The snow is gone, the sun is coming out, and it's getting warm outside. After months of a cold, snowy winter, everyone is eager to enjoy the outdoors once again. What better way to do so than the classic outdoor activity - biking.
But before you hop on the bike that's been sitting in the garage all winter, there are some things you should check.
"Bicycles should have good brakes," said Augie Thumm, owner of Thumm's, a family-owned bike shop in Warren. "Being able to stop the machine is probably the most important thing."
Another important part of the bike to check is the tires, which should be to full pressure.
"If you ride a bike with a flat tire or a low tire, the bike has bad handling characteristics," said Thumm.
The appropriate tire pressure varies depending on the bike, but the number can be found right on the tire itself. In addition to inflation, check the condition of the tires. If there are cracks in the tire or the tread is low, Thumm suggests replacing it.
One last thing Thumm recommends is to make sure everything is tight. The handlebars should be tight, and there should be no loose nuts or bolts.
But what if you don't already have a bike or are in need of a new one? Thumm's first piece of advice is to go to a bike shop such as his or Austintown Glenwood Cycle, when shopping for a bike.
There are two major reasons for this advice. The first is that at a bike shop, you benefit from the expertise and customer service of someone who works with bikes for a living, which you won't get in a department store or even a sporting goods store.
The other reason has to do with the bikes themselves. Department store bikes come in only one frame size.
"If the frame size doesn't match the leg length, you might as well forget it," Thumm said. Customers may think they can raise the seat to make more leg room, but then the handlebars will be too low, Thumm explained, which can cause strain and discomfort. "That's why proper fit is so important," he said.
Another consideration is the quality of the bike and how long it will last. "You can buy a $500 bike, and it will last you 20 years if you take care of it," said Thumm. He explained that an inexpensive bike may seem more economical in the short run but can easily end up costing more in the long run. "A little more money will buy you a lot more enjoyment of the machine," Thumm said.
The selection of bikes in a bike shop can be intimidating, but the staff can help you pick out the right bike depending on how you intend to use it. For riding on local bike trails or roads, a trail bike is best, also called a hybrid or bike path bike. Mountain bikes, which were popular several years ago, are for off-road riding. They force the rider to lean forward, putting more weight on the rider's hands, which can cause numbing of the hands or aching shoulders if used as a bike trail bike. BMX bikes are for more extreme riders, while road racers are for triathlons and races.
Once you're ready to ride, you'll need somewhere to go. Fortunately, there's a bike trail in Trumbull County called the Western Reserve Greenway, which opened in 2004. It begins at Champion Avenue in Champion and continues north a total of 40 miles to Ashtabula County. Trailheads, which provide parking, a picnic area and trail information, include the Sunside Trailhead at the intersection of state state Routes 45 and 305 in Champion as well as the Oakfield Trailhead on Hyde-Oakfield Road in Bristol.
There are plans for two more bike trails in Trumbull County. Construction on the Warren Greenway will begin this summer, and the trail will extend 3 miles from the northern to southern city limits of Warren, from North River Road to Burton Street.
Niles is also planning a Greenway, a 4.5-mile trail that will extend from the northern border of Mahoning County to the intersection of state Route 46 and Robbins Avenue.
All three trails are part of the Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway, a project that will connect existing bike trails as well as construct new segments to form one 100-miles trail that will extend from Walnut Beach on Lake Erie down to the Ohio River near East Liverpool. All three Trumbull County trails will eventually be connected, and the Niles Greenway will connect to the Mill Creek MetroParks Bikeway in Mahoning County.
All this biking is a good thing. According to David Pauer, the manager of employee wellness at the Cleveland Clinic, adults should get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity such as biking, walking, or jogging. For the average person, biking burns 400-500 calories an hour, which is less than jogging but also less stressful on the joints.
"The thing with cycling is you can go for an hour or more easily," which typically isn't the case with jogging, Pauer said.
However, Pauer recommends that bikers also do some walking or jogging as well, both weight-bearing activities that help build stronger bones.
Biking outdoors, such as on a local bike trail, has additional benefits. Pauer explained that research shows people exercise longer when they're outside. There's also the benefit of interacting with other people on the bike trail, which can help lower blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
"We call it the social health benefit," Pauer said.
All in all, a good bike and a good trail make exercising easy.
"It's a fun way to do it," Pauer said.