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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Why bicycles are a great workout

--- Club promotes health while having fun

By Lisa M. Schmelz/Contributor

While the snow has finally melted away, the pounds some of us gained have not. But you can work off that excess winter baggage and find a healthier you with an object found in many garages.

Terry Mayer/The Week
Big Foot Beach makes a scenic backdrop.
No, not a shovel.

We're talking about a good old-fashioned bicycle.

"It doesn't pound your legs like running. It's kind of fun and there's a certain sociability to it. And it can also be very competitive," says biking enthusiast and Lake Geneva resident Gary Goebel, 46, of the many benefits of cycling. "It just seems like it frees up your mind."

Whether you're looking for a fun way to get fit while you work off the stress of the day or you want to bike competitively, a local resource is Skinny's Club TREAD.

TREAD, which stands for Training Recreation Education Advocacy and Diversity, is a Lake Geneva-based biking group open to bicyclists of all abilities. Goebel, the group's ride coordinator, says biking is an ideal way to stay fit.

"The funny thing about cycling is it doesn't do anything for your core (muscles) but it takes a lot of core to do it. It's not a great total body work out, but is great for aerobics," he explains.

The Huffman family of Williams Bay looks forward to spring each year because they can't wait to start peddling off that winter rust. They also enjoy the family togetherness bicycling offers.

"It's just nice to be together and you're exercising, checking the scenery out," says Beth Huffman, 42, a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, of the rides she takes with her husband, Jack, 56, a Southwest pilot, and their son, John, 6.

She adds that having a young child in tow doesn't mean you can't put on some miles.

"He's probably ridden three or four miles, maybe more," she says of John's longest ride to date. "He really enjoys it and it's just nice to be able to exercise as a family."

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Peddle Power

A 150-pound woman, who bikes for two hours with moderate effort, averaging seven to 10 miles per hour, will burn about 954.5 calories. A 200-pound man biking for the same time and at the same pace will burn nearly 1272.7 calories.

(Source: http://primusweb.com/fitnesspartner/jumpsite/calculat.htm)

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Peddle Partners

TREAD's no rider left behind policy makes the club a great way to take in some of the terrific springtime landscapes in Walworth County no matter how fast or slow you peddle.

The group offers social rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays, departing from RRB Cycles, 629 Williams Street in Lake Geneva, at 5:30 p.m. in April. In May, the departure time changes to 6 p.m. While the routes taken vary from week to week, the Tuesday and Thursday rides offer cyclists a choice in challenge. Those more fit typically ride a greater distance and take on more hills. Those wanting less intensity travel a shorter distance along the same basic route. TREAD also offers a beginning bike riders group, starting in May. The beginning riders group will also depart from RRB Cycles at 6 p.m.

Membership in TREAD is open to anyone interested in cycling. Individual memberships are $25 and family memberships are $40. Membership is not required to partake in any of the group rides. For safety reasons, all riders are asked to sign in before they depart on a ride and sign out when they return.

For more information, call (262) 903-9250 or (262) 248-2588 or log onto www.rrbcyclesusa.com or www.skinnysclubtread.com.

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Bike This Way

There is no shortage of scenic bike routes in Walworth County. The White River Bike Trail, which begins in Elkhorn and ends in Burlington, is perfect for families as it's a dedicated 12-mile bike path, with no traffic to worry about. The western end of the trail can be accessed at County Highway H, just south of Interstate 43 and the US Highway 12 interchange in Elkhorn. From Highway 12, take the County Highway NN exit west and then turn left (south) onto Highway H and proceed about a half mile to the trailhead parking lot. To map a bike route near your home, log onto www.mapmyrides.com.

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Getting Started

If it's been years since you've been on a bicycle, don't assume riding a bike will be just like, well, riding a bike. While you may still know how to peddle without falling down, safe biking involves a little bit of pre-biking homework. Below are tips for safer cycling:

Equipment check--Make sure your equipment is in good repair. Are the tires properly inflated? Do the brakes work? Does the bike have reflectors? Check your oil and chain regularly and make sure the seat, wheels and handlebars are all tightly fit.

Protect your body--Bike helmets save lives; it's that simple. Next to helmets, the other most commonly used bicycle safety equipment is cycling gloves. They protect the palms of your hands from the pavement should you fall, and against compression stress on long rides. They also make it easier to brush away glass and other debris from your tires.

Know the rules of the road--Before you set out, make sure you know the rules of the road as they relate to bicyclists. Bike riders should ride on the right side, with traffic, use appropriate hand signals and obey all traffic signals. Keep in mind that many motorists are distracted and unaccustomed to sharing the road with bicyclists, so exercise caution accordingly. Bright colored clothing, such as an orange vest with a reflective strip, will help you stand out more.

Take it easy--If you haven't biked in a while and aren't in the best physical shape, start off with easier routes and build from there. Add challenging hills and distance as you feel able.

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