It’s summer! The rains of spring have gone and the roads and trails in and around Genesee County are dry and ready for wheels. If you are an avid cyclist or are looking to get into a healthy hobby, now is the time to jump on and start pedaling.
For beginners, the cycling pastime can seem daunting. The bike can be expensive, cars and trucks are scary and seasoned enthusiasts are always moving so fast, decked out with all kinds of accessories. Not to mention that every bike is specialized and equipped with all sorts of levers. It really does make a person think twice about jumping on; but, I’m here to tell you that no matter your level of commitment or expertise, cycling is physically and mentally rewarding. It’s one of the few things that we never forget how to do; as if we were made to do it. So … let’s go!
In terms of well-rounded exercise, cycling is one of the best options offering mental, social and physical benefits. Here are a few:
- Cycling is low-impact. For those who struggle with joint and back pain or are dealing with recurring ailments such as plantar fasciitis, cycling removes the jarring impact that can cause or prolong injuries. It increases flexibility and strength with a much lower risk of skeletal-muscular injury.
- Cycling targets the main/core muscles. Depending upon the type of cycling you choose, just about every muscle group in the body is engaged, including the triceps and biceps.
- Cycling is less strenuous. The intensity of the workout is determined by the rider. Maybe you want to go hard one day and leisurely the next? Find your comfort level and then push it to increase fitness, all in your own time.
- Cycling is time-efficient. If capable, a cyclist can replace time riding in a vehicle with cycling to get both to and from a location (work?) while accomplishing their daily workout.
- Cycling is fun. It always has been. There is a reason why kids beg for a bike! It provides a means of movement and it’s a ton of fun to do with friends or solo.
- Cyclists enjoy a bevy of health benefits after following a daily or weekly routine such as increased cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle strength and flexibility, better joint movement, stress reduction, better mental health and self-confidence, and a more active social life. As long as you operate your bicycle in a safe manner; you can do no wrong with the hobby.
The only thing you truly need to get started is a bicycle. It is important to find one that fits your height, weight, body style and type of terrain you wish to ride – street, trails, racing, etc. Genesee County is home to some standout bike shops with staff who can answer all of your questions and help you choose what’s best. Helpful Hint: After purchasing your bike, invest in a new seat as soon as possible; comfort is crucial.
Now that you’re ready to go, it’s time to take your new bike out for a spin. If you value company or feel more comfortable biking with experts, there are bike groups (such as Social Cycling Flint or the Genesee Wanderers) in nearly every city or township in Genesee County and they are always ready to welcome new riders. Simply give them a call or make contact via social media.
Although not mandatory, most experienced cyclists recommend a few must-have accessories:
- Helmet (not legally required in Michigan, but still important)
- Bike Multi-tool (for simple repairs out on the road)
- First Aid Kit
- Bike Pump & Patch Kit
- Chain Lubricant (wet & dry)
- Additional Lights/Reflectors
- Bike Lock
- Cycling Gloves & Riding Shorts (to reduce chafing & soreness)
- Saddle Bag (to carry needed accessories and more)
Know the Rules
You now have the bike, the seat, the accessories and the will to start cycling for a healthier future. What’s next? Well, you are physically ready to ride; but you still have to study and understand The Michigan Rules of the Road for Cyclists. They are:
- The cyclist must ride as close as practical to the right-hand curb or edge of the road when riding under the speed limit. (There are five exceptions to this rule. Please, review MCL 257.660a)
- Bikes can ride on sidewalks, but cyclists must yield right-of-way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian.
- Cyclists must not ride more than two bicycles abreast.
- A cyclist is required to signal intentions via the use of hand signals (see MCL 257.648).
- If riding one half- hour after sunset, or one half-hour before sunrise, a cyclist must use lights. The law requires that a light system must include a white light which is visible from 500 feet to the front and a red reflector on the rear which is visible from 600 feet.
- A bicycle may not be used to carry more people than it is designed and equipped to carry.
- A bicycle must be equipped with a brake which enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
- Cyclists may not carry any package that prevents them from keeping both hands on the handlebars.
- A cyclist may not ride on a limited-access highway (see MCL 257.679a).
- A bicycle may be parked on a sidewalk but only in a way that does not impede the lawful movement of pedestrians or other traffic or where prohibited by an official traffic control device (see MCL 257.660d).
Where to Ride
Genesee County and Greater Flint provide some great trails of all types – paved and otherwise. Some are very challenging and should only be attempted by experienced riders and others are of a more peaceful type. Here are a few of the area’s best (in no particular order):
Bicentennial Park (Grand Blanc)
This 2.7-mile, paved route winds through the park and nature-filled marsh lands before ending on Hill Rd.
Black Creek Trail (Davison)
The quick, 1.6-mile jaunt follows Black Creek from the Davison Township Municipal Center to Abernathy Park.
Genesee Valley and Flint River Trails
These two trails combined offer over 15 miles of paved pathway (some road-riding is involved) that travels straight through the heart of Flint from Flint Township Park to Bluebell Beach on Mott Lake.
George Atkin Jr. Recreational Trail (Clio)
Follow the historic Pine Run Creek and enjoy 7.5 miles of uninterrupted travel through woodlands, parks, commercial and residential areas.
Southern Links Trailway (Columbiaville)
One of the most popular in the state, it follows an old railway line that runs for ten miles from Columbiaville to Millington.
For those who prefer a little rougher terrain (mountain biking) the areas around Genesee County offer some of the best and most challenging trails available.
Holly-Holdridge Mountain Bike Trail
A part of the Holly Recreation Area, this trail offers three loops of varying complexities, totaling a distance of 29.4-miles. The East Loop is the most advanced, featuring over 15 miles of technical obstacles and trials.
Pontiac Lake Trail
Located in Waterford Township, this trail features 11 miles of classic mountain bike obstacles including a 1,000-foot climb. Tackle this trail only if you have the heart for it.
In Pinckney, this trail stretches 24 miles and features a bevy of obstacles and every type of terrain imaginable. It’s a state mountain biking badge of honor for anyone with the guile to tackle it.
Lakeshore Park Trail
Located in Novi City Park, this ten-mile trail doesn’t need elevation to deliver the challenge. The trail features obstacles such as rock gardens, log piles and skinnies. It’s a good place to test your balance and your nerves.
Brighton Rec Area
This trail system consists of two separate tracks. At nine miles, the Murray Lake trail provides an easier ride than the blistering five-mile track aptly-dubbed “Torn Shirt.” Each trail provides its own unique reward.
Wherever you go and however you do it, cycling is the gift that keeps on giving. Good luck, fellow cyclers. Now, get on your bikes and ride!