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Happy Trails

Safe Alternative Trail Cycling That Won't Break The Bank

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With the stifling humidity waning into the days of Indian summer, it's a great time to head for the outdoors, savoring the crisp coolness of the mornings and evenings. Spectacular sunrises and sunsets with pastel blues and pinks amid puffy clouds that seem worthy of a painting, treat the eyes to skies of magnificent splendor. 


Cycling can be a great hobby to undertake for the beginner during this time of year, especially in the early morning or late afternoon. While kids and bikes go hand and hand, many adults go years without thought of mounting up on two wheels to actually have fun pedaling along with the wind in their faces. Yet, reclaiming the essence of youth on an age-appropriate bike isn't a far-fetched idea. In fact, it can be a relatively inexpensive means of getting exercise and doing so at your own pace.    


The health benefits of cycling are notable, as well. Research data suggests that climbing on a bicycle and riding just 30 minutes a day can mean a total loss of 11 pounds over a year.  Riding for an hour a day burns 300 calories, increases overall stamina and develops muscle tone in the legs, which in turn, improves metabolism.


Cycling has also been proven to be a great way to improve heart and cardiovascular health. British studies have indicated that a 3-7% improvement in cardiovascular health could be achieved with regular cycling. Furthermore, the British Medical Association found that cycling just 20 miles a week could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent!


For autumn, we will focus on several locations in the area that offer readers the opportunity to reconnect with a favored activity from their youth: Riding their bicycle, doing so safely and inexpensively. To begin, we will address recommended items for the cycling experience, but staying within a modest budget of $200. 


Choosing the bicycle.


The first item needed for cycling, of course, is a decent bicycle. Assuming that most do not already have a bike, we'll offer some suggestions. There are a variety of bikes suited for the type of riding to be done. Road bikes, mountain bikes, comfort bikes, cruisers and hybrids are all types of bicycles the shopper will encounter.


For our autumn trail and greenway cycling excursions, a cruiser/hybrid bicycle was chosen from Wal-Mart inventory. The Next Avalon is a store brand, but built by Kent Industries, which manufactures bicycles for both their company as well as stores like Wal-Mart. While department store bikes often get a bad rap, the Avalon is a great choice for the money.


This particular offers an all-aluminum frame that is sturdy, yet lightweight. The seat has a quick release level that allows the ride to quickly adjust the height of the seat and allows for easy removal when not in use, which is also an inexpensive theft deterrent.  The Avalon offers 7-speeds that shifts smoothly and gives rides confidence in tackling rolling terrain when the pedaling gets tougher. Dual suspension on the front and rear helps soak up bumps and rough surfaces. Front and rear brakes offer adequate braking capability.


After examining the varieties of bicycles in stock, the Avalon seems a perfect choice for an all-purpose bicycle that can ride maintained trails, as well as riding any side streets. The Avalon is available in both Men's and Ladies' models with no variations other than color. Cost: $109.99. A one-year warranty is offered at extra cost, but I chose to decline, given the price and build quality of the bike.   


Accessories.


Helmet. Safety is a number one issue with cycling. While adults probably remember riding without care or concern over such issues, a bicycle helmet is strongly recommended. They can save you from serious head injury should an accident occur and are not that uncomfortable. Try on several to find one that fits best. Most bicycle helmets can be purchased alongside the bicycles and be obtained for about $25.00.


Gloves. While cycling gloves are optional, they are recommended. The padding on the palms can help absorb vibrations and with longer rides, help alleviate soreness and numbness from pressure exerted on the hands. In the event of a fall, they can also help protect hands from being abrasions. You'll spend approximately $10-$20 on a decent pair.


Water bottle holder. If you're going to be cycling for any distance away from your home or vehicle, something to hold a water bottle will come in handy to stave off dehydration and replenish fluids lost in sweating. Also, a caffeine-infused flavor packet in your water can help boost your energy. A basic water bottle holder will cost well under $10.


Saddlebag. Having a saddlebag underneath the seat is a good idea for storing your cell phone, keys and perhaps a very first-aid kit should it become necessary. Again, most items such as a saddlebag can be acquired for under $10.


Lights. Lights are optional, but probably a necessity if riding just before dawn or at dusk. Not only will a headlight help illuminate in front of your bike, but also both lights can help motorists to notice you in their path. Most of the bicycle lights on the market have a steady-on and strobe/flashing mode that can be beneficial.  A good headlight/taillight combo will run anywhere from $15-$25.



Start Slow.

Once you have your bicycle and the accessories you'll need, start off close to home and go at a leisurely pace to start. If you haven't been on a bicycle for a while, expect some muscle soreness if you push too hard initially.


Follow along as we explore several popular greenway trails in the area. Next week, read of my first cycling adventure of the Dunn-Erwin Rail Trail. This 10.6-mile trail is a pedestrian/cycling pathway that was converted from a short line railway. The Dunn trailhead begins behind Harnett Primary School on Orange Avenue. In Erwin, the trail starts downtown across from the old Swift Denim plant.