Mountain bikers swear those wheels are the wide, knobby kind that grab trails and fly over jumps and around berms. Road cyclists prefer smooth, skinny tubes on lighter frames that focus on speed.
My last column featured mountain biking, a hot topic in our area. This column zeroes in on mountain biking’s sleeker cousin — road biking, which has been a fitness choice for local cycling enthusiasts for a long time.
Why should you don a helmet, clip into some pedals and challenge the road? It is fun, and you get to channel your inner child. But more importantly, it is also good for you.
Benefits of road biking
• Burns calories and tones muscles: A person weighing 135 pounds who averages 12-14 miles per hour can burn about 500 calories in 60 minutes. Pushing the pedals tones your whole leg and butt.
• Increases energy: Cycling just a few times a week increases fitness and energy levels.
• Low impact: Riding a bike is easy on your body, but it is very important that your bike fit you correctly. Having it fitted by a professional is a good idea. You want your knees to be at the correct angle on the pedal strokes — too much or too little can put stress on your joints.
• Good for your heart: Exercise lowers your cholesterol and blood pressure. Riding for 30-60 minutes at least three times a week increases aerobic capacity.
Cycling will also improve your mental health and coordination and boost your immune system. And according to Mike Poe, president of the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association, the cycling options in our area are some of the best in the country.
“We have beautiful country roads and scenic byways ... Most of the roads are well-paved, wide and not congested. We have flat, rolling valleys and mountain climbs that would rival any area of the United States,” Poe said. “Finding areas that have one or two of these qualities is fairly common. Finding areas that have all of the above are rare.”
Spring is a perfect time to start biking. There are a number of local organized rides to sign up for in April. Check out these options.
• 20th Annual Woodland-Calhoun Century Challenge Bike Ride
Sunday, April 7, ride starts at 7:30 a.m., McClellan Aquatics Center.
Don’t get scared away by the word “century.” You don’t have to ride 100 miles to participate in this event. This is a family-friendly event catering to all level of rider. Ride options of 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles “make it as easy as you want or as challenging as you want,” said ride organizer and PARD program director Angie Shockley.
Shockley says the ride is aesthetically pleasing, too. “Set in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the ride course passes over country creeks, through small Southern towns and into the Talladega National Forest.”
The race has had as many as 350 riders and as few as 147, she said, but she hopes to have at least 250 riders this year.
Registration forms can be picked up at Anniston City Hall, City Community Centers, Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, YMCA and local bike shops. Day-of registration starts at 6:30 a.m.
For more information, email Angie Shockley at email@example.com.
Note: The original 2013 date was March 23, but the ride was changed to April 7 due to inclement weather.
• 21st Annual Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo
Sunday, April 21, ride starts at 7:30 a.m., Piedmont Civic Center.
Like the Woodland ride, the Cheaha Challenge has been around a long time and offers a variety of distances for cyclists of all levels: 26-, 47-, 66-, 88- or 102-mile routes.
You may be wondering “what the heck is a Gran Fondo?” According to NEBA president Poe, Gran Fondo is a European term that caught on in the states a few years ago. There are three main components to a Gran Fondo, which translates from Italian to “big ride.”
The ride is more of an event than just a simple, long-distance ride, and it is surrounded by a festival — much like the Noble Street Festival, which will be held the day before the ride. There are rest stations stocked with food on the course, and there is a large meal at the end, with music and other fun activities.
Riders receive finish times, and special guest rider Frankie Andreu will be in attendance. Besides being an Olympian, Andreu competed in multiple Tours de France as a team captain on the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team, racing alongside Lance Armstrong.
Poe, who has managed the ride for 14 years, says organizers would like to eventually get to 1,000 riders for the Cheaha Challenge. Last year they had 650 who participated in near-perfect weather.
Register online at prerace.com. Visit cheahachallenge.com for more information.
• Foothills Classic Road Race
Sunday, April 21, first race starts at 8:15 a.m., Piedmont Civic Center.
A racer’s license is required to participate in this highly competitive NEABA event, which is sanctioned by USA Cycling.
Not for beginners. Visit foothillsroadrace.com for more information.
• Noble Street Festival and Sunny King Criterium
Saturday, April 20, event starts at 10 a.m., Downtown Anniston.
The NEABA also organizes the Noble Street Festival in downtown Anniston which features the Sunny King Criterium bike races where riders compete on a .7-mile looped course starting on 11th Street.
Visit noblestreetfestival.com or sunnykingcriterium.com for more information.
Have a fitness-related idea? Share it with Brooke Nicholls Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nelson is a freelance writer who lives in the Talladega National Forest near Cheaha Mountain.