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Introduction to Road Riding



An Introduction to Road Riding
by Mary K. Resk


As a little girl on my hot-pink banana-seat Huffy cruiser, I glided up and down the neighborhood hills with ease. I flew ahead at full speed creating my own wind, feeling invincible. Sometime during adolescence, however, I abandoned my bike for other pursuits. I hadn’t relived that breezy wonderment of childhood bicycling until last month when I bought my first road bike to train for triathlons.

Although I love to run and swim, bicycling had been eluding me. Lately, however, I’ve watched the popularity of cycling soar in our area. From the annual criteriums in downtown Wenatchee to road races held nearby almost every summer weekend, North Central Washington has gone bonkers over biking. Friends brag about cycling’s hardcore cardiovascular benefits and I have seen mere mortals transform themselves into IronMan athletes after falling in love with the bike. Furthermore, it’s impossible to not feel inspired while watching Wenatchee’s favorite cycling son, Tyler Farrar, take on the biggest beast of the cycling world: The Tour de France. So when my husband inherited a friend’s old road bike this past spring and took a liking to it, I finally caved to the peer pressure.

Because I wasn’t sure I’d like it and new bikes can be expensive, I started the shopping process cautiously. I talked with local cycling friends and bike shop staffers, and I researched bikes online. I developed a ‘must-have’ list: size 54 frame, Shimano 105 components, a carbon fork, clip-in pedals.

Then we went to Hawaii and rented bikes to tour the famed Kona Coast. I loved it! Gulping air while churning up grueling hills, and dodging bugs while whale watching from the saddle was unequalled. Renting helped me get a sense of what my stance should feel like and what shifting mechanism I preferred.

I came home with a renewed bike-buying fervor. I expected it to be easy. No such luck. After months of almost finding a bike, being stubbornly attached to the notion that I could get a higher-quality used bike cheaper than a low-end new bike, old-fashioned networking finally prevailed. A friend of a friend was upgrading and voila. I found my bike. It was everything I was looking for and more, which meant I could grow into it. It was even sparkle-painted in my elementary school colors, blue and gold.

Now I’m a changed woman.

Below: The peace and quiet of The Loop Trail along the Wenatchee waterfront.

Central Washington lacks the tropical, Hawaiian backdrop of Kona, but the riding around here is top-flight and hardly anyone knows it. For starters, there’s The Apple Capital Loop Trail to enjoy. Between jogging, walking, and commuting, I’ve logged hundreds of miles on the Loop over the past few years. The minute I upgraded to a true road bike, however, the Loop became a brand-new experience. Acceleration and deceleration were suddenly a cinch. I cut my normal ride time in half, even when I wasn’t experimenting with drafting off my husband.

Beyond the Loop, my biking world has expanded immensely -- and I’ve just started to explore the diverse terrain available to us. Safety is my number-one concern so I gravitate to less-trafficked roads like the Wenatchee to Monitor Loop. Whizzing past the back road orchards, berry stands, and smiling neighbors, it takes me back to those idyllic neighborhood rides of my youth. And the rolling hills-- depending on your mood, energy, and riding companions-- are perfect for either riding hard or easy.

Below: The orchards and hills of the Monitor Loop.

 

Another new favorite ride is the Batterman Loop. The steep climb between Rock Island and the Pangborn Airport is, initially, intimidating, but once on top you get the payback: A look down on the starting point and a widescreen view of our open hills and our open sky. In the scope of other rides around here, this is a comparatively little molehill, but it makes me excited to tackle more difficult rides in the Stemilt Basin and up the road to Mission Ridge.

Below: More scenic, peaceful riding in the Stemilt Basin.

There are so many reasons why this area is perfect for road cycling. From the Loop to Mission Ridge there is terrain to suit every interest and skill. Cycling is a terrific sport to age with because it is friendly on the joints and provides great aerobic exercise. I’ve also been impressed with the friendliness of the cycling community and am anxious to expand my circle of cycling buddies. The Wenatchee Valley Velo Club members look hardcore in their professional gear and slick jerseys, but the club is not just for experts. There are novices and group rides for all ability levels.

These days I’m just looking for excuses to ride my bike. I ride to the gym, to the grocery store, to the post office. The bike is softer on the environment but it’s made me work a little harder. It has also made me even more appreciative of the gorgeous landscape surrounding us. Because I’m no longer being passively chauffeured in a car, all five senses are heightened while I ride. I notice bumps in the road, scents in the air, heat warping off the tarmac, vultures soaring on the thermals…

Photo: A quick stop for a photo op along The Loop Trail.

I’m a little bike crazed right now and can’t wait to share my newfound enthusiasm with other new riders, which means I hope to meet you out on the road. Probably you’ll be blowing by me on my left.


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Local Resources
  • Local shops selling bikes: Full Circle Cycle (663-8025), Second Wind Bikes (884-0821), Arlberg Sports (663-7401), Der Sportsman (548-5623), EuroSports (888-5336).
  • Jason Jablonski of SET Coaching (www.setcoaching.com) comes highly recommended for custom bike fittings.
  • Wenatchee Valley Velo Club and Arlberg Sports  (663-7401) offer all-level group rides.
  • Used bikes: Check the local listings of www.craigslist.com, Wenatchee World classifieds, and the Nickel Ads.

Five Easy Rides from the WenatcheeOutdoors 'Biking-Road' Guidebook
  1. Loop Trail
  2. Monitor Loop
  3. Colockum Out and Back
  4. The Palisades
  5. Waterville Plateau short ride