“We like starting rides at Panera because it’s a good place to talk and socialize,” says Ken Schulein, the club’s ride chairman. “We get coffee before the ride, the outdoor patio has plenty of room for bikes, and it’s close to a major bike route.”
The 450-member club has a varied membership, split evenly between men and women and with ages varying from teens to riders in their 70s and 80s. “Cycling is something you can do your whole life,” Schulein says. “It keeps you in good condition as you age.”
Along with the weekly rides leaving from the Panera Bread bakery-cafe, the club also stages an annual Halloween costume ride and a Christmas Toys for Tots ride. And throughout the year, club members also roll out on longer touring rides, such as the 100-mile ride to the Jelly Belly factory in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.
Inspired to get back on a bike (or get out more)? Smart move - cycling can burn 500 or more calories an hour plus build your cardiovascular fitness and leg strength. Here are a few keys to get rolling - and stick with it.
Protect yourself. Wear a helmet every time you ride, no exceptions. Adjust its fit so that the brim rests slightly above your eyebrows (not on the back of your head), with straps so snug that two fingers just fit between strap and chin. If you’ll be riding for more than 20 minutes at a time on a regular basis, invest in some cycling gloves to protect your hands and some cycling shorts to protect your behind. The pad in the shorts will ease the pressure from the bike’s seat and reduce chafing.
Check your saddle. Your leg should have a very slight bend at the bottom of the pedal stroke when you’re seated and pedaling. It seems tall at first, but if you go lower, your knees will ache; go higher, and your lower back will be sore, too. If you have trouble getting comfortable, get fit by a pro at your local bike shop - it’s money well spent.
Drink plenty of water. Many bikes have cages attached that hold water bottles, and they’re there for a reason. Even minor dehydration can make you feel weak and lead to muscle cramping. Take a swig every 15 minutes, at least, especially in hot weather. For long rides, wearing a hydration pack is a smart idea.
Start slow. Riding is a ton of fun, but if you’re new to it, don’t overdo it. Build slowly, adding 10 percent to your total ride time each week, and you’ll fend off muscle soreness and keep all the fun intact.
Get a friend on a bike, too. Cycling is a social sport - you’ll enjoy it even more (and be more likely to stick with it, too) with a friend. And if you can’t find a friend to ride with…
Make connections around town. Planning routes and meeting up with other cyclists at your level can be easier if you tap into community resources, such as recreation departments, local YMCAs, and bike shops. Or try checking out MeetUp.com.
For more information about bike riding and safety, check out the League of American Bicyclists at bikeleague.org. And to see what the Evanston Bicycle Club is up to, go to evanstonbikeclub.org.