GALLIPOLIS — This is the time of year when many of us give up on our New Year’s resolution of getting back into shape or shedding a few pounds. Maybe you hate the monotonous routine of going to the gym, staring at the wall day after day while exercising. Fortunately, there are many other physical activities that can help support good health while providing motivation, and an area club of cycling enthusiasts are living proof.
Often cycling is associated with inspirational athletes at the peak of their physical fitness wearing skintight colorful outfits and riding hundreds of miles a week. But, cycling is also an activity that most of us have participated in at some point in our lives — often in childhood. Now many adults revisit the sport in an effort to attain physical fitness goals, shed weight, fight medical conditions or simply heal themselves psychologically. The challenge is how and where to start?
Velo Gallia – propelling you into the enchanting world of cycling.
Taking up cycling is not as daunting as it might seem. There are many cycling clubs where like-minded cycling enthusiasts meet and ride. Like many cities, big and small, Gallipolis has its own cycling club called “Velo Gallia” which has nearly 80 members. A dozen of them meet every week at the Family Dollar on Jackson Pike for a ride. Velo Gallia welcomes both men and women of all age groups and skill levels. The weekly rides are planned based on the skill level of the members participating and range from a short 15-mile ride to a century (100 miles) on various terrains. Over the years, some of the members have built strong friendships and have gone on to raise funds for charities through cycling.
The club membership is free and open to all. Even people who know nothing about cycling are encouraged to join the Velo Gallia Facebook page where they can ask questions to fellow members and gain an insight on how to take up cycling.
“We organize beginner and intermediate rides every month, which usually is the best way to get acquainted to cycling, make new friends, and get answers to all your questions,” said Velo Gallia member Lester Junior Ross. Ross is also an U.S. Army National Guard veteran and a self-confessed cycling fan.
Cycling and your health
Cycling is good for you — but how good? When analyzing calories burned, we can conclude that cycling does not top the charts. Running burns more calories than cycling, but comparing the two would be like comparing apples to oranges. Running may be more efficient, but shifting the body weight takes a toll on the joints. Darin Smith, an exercise physiologist at Pleasant Valley Hospital (PVH) and a resident of Bidwell, said cycling, in contrast to running, is a low impact sport, which is beneficial to people who are just starting an exercise routine. During cycling, body weight is largely supported by the saddle and handlebars, placing less stress on the knees and ankles.
Cycling also provides room for personal improvement. Rides can be just a few miles at a slow pace or can include conquering brutal hills and covering hundred miles a day like a Tour de France athlete. Cycling provides overall cardiovascular exercise that can be taken up by most people, irrespective of age, physical condition, weight and other factors. It improves muscle tone, builds stamina, burns calories, improves heart health, reduces stress, and improves coordination.
“Cycling is the best form of exercise, but it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor if you are suffering from a major medical condition before you begin cycling,” said Velo member Keith Wolfe of Gallipolis. Wolfe said he lost substantial weight and considerably improved his heart health through cycling.
Make friends, explore nature and heal psychologically
Velo Gallia rides are a good way to make new friends while experiencing some of the most picturesque scenes in the county.
“The best way to enjoy nature is on your bicycle with friends,” says Brenda Scott, an avid triathlon athlete and a club member from Point Pleasant.
On a few weekends slow-paced club rides are planned with an objective to enjoy the scenic beauty and hang around with fellow Velo Gallia members, according to Ross. In the coming few months the club plans to design custom cycling jerseys for its members. The club also has a strong culture of fostering and mentoring members new to cycling. A few members would be more than happy to let you ride their bicycle to get a feel, or help you navigate through the initial phase of purchasing your own bicycle or equipment.
Cycling can also be a family activity. Unlike other sports that are physically or technically demanding, cycling allows everyone — from kids to the grandparents — to enjoy an outing. Additionally, babies and toddlers who cannot ride on their own can accompany the family in safety-certified child carriers attached to their parent’s bicycle.
It’s not about the bike
Don’t let the bicycle prices become an impediment in your cycling journey. Bicycles are designed for different purposes. From sleek looking road bikes on which Lance Armstrong and other athletes have been widely pictured across the media, to the ones sitting on the racks at your local Walmart, bikes can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Velo Gallia focuses on road cycling, and members are quick to assure potential new cyclists that top-of-the-line bicycles are nice, but unnecessary.
Roy Mayes, a Velo Gallia member from Gallipolis, highly recommends talking to fellow members before investing in a bicycle.
“Many members are upgrading their bikes and would be happy to sell their old one at a cheap price, or let you ride one until you purchase your bike,” said Mayes.
Follow the rules and be safe
Being safe while cycling is of paramount importance to Velo Gallia. From wearing a helmet to obeying traffic rules, cyclists’ safety is always the priority.
“Cyclists have equal right to use the road as does other traffic, but being safe is in [the cyclist’s] hands,” said Charlie Baker, a veteran police officer who logs thousands of miles on his road bike every year. “Always be visible by wearing bright colored clothing, use head and tail lights while riding in the dark, use hand signals, and ride to the extreme right of the road.”
Riding in a group makes cyclists more visible to the traffic. All members new to cycling are given instructions about road safety before their first ride, according to Velo Gallia member Cody Smith of Rio Grande.
Take it a notch higher
Velo Gallia boasts members who are professional athletes, recreational athletes and members who ride for a cause. Darin Smith is a duathlon athlete sponsored by the TheTriShop.com from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Scott competes in triathlons and is scheduled to compete at the Ironman triathlon this year. Ken Holly from Gallipolis, Cody Smith, Charlie Baker and Rich Haft (an avid duathlon athlete) participate in cycling competitions across the east coast.
“The [Velo Gallia] club pushes me to ride harder and more often than I would ride on my own,” explained Charles Angel from Gallipolis, who will be competing at the Louisville Ironman triathlon later this year.
Last year, Ross and Cody Smith raised a thousand dollars and rode a hundred miles for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. They plan to raise more funds and encourage more members to be a part of the cause this year.
Velo Gallia is the catalyst that can help transform new cyclists’ dreams of riding for fun or competing in races into reality. No matter the goal, new cyclists will find people with similar interests at Velo Gallia. For more information, join the club’s Facebook page online or contact Ross at (740) 645-1555.