It’s like riding a bike

Kourtney Balsan's picture
RAY BAUN, left, of Buckeye helps fellow rider Marianna Parks of Buckeye adjust her seat during the AZ Mountain Biking clinic at the fourth annual Outdoor Adventure Family Day Jan. 14 at White Tank Mountain Regional Park in Waddell. View photo by Jordan Christopher

Experts suggest cycling to help reach New Year’s goals

If you still haven’t started chipping away at your New Year’s resolution to get in shape, one West Valley trend can help you get there, and it’s as easy as riding a bike.

With clubs, city and school initiatives, bike-friendly trails and almost year-round sunny weather, the West Valley is the perfect place to take up cycling, said Amy Bolton, a Goodyear spokeswoman.

Cycling has become increasingly popular in Goodyear,” Bolton said. “No matter how you like to cycle — indoors, on the trails or without peddling — Goodyear has something for every type of cyclist to enjoy. Not only do we have the highly rated F.I.N.S. mountain biking trails in Estrella, but we also have the Goodyear Pump Track for BMX riders, as well as several health clubs that feature spin classes and stationary cycling.”

Forming friendships

West Valley Cycle was created 14 years ago after David Herzog and his friend Joe Lozon teamed up with local riders Shane Tatum and Jim Marshall to create a group where they could become stronger mountain bike competitors, Herzog said.

We fell in love with the great West Valley roadways,” he said. “Soon, our group of four expanded to 10 riders and I decided to set a standard Saturday route and time so we could all ride together.”

Fast forward to the present, and West Valley Cycle has more than 1,200 riders, Herzog said, adding that the Saturday ride has evolved into a three-level ride, including the C group for new riders so they can become more confident before joining a larger group.

We routinely get over 100 riders who complete a 62-mile loop throughout Goodyear and Verrado communities,” Herzog said.

West Valley Cycle adopted four core values for riders to not only strengthen themselves physically, but also build the group’s bond and friendships, Herzog said.

The first value is to help increase their fitness, the second is to support each other and their community, the third is to welcome all new riders and the fourth is to respect their neighborhoods and obey all traffic laws.

Name any sport where you are side by side for a three-hour ride working together as a team and engaging in conversation throughout,” Herzog said. “There are many stories of how our group has created lifelong bonds of friendships and even marriages.

I’m probably proudest of our group’s community outreach — long-time sponsors of adopt-a-street and welcoming new residents who are involved with cycling. These core values make such a difference for someone new to Goodyear. To instantly get plugged in and make over a hundred new friends is a rarity in this world. We thrive on those connections.”

As for a New Year’s resolution, Herzog said he highly encourages West Valley residents to start cycling.

For the last few years, we’ve had multiple riders take up group cycling and lose more than 50 pounds in one year,” he said. “Most started with our C group, and with the addition of proper nutrition and determination, we routinely see life-changing stories in motion. We have even helped propel young cyclists into the cycling pro ranks or top regional cycling teams.”

Cycling is also a sport for all ages, as the group has riders who are older than 75 side by side with teenagers, Herzog said.

Whether you are a doctor, student, educator, engineer, retired or a cycling team looking for a training session, WVC is here for you,” he said. “For all of the non-cyclists that may be considering something new, we highly encourage you to try our sport in 2017. We have great roadways and bike lanes. You will mentally and physically be challenged in new ways. I’m confident you will find positive results, and best of all, those 1,000 new WVC friends will be here to support and share in your new adventure.”

For information on West Valley Cycle, visit westvalleycycle.net.

An up-hill battle

The West Valley also has many trail systems in its regional parks that are available to bikers.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park, 20304 W. White Tank Mountain Road in Waddell, has more than 40 miles of trails ranging from easy to difficult, including the moderate seven-mile Sonoran Loop Competitive Track and one-mile warm-up beginners loop, Park Supervisor Raymond Schell said.

All of the park’s trails are multi-use except the Waterfall and Black Loop trails, which are for hikers only, Schell said.

The White Tanks tend to be rocky, so you need to go slow and stay alert,” he said. “Keep it short and do not push yourself, just go and make it fun. Walk your bike through a challenging spot if you need to, so as not to overwhelm yourself.”

A bike race on the horizon for the White Tank Mountains is the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona’s White Tank Whirlwind series on March 25. It has a dozen categories for people, including children younger than 6 years old. For information, visit mbaa.net/racing/white-tank-whirlwind.

The Estrella Mountains in Goodyear also have many trails available to bikers, hikers and trail-runners, said Kim Doud, chair of the Estrella Trails Committee.

The F.I.N.S. (Fantasy Island North Singletrack) Trail System on Estrella’s western border has more than 12 miles of difficulty-rated trails, and the Pirate-Up Trail System east of Estrella Parkway has another 10 miles of singletrack trails.

Trail and locator maps showing the exact location are placed on certain trail systems to assure people don’t get lost, Doud said.

Our trails are made to be fun, complete with signage, an enchanted forest where scores of stuffed animals live and decorate the trail, benches at key view spots where you can sit and enjoy the scenery and flowy trails that are fun to roll, walk or run upon, so we called it the Fantasy Island North Singletrack, or F.I.N.S.,” Doud said.

The trail system is on West Westar Drive, about 1.3 miles west of Estrella Parkway in the Estrella community in Goodyear.

Doud crushes the belief that biking on a mountain is harder than on the road, and said the right equipment and looking 20 feet ahead will prevent most injuries.

Many people somehow believe that trail riding is more difficult than riding a road bike. It’s just not true,” he said.

Doud has five tips for having a successful ride up and down the mountain:

Find yourself a real trail bike, because a beach cruiser or discount store bike is not going to do the job. Visit a real bike shop, and have them help you with equipment within your budget,” he said. “Second, buy a quality helmet. We always say, ‘Use your head, wear a helmet.’ Third, get a good pair of sunglasses. Out here in the desert, this becomes a real issue. You need sunglasses to be able to see the trail clearly, and to protect your eyes from dust, debris and foliage. Fourth, get a hydration pack so that you can carry lots of water, a spare tube — even though you’ll probably have tubeless tires here in the desert — and a couple of bike tools should you have an equipment problem far from your car. Lastly, when riding on trails, don’t look down. People tend to look at the trail beneath them or immediately in front of them to try to avoid obstacles, rocks and the like. The truth is, you need to look 15-20 feet ahead to determine your line, speed and gearing. And don’t look at obstacles you want to avoid. It’s called ‘target focus,’ and if you focus on something you don’t want to hit, you’re often sure to run right into it. Look at where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. Keep your head up and eyes forward.”

Doud encourages people to try biking up the trails, as it is fun exercise, he said.

Just have fun, ride within your skill set, start on flat and low-rise trails, ride with someone who has some experience and ride regularly to build up muscle, stamina and avoid saddle soreness,” he said.

Skyline Regional Park trail system, 2600 N. Watson Road, Buckeye, also provides accommodations for those on wheels with 17 miles of trails varying in difficulty. Park entrance at Skyline is free, while the White Tank and Estrella Mountain regional parks are $6 per carload or $2 if you bike into the park. Entrance at F.I.N.S. is also free, but there is a donation box available since it is privately owned and maintained.

Another free option for bike lovers is the Estrella Foothills Bike Park, which is a pump track that opened in April 2015 at Foothills Community Park, 12795 S. Estrella Parkway, Goodyear.

The track features hills and loops to give riders the feel of mountain biking, which allows them to practice skills, technique and confidence before actually hitting the trails.

The park is a looping trail system of dirt berms and smooth dirt mounds designed for bicycling without the rider pedaling,” Bolton said. “The name ‘pump track’ comes from the pumping motion used by the rider’s upper and lower body as they ride around the track.”

Next year, riders will be able to take advantage of 315 miles of trails when the Maricopa Trail is complete, connecting all county parks, said Dawna Taylor, a spokeswoman for Maricopa County Parks and Recreation.

The trail, which will accommodate runners, walkers, hikers, cyclists and equestrians, has been in the works for more than nine years and is 70 percent done, Taylor said.

Biking to school

Anyone can ride a bike, which means adding cycling to New Year’s resolutions can help make every member of the family a little healthier.

The Litchfield Elementary School District has various initiatives to promote pupils riding their bikes and staying safe while doing so, said Shelly Hornback, a district spokeswoman.

Rancho Santa Fe Elementary in Avondale has Rock-n-Roll Wednesdays to motivate pupils to ride their bikes to school, Principal Laura Combs said.

All students who do not drive or bus to school are entered in a monthly drawing,” Combs said. “Local businesses are encouraged to donate helmets and other prizes in support of student health and wellness.”

Biking to school promotes a healthy lifestyle, along with shortening the treacherous drop-off and pick-up lines, she said.

Our crossing guards love this time of year when students are invigorated by the crisp weather and excited about returning to school after a relaxing winter break,” said Karen Williams, principal of Verrado Middle School.

Practicing safety at home and emphasizing the need for a helmet is a must when it comes to children and bikes, said Bill Hill, physical education teacher at Litchfield Elementary School.

Even though there is no law forcing kids to wear helmets, I always applaud kids who protect themselves and make good choices about their health and safety,” Hill said. “Kids who ride their bikes to school have an opportunity to demonstrate responsibility and gain confidence. I care about all of my students and want them to learn good habits.”

The Goodyear Police Department has also teamed up with local schools to educate children on the importance of safety through Lids on Kids, a program Goodyear Police adopted to encourage youths to wear helmets while riding a bike, skateboard or scooter, said Lisa Kutis, a police spokeswoman.

Most schools who participate in the Lids on Kids program demonstrate an increase in the number of students who wear helmets while riding their bikes, skateboards and scooters to school,” Kutis said.

Practice safe cycling

Safety isn’t just for children, and is important for anyone who takes up cycling, Kutis said.

As with any physical activity, there are risks as well as health benefits,” she said. “Proper bicycling gear is important, and Goodyear police encourage all bicyclists to wear a properly fitted bike helmet that meets the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards. It is also wise for riders to know and understand bike and traffic safety laws and educate themselves on how to stay safe.”

Even the most experienced and confident riders should remain aware of their surroundings while biking, Kutis said.

It is recommended that bicyclists not wear earphones while riding; it is especially important so that a rider can hear a vehicle or potentially dangerous situation approaching,” she said. “It is also recommended that riders always wear eye protection both day and night. Being hit by an object in the eye could cause even the most experienced rider to have a serious accident.”

Overall, as long as safety is being practiced, cycling is a great sport for a New Year’s resolution, Kutis said.

Practicing safe bicycling while following traffic laws provides for a healthy mode of transportation and a great way to increase physical activity,” she said.

Gasping for air

Along with the benefits of supporting health and local parks, another plus to cycling impacts a much larger cause, Bolton said.

Cycling is a great way to get outdoors with friends and family while enjoying the terrific weather and picturesque scenery we have in Goodyear,” she said. “As a hobby, cycling can help people get back into or maintain a fitness routine. From a pollution standpoint, cycling is a way to contribute to cleaner air.”

According to Maricopa County’s website, ground-level ozone is the most widespread air quality problem in the United States and can cause various health problems, such as shortness of breath, throat and lung irritation, headaches and nausea.

To help combat pollution, the county participates in the Clean Air Make More campaign to encourage people to make a commitment to bike, walk or carpool one day a week.

If you’re not into the outdoors, then just about every gym in the West Valley offers indoor cycling classes to help you reach your goals — no helmet necessary.

Many new riders join [a gym] and start off with indoor cycling classes, which is a great foundation before you begin outdoor group riding,” Herzog said.

 

Kourtney Balsan can be reached at Kbalsan@westvalleyview.com.

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