Not only is cycling good exercise, it’s a great way to explore the area beyond your campsite
Since the 1800s, when the modern bicycle was invented in Europe, mankind has been fascinated with using our own power to propel ourselves around on two wheels. Throughout the history of the bike, it has served a variety of roles. In many parts of the world, bikes are used by couriers, police and delivery personnel; they are also used for basic transportation, training and racing. There are an estimated 1 billion bikes in the world today, and some countries rely on bicycles for a major portion of their transportation needs. Denmark uses bikes for 30 percent of all transportation, and Groningen, Netherlands, lays claim to the most bike-friendly city with three times as many bikes as cars.
Even in the United States, where automobiles account for 84 percent of our transportation, we love bicycles, but use them in a more recreational way. Even though most Americans don’t use a bicycle for primary transportation, we can learn some lessons from those who do. In some ways, motorhome travel is an exercise in minimalism. Yes, we see the irony in that statement because the motorhome itself is a six- or seven-figure expenditure, but the fact remains that it’s a lifestyle that forces us to make decisions on what we can take with us on the road due to space limitations in the coach.
Since the bicycle serves so many needs, it’s easy to see why it’s a natural fit with RVing: Bikes offer a great way to get some exercise and they can and do serve travelers as a mode of transportation once they arrive at a campground.
All it takes is a few minutes in any resort area to notice that there are bicycles everywhere. Many places such as bike-friendly Hilton Head, S.C., have dedicated lanes for bike use. These bike lanes make cycling a completely different activity as opposed to dodging cars on normal roads. So if you are looking for a bike-centered vacation, make sure your destination has plenty of bike paths/lanes.
If you decide to incorporate bikes into your vacation plans, you will notice several important differences in your trip compared to non-cycling trips. First, bikes are a great way for families to spend quality time together doing something healthy and it allows you to experience the smells and sensations of an area that is very different than just passing through in a car with the windows rolled up and the A/C on. Another advantage of cycling is of course environmental – pedal power doesn’t generate any emissions and it’s always easy to find a parking spot once you arrive at your destination.
If you aren’t an avid cyclist, but you do some riding and are thinking of upgrading your bike, the first thing you will notice is how many different types are available. Ranging from less than $100 to more than $10,000, bikes come in lots of shapes, styles and sizes.
Choosing the right bike for your intended use will dramatically increase your comfort and enjoyment.
When I rediscovered bicycling a few years ago (for health reasons), I chose this method of exercise to replace jogging because it is a much lower-impact activity and safer on the knees, ankles and hips. Cycling is not for everyone and, depending on your age and physical condition, it may be wise to consult with your physician to make sure you are fit enough to ride. If you are just planning to meander around the RV park, you need to make sure your fitness and physical dexterity are sufficient to engage in cycling. Many states and localities have helmet laws for bicyclists below a certain age, but even if you are in an area that doesn’t require the use of a helmet, it’s a good idea to always wear proper attire and protective gear.
If you would like to add cycling to your activity list or step up to a different model of bike, we are going to give you a quick overview to help you pick the right type of bike for your skill level and type of riding. There are lots of different kinds of bikes so we will cover the main types to help you get started. Each manufacturer defines its own categories so don’t get too hung up on the title if brand X uses a different name than we do.
The best resource is usually a local bike store where they have trained specialists to answer questions and steer you toward the right bike. While some of these bikes may seem expensive, the most expensive one is the one you buy and then don’t use. It usually takes several trips to different stores to gather the information necessary to make a good buying decision. Many stores have professionals to fit you to the bike. Another benefit of doing business at a bike store is they usually have a club and group rides that are chock-full of people willing to help you get started.
Traditional Road Bikes
Starting at the top of the bicycle world is the traditional road bike. These bikes are made for maximum speed and efficiency, and for use on paved roads. The riding position may look cramped at first, but even some older riders have no problem with this type of bike. They are also the lightest of all the bikes because they are generally made from carbon fiber, titanium or aluminum. The more expensive versions weigh a slight 15 pounds, which makes long rides much easier. Typically riders on this type of bike travel 15 to 100 miles in a single trip. A road bike has between 14 and 30 gear ratios, which make it easier to climb hills or travel downhill at more than 40 mph. They also require the most physical fitness and can cause neck pain due to the seated position. This is the best choice for serious fitness enthusiasts.
The next category is called fitness (or sometimes hybrid) and this is one of the most popular categories because it appeals to a broader group of people. The short definition is that a fitness bike is a road bike that has flat bars instead of drop-down handlebars. Hybrids have many technical innovations such as multiple gear ratios, and they can be light but usually not as light as a true road bike. Commuters, as well as those who just want to ride to get in shape, often use them due to the riding comfort. As long as you don’t plan on group rides with a lot of fast people on road bikes, this is a great option. Like all bike types, they come in sizes for men and women to fit your body type.
Another popular category is the city bike. These are made for a wider array of use, such as rougher roads and sidewalks that are likely to be filled with bumps. They feature wider tires and a heavier frame to help soak up the bumps and usually have a wide range of adjustable gears. The city bike has a larger seat and an upright seating position and some models have a front suspension. If you aren’t planning on taking long rides or serious training rides, this one merits consideration.
The next road-based category is known as a comfort bike, also called a casual or cruiser bike. It has an upright seating position with a tall handlebar mount that allows you to sit back on the large seat and enjoy the ride. Some models have gears, but many do not, so keep that in mind if you ride in hilly areas. Cruisers have big, wide tires and beefy frames to soak up bumps and pot holes, but don’t plan on riding them 20 to 30 miles per session because they aren’t really set up for that. These are for enjoying the scenery and riding 30 to 60 minutes when traveling a major distance is not the goal. This is the most common type of rental bike.
If you are really adventurous and like to ride off-road, there’s a bike just for you – it’s the mountain bike. These are made specifically for off-road use and include front- or front-and-rear suspension as well as large-diameter knobby tires to better roll over obstacles and get traction in dirt and sand. They also have a wide range of gear ratios aimed at the slower speeds that are necessary when riding off-road. The riding position is aimed specifically at giving you the most control of the bike while seated and standing. This kind of bike is not for everyone, but as a class, it’s one of the fastest growing categories.
No matter which type of bike you choose, the important thing is to get out there and ride. Bikes can take you places you can’t get to in a car, and allow you to experience things such as the smell of an ocean breeze, the smile and wave from another cyclist, or even the sight of a deer in the woods as you silently roll by.
Many of us choose motorhome travel because we love the outdoors and traveling to new and different places while experiencing everything that place has to offer. There are few ways to enjoy more of what an area has to offer than by seeing it on a bicycle. Before you spend another beautiful spring day riding around in your dinghy, consider adding a bike to your RV travels.
Not only will you be more physically fit, but also you will see and experience things you didn’t before biking.
E. Don Smith is a Tennessee-based freelance writer and photographer who has been a frequent contributor to MotorHome since 2006. He is the proud owner of a Tiffin Phaeton coach.