Ticket to ride
Tri-City residents find fitness, social benefits in cycling
Unseasonably chilly recent weather has cycling enthusiast Mark Lee anxious to get out for a ride.
The Batavia resident began seriously cycling in 2010, when he and his wife signed up for The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), a seven-day bicycle ride across the state.
“I've found that it is a great workout,” Lee said. “It's low impact on your body and I feel great.”
The two have signed up for their fourth RAGBRAI this year.
In preparation, Lee's goal is to ride 1,000 miles, but given the Tr-City temperatures, he is behind on his training.
Lee said looks forward to when he and his wife can hit the trails and roads in the area and enjoy the Fox Valley area.
“We're so lucky we're in this area where cycling is so easy to do,” he said.
He and his wife have met countless friends through cycling, he added. They participate in weekly rides through Mill Race Cyclery in Geneva and even completed a bike race in Door County with friends they met through cycling.
Geneva's Mill Race Cyclery, owned by St. Charles resident Bruce Heidlauf, offers Thursday nights public bike rides of at least 25 miles, set to begin again once the weather cooperates.
“I suppose it's the feeling of adventure you get,” Heidlauf said of why he loves cycling. “It's a great way to see the world. It's a completely different experience.”
Heidlauf said his shop located at 11 E. State St. right on the Fox River Bike Trail, is hopping on weekends as people take advantage of beautiful weather on the trail. His emergency bike repair has been popular for riders who experience a problem with their bike while on a ride, as are the public washrooms and free air.
With years of experience under his belt, Heidlauf said the best advice he can offer is to make sure to wear a helmet, get fitted for a proper bicycle and start with smaller rides and work your way up. He also suggests riders have a tune-up at least once per season.
For new riders, one of the quickest ways to get invlved is through a cycling club, like the Fox Valley Bicycle and Ski Club, which has 134 members from all over the Tri-City area .
“People come from all over,” said Greg Olson, president. “It's a great group. It's a very social group... We ride almost every night.”
Rides get progressively harder as the week continues on, but Olson said everyone from beginning cyclists to serious cyclists are welcome to join. One of the most social outings is the group's Progressive Dinner ride, at which they cycle from location to location for appetizers, a main course, dessert and more over the course of about 45 miles.
Geneva resident Ron McCoy said while he mostly bikes for fitness, he enjoys the social aspects of cycling.
“Socially, I think I've met more friends cycling than I did throughout high school,” he said, adding when the weather was nice one day recently, he received several texts from friends he hadn't seen in months inquiring if he wanted to go for a ride.
He said the Tri-Cities area is appealing for cycling not just because it's beautiful, but because there are so many different routes, both on trails and roads to enjoy.
“This is about as good as it gets for cycling,” Olson said of the Tri-Cities. “The only thing missing in this area is hills. Riding on the trails along the river, it doesn't get prettier than that... It's a great area. It's very, very bike friendly.”