to Asotin. I do not need anyone to translate where that puts me in relation to the old people and mothers with trailers full of children.
Riding side by side on the path, Linda covers basic pathway etiquette:
* Pass pedestrians on the left and call out before doing so.
* Remain a bicycle’s length behind another bicycle when going single file.
* Ride predictably.
She models her lesson, leading the way around the few who are out on this sunny — yet still cold and windy — spring day.
I notice how much easier riding is than running. I’m not a runner, but sometimes on sunny spring days I imagine that I am. This lasts for about five minutes, until my imagination proves it is in better shape than my legs and lungs. But here on the pathway, riding is no more challenging than walking. So we talk as we enjoy the sunshine.
Linda tells me how she started cycling a few years ago after a running injury. She talks about cycling friends, who range from young moms to 85-year old retirees. She talks gear: padded shorts are the way to go, she says. Her speed and distance monitor tell us we are traveling 15 mph, a fact that makes her neon windbreaker seem all the more practical.
Path traffic slows after Swallows Park, though we pass some people out for a walk. They wave as we ride by, calling out “It’s too cold to ride!” “It’s too cold to walk,” I holler back over my shoulder. I hear them laugh.
Even before my body asks if we are there yet, we arrive at Asotin. Linda leads us up to the highway.
Since bicycles are vehicles in Washington and Idaho, she says, we have the same rights as cars. Drivers should treat me like their Cadillac-driving grandmother, passing only if there is room in the other lane. I ride the white line in the right lane, unwilling to argue the point.
As we take the side streets past brick buildings to Daily’s Bakery, I realize why people do this: It’s kinda fun. A bicycle is ideal for exploration. The bike allows me to experience what a car cannot: racing birds flying along the river, interacting with people along the path, feeling the wind knock me off balance — and yes, it was the wind.
Leaning our bikes against the tables outside, we head inside the bakery to warm up and refuel. Linda tells me that communities with recreational paths like the one we just rode are known to have an obesity rate 10 percent less than those without them. If it’s there, people use it, she says.
Then she tells me that the bike path is how people get started cycling more seriously. They ride to Asotin a few times and before they know it, they’ve been out to Buffalo Eddy and back. By then, they realize how many more places are open to them.
I can see what she means. As we leave our soft seats behind, I am eager to get back on the bike, to keep going and see what I’ve not yet seen. The ride back is faster; I feel more sure of myself. Sure enough to cross the Southway Bridge and ride the Lewiston side?
Apparently so. Linda leads the way across the bridge and over to Lewiston’s bike tunnel. It’s a quick ride to the Interstate Bridge, a route that makes this an interstate tour, even if the fact will only impress people who don’t know Idaho from Iowa and Washington from the nation’s capital.
As we ride down to the parking lot, I notice three things: I had used my gears successfully, I did not die and my underside didn’t hurt. These three facts make my next ride more inviting than the last.
Schmidt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 305-4578.
Easy does it
Bike riding for the unsure: 360 reporter Michelle Schmidt discovers the fun and reward in pedal power
Interested in joining Linda on an upcoming Easy Does It Ride? Get more information and register for these and later rides on The Easy Does It Ride page in the Events tab at www.twinrivercyclists.com:
APRIL 20 — Ugly Shirt ride … with a prize for the ugliest shirt!
MAY 25 — Anatone Grade Ride … get ready for I Made the Grade
JUNE 13 — Art Ride … in-town ride to local galleries
JULY 18 — Casino Ride … breakfast at Clarkston McDonalds and ride to Lewiston Casino
AUG. 19 — Moscow Farmers Market and Latah Trail ride