© Velo Gallia Cycling Club

© Velo Gallia Cycling Club

This is the time of the year when majority of us give up on our new year’s resolution of getting back into shape, or shedding a few pounds. The monotonous routine of going to the same gym, staring at the wall day after day while exercising, or being frustrated by running on the treadmill, whatever the reason, the fact is that your plan has failed. But, it does not mean that you need to give up on your goal, rather this is the time to think outside the box. There are many other physical activities that you can engage in to help you attain your goal and keep you motivated.

One of the activities that stands out is also the oldest, and is claimed to be the best invention in modern history – “Bicycling”. Often cycling is associated with inspirational athletes at the peak of their physical fitness wearing skintight colorful outfits and riding hundreds of miles a week. But, it is also an activity that most of us have indulged in at some point in our lives. Since many of us have ridden a bicycle when we were young, it is something that we can easily pick up again to attain our physical fitness goal, shed weight, fight medical conditions, or simply heal ourselves psychologically. However, the challenge is how and where do we start from.

Velo Gallia – propelling you into the enchanting world of cycling.

Taking up cycling is not as daunting as it might seem. There are many cycling clubs where like-minded cycling enthusiasts meet, ride, and are usually the best place to take up and enter the fascinating world of cycling. Like many cities, big and small, we too have a cycling club in Gallipolis called “Velo Gallia”. Although, not many people are aware of the existence of the club, but the club has been in existence since last few years and has 78 members. A dozen of them meet every week at the Family Dollar on Jackson Pike from where they commence their pre-planned rides. Velo Gallia has both, men and women, of all age groups, and different skill levels – from beginners, intermediate and professional riders, as heir members. The weekly rides are planned based on the skill level of the members participating and range from a short 15 mile ride to a century (100 miles) on a flat terrain, or a hilly one on the country roads. Over the years some of the members have built strong friendships and have gone on to raise funds for charities through cycling.

The club membership is free and open to all, irrespective of age, gender or skill level. Even people who know nothing about cycling are encouraged to join the Velo Gallia online facebook page where they can ask questions to fellow members and gain an insight on how to take up cycling. Lester Jr. Ross, Velo Gallia member, a US Army National Guard veteran and a self-confessed cycling fan says, “we organize beginner and intermediate rides every month, which usually is the best way to get acquainted to cycling, make new friends, and get answers to all your questions.”

Cycling and your health

Having learnt where to start, we also need to consider how good is cycling for our health, especially if we’ve not done that much exercise in a while? Or would we be better and safer pumping some iron in the gym, or splashing around in the pool? Analyzing the calories burnt charts; on the face of it we can conclude that cycling does not top the charts. Running burns more calories than cycling, but comparing the two would be like comparing apples to oranges. Running maybe better, but shifting the body weight takes a toll on the joints. Darnin Smith from Bidwell and a Exercise Physiologist at the Pleasant Valley Hospital says that this is where cycling comes in as a low impact sport, which is beneficial to people who are just starting an exercise routine. During cycling majority of the body weight is borne by the saddle and the handlebars, leaving only a portion of it on the knees and ankles.

Cycling also provides a lot of room to improve as one progresses and becomes better at it. With initial rides that can be just a few miles at a slow pace, to conquering brutal hills and covering hundred miles a day like a tour de france athlete, is all possible in cycling. Unlike swimming, where mastering the technicalities and adapting to water is a big challenge for many, cycling only requires you to get on to a bicycle. Cycling provides overall cardiovascular exercise that can be taken up by anyone irrespective of age, physical condition, weight and other factors. It offers many advantages, improves muscle tone, builds stamina, burns calories, improves heart health, reduces stress, and improves coordination among others. It is also the only exercise regime that can be easily incorporated in your daily life, be it through commuting to your work on a bicycle, or taking recreational rides with your family and friends. Keith Wolfe of Gallipolis, who lost substantial weight and considerably improved his heart health, says, “cycling is the best form of exercise, but it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor if you are suffering from a major medical condition before you begin cycling.”

Make friends, explore nature and heel psychologically

            Vello Gallia rides are a perfect way to make new friends, and ride with the group. The group allows members to interact with each other, get information about cycling events and makes the ride a whole lot enjoyable. Many of the rides will take you through some of the picturesque country roads, experience nature and will allow you to stop at regular intervals if you are not in a fast paced group to enjoy the appachalian scenic beauty around the Gallia county. “The best way to enjoy nature is on your bicycle with friends,” says Brenda Scott, an avid triathlon athlete and a club member from Point Pleasant.

On a few weekends slow-paced club rides are planned with a objective to enjoy the scenic beauty and hang around with fellow Velo Gallia members says Lester Jr. Ross. In the coming few months the club plans to design custom cycling jerseys for its members. The club has a strong culture of fostering and mentoring members new to cycling. A few members would be more than happy to let you ride their bicycle to get a feel, or help you navigate through the initial phase of purchasing your own bicycle or equipment.

Cycling is also great because the whole family can participate. Unlike other sports that are physically of technically demanding, cycling allows everyone, from kids to the grandparents, to enjoy an outing on their bicycles. Additionally, babies and toddlers who cannot ride on their own can accompany the family in safety-certified child carriers attached to their parent’s bicycle. Over the years many Velo Gallia members have successfully persuaded their family members to ride with them.

Its not about the bike

            It’s a no brainer. Cycling is one of the best forms of exercise that improves your health and fitness, and is kind on the environment. Don’t let the bicycle prices become an impediment in your cycling journey. Bicycles are designed for different purposes. From sleek looking road bikes on which Lance Armstrong and other athletes have been widely pictured across the media to the ones sitting on the racks at your local Walmart store. Bikes can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. There is no upper limit on what you can spend. But, having said so, you do not need a fancy bicycle to start cycling. Velo Gallia focuses on road cycling, and you can buy a cheap one to begin with. Roy Mayes, Velo Gallia member from Gallipolis highly recommends talking to fellow Velo Gallia members before investing in a bicycle, “many members are upgrading their bikes and would be happy to sell their old one at a cheap price or let you ride one until you purchase your bike.”

Some Velo Gallia members also actively participate in mountain biking, riding on trails along Bob Evans farms. If this is something you want to do, any mountain bike would get you started. Like clothes, cycles also come in different sizes. Getting the right fit for you is essential as it will help you perform better, make cycling enjoyable and avoid injuries. Your investment in your bike would be determined by your goal. If you plan to start cycling and keep it to a recreational level, you should try and find a good bargain. But, if you plan to compete in triathlons or cycling races, investing in a good bike is highly recommended. Whatever your goals are, Velo Gallia members would be more than happy to assist you in finding the right bicycle for you.

If you follow the rules you will be safe

            Being safe while cycling is of paramount importance to Velo Gallia. From wearing a helmet to obeying traffic rules, cyclist’s safety is always the priority. Charlie Baker, a veteran police officer from the G.D.C who logs thousands of miles on his road bike every year said, “Cyclists have equal right to use the road as does other traffic, but being safe is in [the cyclists] your hands. Always be visible by wearing bright colored clothing, use head and tail lights while riding in the dark, use hand signals, and ride to the extreme right of the road.” There are many accidents that claim the lives of cyclists across the country every year, majority of the times it is due to a reckless driver. Riding in a group makes cyclists more visible to the traffic. All members new to cycling are given instructions about road safety before their first ride, says Cody Smith of Rio Grand. The club also plans to get dedicated cycle lanes on a few roads in Gallia County and they are working on this and plan to petition the city council this year.

Take it a notch higher

Velo Gallia boasts members who are professional athletes, recreational athletes, and members who ride for a cause. Darin Smith of Bidwell is a duathlon athlete sponsored by the TheTriShop.com from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Brenda Scott of Point Pleasant, WV. competes in triathlons and is scheduled to compete at the Ironman triathlon this year. Ken Holly from Gallipolis, Cody Smith, Charlie Baker, and Rich Haft (an avid duathlon athlete) participate in cycling competitions across the eastern coast of the country. Charles Angel from Gallipolis, who will be competing at the Louisville Ironman triathlon this year says, “the [Velo Gallia] club pushes me to ride harder and more often than I would ride on my own.” Last year Lester Jr. Ross along with Cody Smith raised one thousand dollars and rode hundred miles for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. They plan to raise more funds and encourage more members to be a part of the cause this year.

Undoubtedly cycling is one of the best sports around and Velo Gallia is the catalyst that can help transform your dream of riding for fun, or competing in races into reality. Whatever your goal maybe, you will find people with similar interests who would be willing to tag along with you at Velo Gallia. Anyone who is interested in cycling or would like to know more about the group is highly encouraged to join the club’s online facebook page or contact Lester Jr. Ross at (740) 645-1555.