Until recently, bicycling was not an activity I did often. When my son got a new bike for Christmas in 2013, he was immediately hooked.
After months of begging me to ride with him, I gave in and dusted off my old 10-speed that I have had since high school, put some air in my tires and headed to the park with him. I could not believe how wonderful and carefree I felt, riding down the hills with the wind on my face and the feeling of freedom and speed.
But after about 30 minutes of riding, I felt a bit deflated. My rear end was starting to hurt, and I was having a hard time with the gears going up the hills. Because my son enjoyed bicycling so much and I had such an awesome feeling when I initially started out, I knew it was probably time to upgrade to a new, adult bike that would better suit my needs.
After doing some research, I found some statistics about bicycling in Women's Health magazine that made my several-hundred-dollar new-bike purchase even more worth it. According to the magazine, a 135-pound woman riding a bike at 12 to 14 mph can burn 488 calories in one hour. My gym treadmill workouts do not even come close to this amount of calorie burning, even on a steep incline. Bike riding also increases your energy level.
A study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics states that bike riding increases energy levels by 20 percent because it causes the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. A short ride at the park or around the block after work could help boost your energy for the evening hours. The same article in Women's Health also explains that riding a bike puts much less strain on your joints than walking or running.
That said, it is important to make sure your bike is a good fit and that your knee is at a 25-degree angle while the pedal is at its most distal position to ensure you are not going to strain your leg muscles. With all of these benefits combined with the family time bike riding provides, it is a no-brainer that this purchase was a good investment.
We tend to ride bikes most when we go camping and around our neighborhood, but when looking for a spot for safe riding without traffic, and with fairly flat ground, a friend urged me to try the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail, formerly known as the Northern Central Railroad Trail. This trail stretches from Ashland Road in Hunt Valley to the Pennsylvania border. Near the entrance of the trail in Baltimore County is Hunt Valley Village. This is a group of shops and eateries where you can purchase snacks and supplies for the trip — and some amazing snowballs. There is also bike rental at the village for those of you who do not have one. The cost for daily rental can range from about $5 to $12 an hour.
After you have found your way to the entrance of the trail, you are free to start riding. The trail is made out of compressed stone and provides a nice even surface for bike riding. The path does not have many steep inclines, so you can ride for miles without getting too tired.
The Torrey C. Brown trail runs through a rather wooded area, so when the sun is shining on a hot day, there is plenty of shade to keep you cool. There are many places to stop along the trail to sit and enjoy the view or take some time to rest. Because the trail is over 30 miles long, you could make a whole day out of your ride, or just go a few miles in and turn around. We like to pack a nice picnic lunch and stop at a shaded spot with a picnic table — there are many along the way — and relax and enjoy the natural surroundings. There are also portable bathrooms along the trail, as well as water fountains to refill your bottles.
To keep yourself and others who may be biking or walking along the trail safe, please make sure you follow the rules enforced by the Department of Natural Resources that are posted at the trail entrance.
Bikers must yield to the right of way of pedestrians, ride at a speed under 15 mph and pass on the left after giving an audible signal. Also, all children 16 and younger must wear a helmet. My son and I always wear helmets for safety reasons, especially because the trail can get crowded in the summer months.
For more information about Hunt Valley Village, visit http://www.huntvalleyvillage.com. For more information about the Torrey C. Brown trail, visit http://www.dnr.state.md.us/greenways/ncrt_trail.html.
Whether you are a biking aficionado or are just getting back into the activity like me, I hope you can find time this spring and summer to get out on your bike and ride like you are a kid again.
I will bet you will enjoy it as much as we do.
Kelly Scible is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.