Despite a hill-heavy landscape, Morgantown is home to many bicycle riders. Some ride for enjoyment, some for the community, some for their own health, and some for the health of the environment. In 2016, a statistical report by The Statistic Portal, said that only 12.4 percent of Americans cycled on a regular basis. Additionally, within the U.S. 50 percent of those trips are two miles or less. Everyone has their own reason for why they should bike, but here are some good ones if you need the motivation to get started.
- Meet people and find a community
Kelly Williams is 64 years old and the president of the Country Road Cyclists in Morgantown. He has been riding with the group for several years and dedicates much of his free time to the club and to cycling. The Country Road Cyclists group is mostly made up of older adults or seniors, but the club welcomes anyone of any age to join.
As president, Williams plans out various biking trips for the whole group to enjoy together. “It’s always enjoyable to do these little biking adventures,” says Williams. Williams officially joined the club after he went on his first bike tour with the group, to the upper peninsula of Michigan. “Our [the club’s] mission is to get people out on their bikes, mainly adults, but it’s always nice to see someone come along, join the club and progress as a person and as a cyclist,” Williams says.
Williams and his wife, Gerry Katz have spend a lot of time biking, and it has become one of their shared passions. Katz who is 76, says her husband has helped her stay motivated, and riding together has helped them become closer. The couple also take their rides together as a time to learn. Katz explained when they started biking, she learned to identify wild flowers, while Kelly learned to identify birds, so they could educate each other when riding in nature.
Other groups around Morgantown and West Virginia have been established to help bring communities together. In Morgantown, another group called the Mon Bike Club meets every Sunday at the Courthouse to do a weekend ride. The Mountain State Wheelers, based in Charleston, organizes rides for cyclists of different abilities, in hopes to get people out on their bikes and riding more safely. Chris Nagorka the president of the club said the club has activities to foster relationships outside of riding as well. “We also have a post holidays dinner where everyone can get together when they aren’t on the bike.” Nagorka says most of the time riding is more fun when you do it with a group rather than by yourself.
- Boost your Mental Health
Bicycling and exercise can be used as anti-depressants. Christiaan Abildso, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health at West Virginia University and an avid biker, can feel a difference in his mental state when he doesn’t take the time to ride each day. “Other people around me can tell for sure. I can tell in the way I work or the way I talk to my children,” Abildso says. He says he is short-tempered or irritable when he doesn’t ride.
Abildso had a family member diagnosed with clinical depression for whom exercise was a part of the journey to recovery. “They started to come out with it and started to come out with some counseling and medication, and then now they’re just a really super exerciser,” Abildso says.
When he has been on the road for long weeks of traveling or conferences, Abildso says sometimes he feels the strain of the lack of activity, so his wife pushes him out the door to ride for a few hours. He says it creates a dramatic difference in his attitude and outlook on life as soon as he exercises.
A recent article in Momentum Magazine a publication dedicated to showcasing the bicycling lifestyle, noted cycling as a physical activity improves one’s self-esteem, prevents depression, and reduces anxiety and stress. According to a study on outdoor exercise, by The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, “… partaking in physical activity outside was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement,” which is just another reason biking is great for your mental attitude.
- Get in Shape and Feeling Healthy
Eric Cappellini, a West Virginia University student and member of the WVU cycling club talks about his brief break from cycling during his freshman year at WVU and how getting back on track with the team has helped him shave off the resulting freshman 15. However, the physical benefits go beyond losing weight. According to Harvard Medical School website, cycling for physical health is both easy on the joints and great for building muscle. “Pushing the pedals provides an aerobic workout. That’s great for your heart, brain, and blood vessels. Aerobic exercise also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals – which may make you feel young at heart.”
In an interview with Men’s Fitness, Andy Clarke, the president of the League of American Bicyclists said, cycling is “much easier on your legs, ankles, knees, and feet than running. Running has the potential to take its toll on the body.
Quiz Maker – powered by Riddle
- Helping the Environment with Cycling
On its website, the Morgantown Municipal Bicycle Board announces the purpose of a Morgantown bicycle friendly community, as described by the League of American Bicyclists: “…to reduce traffic demands, afford better air quality, and improve public health.”
According to information presented by the San Francisco Bay Area’s Bike to Work Day organization, bicycling is helpful to the environment because it doesn’t use fuel, uses less energy than a car, and does not require batteries or motor oil.
Cappellini, an engineering student, says, “I’m a firm believer in foot travel and other forms of transportation; cutting down on emission is huge.” He routinely cycles to and from locations around Morgantown and notes that some of the advantages are the savings from not having to buy gas, and the freedom to bypass the stress and hassle of Morgantown’s rush hour traffic jams.
A midsize car traveling a 10-mile round trip commute five days a week for an entire year uses about 124 gallons of gasoline and emits 1.3 tons of CO2, according to youcanbikethere.com. Think how much CO2 could be eliminated from the environment if more people chose cycling as their primary transportation.
Text, video and interactive content by Karlee Gibson