Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
Warm weather ushers in the cycling season.
Mark Taylor | The Roanoke Times
Candice Coleman and Jess Shangraw of Roanoke ride along the Enchanted Forest trail at Carvis Cove.
Mark Taylor | The Roanoke Times
Candice Coleman of Roanoke rides along the Enchanted Forest trail at Carvins Cove on a warm afternoon in April. The Cove’s extensive trail system is a favorite of mountain bikers.
Friday, April 26, 2013
The sun was beaming through the tall pines along the Enchanted Forest trail at Carvins Cove on Wednesday afternoon.
And smiles were beaming on the faces of Candice Coleman and Jess Shangraw, out for a casual mountain bike ride.
Given the choice of riding on the road or trails, Shangraw said the decision was easy.
"I'll take my chances with the bears," she said, referring to a critter spotted frequently by the Cove's users. "Rather than with traffic."
To each his own.
The region's riders have plenty of options.
For the next six months or so, all will be busy with cyclists.
Ready to ride
Plenty of people pull their bikes out of the garage or shed in April and get going.
They are usually pretty easy to spot. Or rather, hear. On the greenway they don't need to announce their approach with "On your left" because the bike sounds like a rusty cotton gin.
Don't be one of those people.
Noisy bikes are not only annoying, they are slow, inefficient and potentially even dangerous.
The chain is often a culprit. At best, an ignored chain gets covered in dirty grease. At worst, it becomes rusty.
The best way to clean a greasy chain is to use a commercial chain-cleaning tool, which clip to the chain and scrub it with brushes and solvent. Spraying a chain with a good solvent, such as Simple Green foaming bike cleaner, then brushing it is an another option.
After the chain has been cleaned and dried, spray it with a chain-specific lubricant, which will do a much better job of resisting dirt and grime than a general purpose oil or lubricant.
Derailleurs, the mechanisms that shift gears, should also be cleaned with something like Simple Green, brushed, and lightly oiled.
For youth bikes, another year usually means the kids will require some fit adjustments, the primary one being raising the seat.
Seat posts are marked at the safest maximum extension. Never extend a seat post beyond that line.
Higher-end bikes with multi-piece stem configurations allow for longer stems to be added, which can extend the bike's reach to the handlebars.
Ensure that all bolts and nuts are tight. Pay particular attention to the nuts that hold the wheels to the frame and fork.
If you'd rather have a professional mechanic work your bike into shape, take the bike to your local bike shop - or LBS as cyclists call them - and ask for a tune up.
Keep in mind that many shops are slammed with tune up work this time of year, so don't be surprised if you can't get your bike back in a day or two.
Where to ride
For road cyclists, the region has thousands of miles of suitable roads, some more cycling-friendly than others.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a popular riding route. But in this area it's an intermediate destination due to the frequent hills.
Rural state routes are another excellent option, and can often be linked to create great loop rides.
The Map My Ride website (mapmyride.com) is an excellent resource for finding routes.
The region's growing network of paved greenways, such as the Roanoke River Greenway and Blacksburg's Huckleberry Trail, can provide an inviting riding area for riders on road bikes, provided the cyclists ride at a casual, safe speed.
Greenways also can be a good way to get used to a new road bike before moving on to the roads, and can provide convenient connectors to other roads.
Because greenways are often congested, they are not suitable for serious road bike riding.
Sharing the road with traffic can be intimidating for new road cyclists.
To help ease riders onto the roads, the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club, Ride Solutions and LBS East Coasters are teaming up to offer an Open Roads program, which starts in May. Visit brbcva.org/open-roads for more information.
While greenways aren't well suited for speedsters, the paths are ideal for casual family rides. Most offer ample parking for riders who have to drive their bikes to the greenways.
Keep in mind that for kids just learning to ride without training wheels, sometimes-crowded greenways can present some challenges. A better option might be an empty school parking lot on a weekend.
Visit greenways.org for more information, including maps, on the Roanoke Valley's greenways.
Mountain bikers have a number of excellent options.
Cinder rails-to-trails paths, such as the New River Trail, are great for getting in quite a few miles on easy terrain.
The Virginia Creeper trail is another popular rail-trail option. Many cyclists take a shuttle from Damascus to Whitetop and then enjoy the 17-mile downhill ride back to town. But the grade is modest enough that an out-and-back ride from Damascus is not bad at all.
More advanced mountain bikers are often drawn to narrow, winding trails, known by the term singletrack.
Carvins Cove is one of the region's singletrack meccas, with roughly 40 miles of trails. A few of the trails are suitable for beginners, but much of the terrain is best suited for riders of at least intermediate ability.
The area's Bennett Springs parking lot provides the best access to the most popular riding areas. The area is so popular that the lot is often packed on good weather weekends. The Blue Ridge Bicycle Club web site (brbcva.org) offers a quick link to a Carvins Cove trail map.
Other excellent mountain biking areas include Douthat State Park (dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/dou.shtml) and the U.S. Forest Services Pandapas Pond Recreation Area (www.1.usa.gov/11QSN3b) located just outside of Blacksburg.
Gear and safety
Casual riding doesn't require any special gear - with one exception.
All cyclists should wear a certified helmet. Even at slow greenway speeds, a bare head that smacks into concrete can sustain a traumatic brain injury. Helmets need to fit properly and, of course, be buckled. (Yes, people ride with their helmets unbuckled.)
Serious cyclists don't wear form-fitting shorts and jerseys simply to look like real riders. Tight shorts and jerseys can reduce or eliminate friction and chaffing, which can be a serious problem on longer rides on warm days.
Gloves can help riders keep a better grip on handlebars when the sweat starts flowing. They also will protect palms in the event of a fall.
Cycling shoes have stiff soles to better transfer the rider's efforts to the pedal strokes. For even more efficiency, many riders use special pedals that shoes clip into.
Finally, wear a good pair of sunglasses to protect not only against the sun's rays and pesky flying insects, but against pebbles and debris kicked up by passing traffic.
Weather JournalRain is here; watching for snow