As cabin fever continues, many are seeking solace in a popular outdoor activity — riding bicycles.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt normalcy, West Orange residents have been lucky that their community is home to some of the best biking in Central Florida.
The local industry has enjoyed an increase in business since March, and shops such as David’s World Cycle are excited to introduce new customers to the activity.
“(There’s) a lot of new faces,” Marketing Director Ray Kennedy said. “Just in general, the excitement around biking has been bigger than we have ever seen it the past few months, which is awesome. Of course, there is the COVID side, as well — it’s been tough for all of us — but the biking makes up for a portion of what we’re missing out on by getting outside.”
With so many new people looking to get into riding, shops such as David’s and Winter Garden Wheel Works have become the first stepping stone into the world of biking. And with that responsibility comes getting new riders the information they need on all things biking.
FINDING THE RIGHT BIKE
The first question most bike shops get is the most sensible one: “What bike is best for me?”
The answer to that question revolves around what kind of riding a customer wants to do, said Winter Garden Wheel Works co-owner Dennis Jones.
“That’ll kind of narrow us down to a category of cruising with the family, or ‘Something I want to take to the beach,’ ‘I want something fast and light,’” he said. “So there (are) all these different avenues we can go down — different types of bikes. So typically, we will want to find out what type of riding they want to do first and then steer them to the right bike.”
Through the last few months, cruiser-style bikes have been among the most popular. These are made for those looking for a leisurely ride.
“The typical person who comes through the doors doesn’t want to ride 100 miles; they just want to ride the local trail — the West Orange Trail, in our case — or they just want to ride around the neighborhood,” Kennedy said. “All of those things are accomplished by the cruiser bike or a hybrid bike. … For most riders, you don’t need to get too fancy with it — you just need something that’ll fit you well and is fun to ride. As a result, you’ll end up riding it more often.”
Once you choose your bike, often there are some extra things folks at Wheel Works and David’s suggest.
Safety-related items such as helmets always are suggested for any rider — no matter their experience — while something as simple as a water bottle that attaches to your bike can help you keep hydrated in Florida’s steamy weather. There are also bells, horns and lights that can be used when riding the streets and trails.
These are important, but the upkeep of a bike is just as key, Jones said. Accessories such as a flat-tire pack are incredibly useful, while chain lubricant is vital to keeping your bike rolling.
Among the many maintenance aspects of a bike, Kennedy suggests, is checking tire pressure, which will help the ride quality more than anything.
“If they’re over-inflated, you are going to have a rough ride; if they’re under-inflated, you’re going to be working too hard on the pedals,” Kennedy said. “Finding that correct tire pressure before you leave for your ride is a super important thing to remember.”
QUICK TIPS & SETTING GOALS
Both Jones and Kennedy are cycling veterans and have accumulated a number of tips and notes to help customers get the most out of their cycling experience.
For Jones, one of the main tips he has taken from his time in the industry goes back to maintenance — specifically getting a professional to look at it, because you never know what could be wrong with a bike.
“No matter where you got the bike or if you haven’t ridden it in a while or anything like that, I always caution people to have it checked by a professional before you head out,” Jones said. “I’ve done the mistake where we have had bikes come in for service and somebody says, ‘Oh, it’s making a little bit of noise,’ and you want to take it out for a test ride — the handlebar is loose, the seat is loose, the wheel is loose. You never know what may be underneath, so you just don’t want to grab somebody’s bike and go take off on it.”
Other things such as group rides and racing are fun ways to get deeper into the sport. Kennedy has two tips he often suggests for beginners looking to set goals.
“Just starting out — for most riders — I tell people usually just to get on your bike and set a goal of riding once or twice this week, after work, around the neighborhood,” Kennedy said. “The second step that I do suggest … is tracking mileage — it’s really motivating for a lot of guests I talk to, and to myself. That’s an awesome carrot to dangle and push (yourself).”