Cycling provides a fitness option for all ages
By Kelsey Declue // Photography by Angela Jackson
What activity requires minimal training, provides great mental and physical health benefits, allows for outdoor exploration, and is family friendly? Why, cycling, of course!
The surge in cycling popularity brought on in part by the isolation and interest in open-air transportation due to the pandemic is still prevalent today. Cycling has an appeal for all ages, fitness levels and family statuses. And the gorgeous fall temperatures and colors in the Midwest make this versatile, fitness activity a great pastime or hobby. The Southside is teeming with options and opportunities to make family bike rides or casual social rides with friends a regular on everyone’s schedule.
“Well for starters, it’s great cardio,” said Brandon Street, manager of Gray Goat Bicycle Company. “There is little to no impact on joints, and for the most part, especially with road biking, cycling is all smooth.”
“It seems to be that you can ride longer and engage in the fitness of cycling longer than many other sports because it’s a lot better on the body,” Street said.
Gray Goat Bicycle Company is a full-service repair, rental and retailshop in the heart of downtown Franklin. Street and the experts at Gray Goat boast the mental health benefits of cycling, as well.
“We use it as a reprieve for sure,” he said.” If you have a bad day, you can hit the road and you’re outside, taking in the outdoors and fresh air and you forget about what that bad day was all about. For kids and families, riding bikes together gives them that personal time our kids crave with us.”
So that’s why you should cycle, but what about where?
Of course, safety is key when it comes to cycling and the biggest threat is road traffic. The term “bike friendly” has become a bit of a buzz word, and the requirements for a city to be designated officially as such are numerous and often require comprehensive roadway and infrastructure changes. However, there are a few easy-to-spot aspects of bike-friendly spaces when considering a ride. Dedicated bike and pedestrian paths are most ideal — they take walkers and riders off the roadway and typically remove other barriers and hazards, making the ride smooth and consistent.
“Both the Franklin and Greenwood communities are doing great things to make the community and this area more bike friendly,” said Street. “These are gorgeous areas — great opportunities to pack a picnic, bike and enjoy the parks and community sites.”
The City of Greenwood’s trails system provides a network of more than fifty-linear miles of multi-use trails and walkways for children and adults in a pedestrian-friendly environment. The most popular trails include the Tracy Trail, Play Pocket Trail, Grassy Creek Trail, Freedom Park Trail and the Polk Hill Art Trail.
Franklin offers the Greenway Trail. Also known as the Franklin Historic Trail, Greenway threads through Franklin’s parks while connecting community amenities such as schools, community centers and the Franklin College Campus. For a list of more trails in the area visit www.alltrails.com
“With its history, the Greenway Trail holds a special place in our community. We love to see people, walkers and bikers alike using the area. It is so versatile,” said Franklin Parks and Recreation Director Chip Orner. “And the safety is important for our residents, too.”
Of course, dedicated trails aren’t always an option. The next best thing to look for are dedicated bike lanes. These are typically on the roadway; and they’re marked by paint lines (or better yet medians) that separate car and bicycle lanes. They’re often supported by road signs aimed at alerting motorists to potential cyclists in the area. While riding on these, Street recommends single-file biking and suggests that families place their youngest or least experienced members to ride in between veteran cyclists.
“And of course, a helmet on everyone, every time,” Street said. “Nowadays, it seems weird to see someone without a helmet and we like it that way.”
Bike groups — for either social, fitness or training purposes — mark another great indicator of bike-friendly communities. Gray Goat Bicycle Company offers three weekly bike groups, all of which leave from the shop on loops of varying speed and length. The only requirement to join — “Make sure you have a road bike,” said Street. “We can pair you with the group that’s right for your level.”
A former downhill racer, Street has been riding his whole life. As manager of Gray Goat, Franklin, he’s truly living his passion. “We’ve built something here that’s different than most. All of us at the shop have been here for years and we love what we do,” said Street. “It’s in my blood and I can’t get it out.”