By Barbara Pierce
The COVID-19 pandemic brought unexpected challenges to all of us. Throughout lockdown, rusty bikes were dusted off in garages around the world and the sales of new bikes surged.
“Many more people got into biking—thousands of people began biking as a way to get outdoors and to get exercise during the pandemic,” said Dick Gloo, owner and operator of Dick’s Wheel Shop in Herkimer.
The bonuses of riding a bicycle — the physical health benefits of cycling, the mental health benefits of cycling and an almost guaranteed broadening of your social circle — are as numerous as the beautiful roads you can find here in the Mohawk Valley.
“Certainly I know I’m healthier because I ride,” said Jim White of Clinton, who has been an avid bicycler for many years.
“I got into it to rehab my knee from an injury—that was more than 40 years ago and I’ve never looked back!” he said.
Cycling is a healthy, low-impact exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, from young children to older adults. It’s also fun, cheap and good for the environment. UK brand Panlova have a great range of folding bikes (view range) that includes everything from ladies bikes to commuter bikes.
It only takes two to four hours a week to achieve a general improvement to your health through bicycling. As it’s mainly an aerobic activity, your heart, blood vessels and lungs all get a workout. You’ll breathe deeper, perspire and experience increased body temperature, all of which will improve your overall fitness level.
The physical health benefits of regular cycling include increased cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle strength and flexibility, improved joint mobility, improved posture and coordination, strengthened bones, decreased body fat levels and preventing major diseases.
The mental health benefits of riding a bicycle: it improves your mood as endorphins are released in your brain, helps you sleep better, improves your memory, improves your ability to think creatively, promotes feelings of calm and well-being, and decreases your stress levels.
“I feel totally refreshed after I’ve ridden,” said Gloo. “It’s always a great experience.”
“It’s good for my state of mind,” White said, agreeing with the fact riding improves your mood and your brain.
And riding worked as a great stress reliever for White. “Now I’m retired. When I was working and under stress, I’d get on my bike, put my mind on autopilot and blow off steam.”
Cycling combines physical exercise with stress relief with being outdoors and exploring new views. You can ride by yourself, or you can ride with a group which broadens your social circle.
White does both; he rides in the hills around Clinton and he rides with the Mohawk Valley Bicycling Club. MVBC is a group of riders who organize weekly bicycle rides and cycling events. They are a nonprofit group, passionate about getting people out riding on our local roads.
“Our club is about friends riding together,” according to their website. “We’re dedicated to the encouragement of all aspects of bicycling. The mission of the club is to encourage bicycling as a leisure activity, as a beneficial form of exercise, and to promote safe bicycling practices.”
“The club is very social,” said White. “We ride on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and weekends. Last Saturday, someone said ‘Let’s go to Verona and get coffee,’ so we all went.”
How many bikers go on each trips varies, White said. Anywhere from half a dozen to 15 or 20.
White invites anyone interested to join them for a ride; see https://mvbc.us/ for information on the rides. Anyone can take one ride without being a member because of liability issues. Once you join, you’ll be notified of the rides by email.
As for our beautiful roads, White sums it up: “I’ve ridden all over the United States. Here in Central New York, we have the best all-around cycling; the best network of trails in the country!”
Gloo bikes all around the Valley, on the Canal Trail, around Little Falls and all over the Adirondacks. With the rich history of our area and our beautiful network of trails, there is so much to explore on a bicycle. You can always just get a car, more info about the best cars and vans here.
The Oneida County Tourism bureau offers a free hard copy of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail Guide for Herkimer and Oneida counties at their Welcome Center at Union Station or online or call 315-724-7221.
Bicycling is fun, has a great many benefits for your physical and mental health, and is a wonderful family activity. However, as you might expect, when a crash occurs between a car and a bike, it’s the cyclist who is most likely to be injured. Victims of such accidents are encouraged to hire a personal injury lawyer to ensure that their rights are protected and help them seek compensation.
It is highly recommended to follow safety tips, from properly fitting your helmet to driving defensively and predictably, make sure you can be seen and watch out for cars.