Caroline Shugart column mug

Caroline Shugart column mug

Along with hundreds of other people, I completed the 50-mile Cache Gran Fondo bike ride a few weeks ago. Wow! Some of the bicycles there cost more than my car is worth!

But what really impressed me was the cross-section of humanity represented. The riders were both young and old and the body shapes diverse. Congratulations to all the riders in the 34, 50, 70 or 105-mile races, and thanks to Troy Oldham and his team for another great opportunity to tour and appreciate beautiful Cache Valley.

The best form of exercise is the one that you will do on a regular basis, and one of the many reasons I like cycling is that it can fulfill many functions. Want to tool around the neighborhood with your friends or grandkids? Bike it! Need a low-cost, non-polluting, and exercise-inducing way to get to work or school? Get out the bicycle! Want to make cycling a great aerobic exercise? Join one of the many weekend riding groups in the area and ride 15, 25 or more miles. Want to compete against yourself and others? Races like the Cache Gran Fondo, the Little Red race (for women), the local Bike MS ride, and that quadricep busting LoToJa race (200 plus miles and three mountain passes to cross) give you a chance to compete with national and international cyclists.

Don’t have $5,000 to spring on a new carbon fiber bike? The great news is that unless you are planning to cycle long distances and go fast, you don’t need an expensive bike. The best bike is the one you will ride. In fact, my son, Wesley, rode the Cache Gran Fondo on a vintage 1985 Trek steel-framed bicycle. That’s a classic bicycle older than he is! My husband, Robert, just wore an old pair of running shoes instead of modern clip-in bike shoes. The point is, you don’t need the newest, brightest gear, especially if you want a bicycle to ride about town.

There are three things you do need, however. The first is that you need to be able to identify a plant called puncturevine, also known as goathead. If you ride your bike near or over one of these plants, chances are that the sharp seeds will give you a flat tire. There are a few places I avoid cycling in Logan because of puncturevine, so knowing what the plant looks like will keep your tires inflated. If you notice the plant around your street or sidewalk, be a good neighbor and remove it.

The second thing you need to be able to do is fix a flat tire. Most bike shops will do it for a fee (and while you are there, consider getting a full bike tune-up and safety check), but you can also buy a patch kit for one or two dollars (there are great YouTube videos on diagnosing and patching a flat tire). My recommendation is that you have a new tube on hand. If you get a flat, replace the old tube with the new tube, then later fix the old tube at your leisure. Then the patched tube can serve as the replacement when the next flat (unfortunately) happens.

Last but not least, wear a helmet. Wearing one may not prevent all injuries, but a meta-analysis, published in 2018, showed that bicycle helmets reduced serious head injury by 60%. I believe helmets are that last line of defense when things go wrong. Our brains are such remarkable organs, and I want you to keep yours intact for 100 years. So, wear a helmet — and make your children wear a helmet.

Now it is time to blow the dust off that bicycle collecting cobwebs in the garage. Take advantage of our wide streets and bike lanes. Get your exercise as you ride to work or school. Make a goal to participate in one of our local (and increasingly popular) bike rides. Learn to fix a flat tire. And wear a bike helmet.

You can do it! Cycling isn’t just for the Lycra-clad elite. It is a wonderful addition to the repertoire of wellness activities that work throughout your life span. I hope to see you on the road. Be Well!

Caroline Shugart is a nurse, dietitian and personal trainer. Her new grandson gives her even more reason to live a long and healthy life.

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