By MICHELLE SCHMIDT
Road cycling is about speed and distance and, according to local bike shops, is immensely popular in the region. Lightweight road bike frames with thin tires mean riders can power their bike with maximum efficiency. A flat, 8-mile ride on a heavy bike with big tires is work: the same on a road bike is, well, no sweat.
Road cyclists fall short of words when describing the pasttime to non-cyclists. They use phrases like “it’s so much fun” and “there’s nothing like it” and “you feel like a kid again.” Or they wax poetic about the wind against their face, the connection to the landscape, the sense of achievement upon climbing their first 2,000-foot hill. They will probably invite you to ride with them. And if you’re curious, you should go: it takes a road ride to get what the fuss is about.
That’s where cycling groups come in. As with any activity, joining a community of other people who are doing the same thing provides challenges, opportunities to learn from others and a social environment that will keep you connected to the activity. Most local groups welcome newbies and experienced riders.
Twin Rivers Cyclists is one of the local road cycling groups, drawing around 60 members from the Quad Cities area. The group has weekly rides, events, various riding groups and operates a post-a-ride feature that notifies other members of a ride in case they want to join.
“When people join, they’re usually either getting into cycling or they’ve been at it a while and want to take it to the next level,” said Jim McCracken, membership coordinator.
Membership is not required to join a ride, but the $15 makes you an official part of the group and provides some liability protection on rides.
Corrie Rosetti, a TRC member who lives in Clarkston, started road cycling after he and a friend got road bikes, somewhat on a whim.
“I’ve been riding a road bike ever since,” Rosetti said.
And he’s on it a lot: He logs about 30 miles every day, racking up over 10,000 miles total on his bike last year. By any standard, that’s a lot of miles, all with significant health benefits. But health is not what it’s about for Rosetti.
“If I were only doing it for my health, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “I do it because I enjoy it.”
And you have a better chance of enjoying it if your bike fits. Ellis said most people aren’t well-fitted to their bikes. Bike fit becomes an even greater issue for rides longer than a few miles. Not only is an ill-fitted ride less comfortable during the ride, but your shoulders, back and underside will remind you about the event for days.
Bike shops not only help you find the right bike frame for your body, but can fit it — make small adjustments — to further customize the bike to your anatomy. That’s one reason cyclists who ride regularly will only buy from a bike shop.
“Bikes from a big-box store are relatively low quality,” said Sean Ellis, who lives in Lewiston and works at B&L Bikes in Pullman. “They’re designed for people who intend to ride a couple times a year.”
Granted, that’s coming from a bike shop employee who commutes more than 20 miles on two wheels to work most days. But even less-experienced cyclists will tell you how much more fun riding is when you’ve got the right-size frame that is adjusted to your body.
Now is a busy time for bike shops, since spring is the season for buying or pulling the old bike out and bringing it in for a tune-up or fit. There are still a good few weeks of spring riding before the hot weather hits — but that’s not something that has ever stopped the diehards from heading for the hills.
Tips for Road Cycling:
• Watch for road hazards. Standard road bikes are great for speed and distance but not so great for gravel. Or potholes and other objects in the road. Also use care when riding close to others. Still, road rash is an inevitability, so a basic first-aid kit may be worth bringing.
• Bring a spare tire and small pump on rides. Or a cellphone. Flats are a “when,” not an “if.”
• Join a cycling group. You learn more by riding with others. Besides, it’s more fun — especially if you like who you’re riding with.
•Stick together with a tandem bike. If you like to ride, but the someone you like to ride with is faster or slower than you, consider getting a tandem bike, which allows you to ride at your own pace and still stay together.
• Make sure your bike fits you. (We only say it again because any cyclist you talk to will do the same.)
Local road cycling groups include:
Twin Rivers Cyclists
Twin Rivers Cyclists holds regular rides that are open to members and non-members. For information on rides and riding groups, or to register for a ride, visit www.twinriverscyclists.org.
Weekly rides include:
Ice Cream Ride on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m., May through early September. Begins at Baskin Robbins in Clarkston, ride on Greenbelt trail to Asotin and back for dollar-scoop ice cream.
Sunday Cycling Society on Sundays at 1 p.m. Leaves from Southway Boat Launch on Snake River Avenue south of Lewiston. Ride determined by riders at start time.
Sprockets and Spokes
Sprockets and Spokes is an informal, recreational cycling group of riders with a wide range of experience.Beginning riders are welcome at weekly rides, which include:
Ice Cream Ride on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. Start at Baskin Robbins in Clarkston and head toward Steptoe Canyon and back, rides are usually around 20 miles.
Weekend Rides on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Start at Corps of Engineers parking lot in Clarkston. Rides vary in destination and length, from 30 to 50 miles.
Over the Hump Ride on Thursdays at 6 p.m. Begin at Follett’s Mountain Sports in Lewiston and ride a different hill each week.