Spinning the Pedals in Spring

By Beacon Staff

When Craig Prather, owner of Great Northern Cycles in Whitefish, sees snow melting at the onset of spring, he knows what to do: Hop on his bike and ride.

Prather said now is a perfect time for people to get out their road bicycles and start raising their fitness levels for summer. For racers, it’s necessary. For recreational riders, it’s fun. That’s why Prather’s Great Northern Cycling Club is holding a road cycling mini camp on March 14 and 15. It’s open to all ages and abilities.

“We’d be psyched with a handful of people,” Prather said. “We’re not expecting hundreds, but the more the merrier. It’s kind of on that cusp – the warm weather brings people out who are eager to ride.”

On March 14, a Friday, cycling coach Todd Tanner of T2 Performance Training, a camp sponsor, will conduct fitness testing from noon to 5 p.m., followed by a 6:30 barbecue and meeting. On Saturday, riders will once again kick off the day with testing, but will then take to the roads near Eureka and ride. If people want to participate in the testing portion, the fee is $30 for Great Northern Cycling Club members and $54 for nonmembers. Saturday’s rides are free.

“This is really a fantastic opportunity to ride with new folks, meet new folks and learn some of the finer points of road cycling,” Prather said. “It’s just offering something totally different and kind of unique to the valley.”

For racers like Howard Williams, who is the club’s vice president, the fitness-testing portion is “extremely valuable for planning training.” During testing, riders will attach their bicycles to a stationary trainer that allows them to ride in place. The trainer is hooked up to computer, which incrementally increases resistance and monitors heart rate, breathing rate, and perceived effort. The whole process, with warm-up and cool-down, takes about 40 minutes, Williams said.

“It’s helpful to establish your baseline of fitness, so you can monitor how you’re developing so you don’t over-train, because that’s a problem for racers,” Williams said.

Prather said over the past several years, more people have been getting back into road cycling after a slow period for the sport. One reason that people were shying away from road cycling, he said, was that comfort technology and overall bike efficiency hadn’t progressed over the years. But today that’s all changing.

“People are coming back to specialty bike shops and getting custom fitted for bicycles and riding pain-free,” Prather said. “It’s a pretty exciting time to get back on the road, get back riding.”

The camp will be set up at the Grave Creek cabins near Eureka in the Tobacco Valley, which is a prime cycling destination, Williams said. Right now there’s not much traffic there either.

“There’s a vast network of roads up there and they’re awesome for riding this time of year,” Williams said.

Saturday’s free rides, which begin at about 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., will be a good chance for inexperienced riders to ride next to experienced racers, Williams said. He said they will be “low intensity, high duration.” With the easy to moderate pace, inexperienced cyclers can learn to ride in packs, which Williams said “can be intimidating.”

“Because you’re not going so hard, you can actually talk,” Williams said.

People interested in the camp can contact Great Northern Cycles at 862-5231. Also, people can call the same number if they are interested in the club. Williams said the club is an opportunity unlike any other for cycling enthusiasts in the valley.

“To be honest I’m flabbergasted that more people aren’t jumping on this,” Williams said. “I feel so grateful I feel guilty even.”