Two Wheels = Fun in Western Wake

Summer is nearly synonymous with long, leisurely bike rides. With miles of bike paths, paved greenways and scenic trails, Western Wake County beckons cyclists of all ages and abilities.

“It’s just a bike-friendly community, because there’re so many cyclists out there,” said avid cyclist Chris McIver, who usually logs 50 miles or more on his weekend rides.

The Chatham County resident often meets other bike enthusiasts at the White Oak Church Road entrance to the American Tobacco Trail in Apex for group rides in the scenic, rolling hills of Western Wake.

Carol Rahnenfuhrer of Durham has been riding on the trail, which was voted Best Place to Ride a Bike by Cary Magazine readers in this year’s Best of Western Wake Maggy Awards, for four or five years.

“It’s a great place for beginners to try; they can go at their own pace,” she said, as she  and three friends headed  out for “a sight-seeing ride, from one trailhead to the next.”

“From one bathroom to the next,” chimed in Gail Stone of Cary. It is Stone’s third time out on the trail, all three times at Rahnenfuhrer’s invitation. Briggette McKnight of Raleigh, riding the trail for the first time, and Hedy Maliszewski complete the foursome.

Looking forward to a leisurely 12-mile loop, they turn south toward the trailhead and facilities at New Hill and Olive Chapel Road.

Steve Goodridge and his wife sometimes take their 10-year-old son and 5-year-old twins to the ATT, but more often you will see the family tooling around downtown Cary on their bikes.

“We like to ride to downtown Cary to get ice cream at Ashworth’s,” he said. “Ice cream is a pretty easy carrot to get them to ride a bike.”

Goodridge, a cycling advocate and an instructor with the League of American Bicyclists, encourages parents to plan short trips with lots of breaks — every 20 minutes or so — when riding with children. Short jaunts to the playground are ideal.

But before a child can ride his own bike on family outings, Goodridge says, he should be able to ride in a straight line and be able to look over his shoulder before moving laterally. Hand signals are less important. To prevent a crash, he said, “signaling isn’t always enough, but looking is almost always enough.”

The office parks of Western Wake can be good places to practice these skills. Practically deserted on the weekends, they offer a network of streets for kids to practice navigation, but without distracting traffic. The area’s greenways are also great for new riders, Goodridge says, especially those stretches that don’t get a lot of traffic during off-peak times.

The greenway system also links to other great places to ride in the area: Cary’s Bond Park and William B. Umstead State Park, also voted by readers as among best places to ride.

With its many amenities, including a paved trail, restroom facilities and playground, Bond Park can get busy during peak weekend hours. At Umstead, the 13 miles of tree-lined trails and gentle hills attract riders who want to feel as if they’ve left the city for a while.

No matter which path you choose, it’s hard to beat a beautiful day on a bike.

“It’s just fun,” Goodridge said. “It’s just fun and healthy.”

Editor’s note: June 1 is National Trails Day, and dedication day for the final segment of Cary’s Black Creek Greenway, now a 7-mile stretch of outdoor fun connecting Bond Park to Lake Crabtree and Umstead State parks. 

Essentials for summer cycling

Mike Berry, head mechanic at Cycling Spoken Here in Cary, says two things are vital for Triangle riders: a helmet and hydration.

Especially in the summer, “Bring water for anything beyond 30 or 45 minutes,” he said, “even if you’re riding at a leisurely pace.”

As for bikes, the most versatile style is the All-Terrain Comfort Bike or Urban ATB, Berry says. Its upright riding position and wider seat are designed for the rider’s comfort, and its tires can handle a variety of surfaces: paved street, gravel bike path or easy-to-walk trail.

But more important than the type of bike is the right fit, which most area bike shops will perform. An improper fit is horrible for handling, Berry says, making it tough to control the bike safely. An ill-fitting bike is also uncomfortable, making your summer jaunt anything but fun.

“If your bike is uncomfortable, then you don’t ride,” Berry said.

Don't leave home without your helmet, waterbottle, and a properly fitting bike

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