BY MATTHEW L. McKIBBEN
Even the old guys can do it. That’s what Rich Shade said as he was preparing to embark on a five-mile bike ride through Central Park on Sunday.
The conditions, he said, make the ride even more exhilarating.
“It’s icy and slippery, but it is a lot of fun,” Shade said, pointing to several inches of wet snow and ice that caked the ground Sunday. “You really have to focus.”
Shade, who admitted to being “over 50,” was among roughly 15 members of Helping Riders Realize Talent — a group that aims to enrich the community through cycling — who were all looking forward to the challenge of battling the messy conditions.
“The weather just makes it more exciting,” said Heather Rizzi, one of the leaders of the group. “It puts a new twist on riding.”
Rizzi said members of the group will ride whenever they can, even holidays.
“I think there was a ride that went out on New Year’s Day,” Rizzi said, noting the frigid temperature Thursday. “The weather really doesn’t bother a lot of these people; they just love riding.”
The trail is very challenging and riders must have sound technique when navigating the course, said Chuck Tarbay. Tarbay said he has been mountain biking most of his life and the Central Park trail is one of his favorites.
“There are a lot of sticks and large roots from the trees, which are very tricky,” he said, “but it is a great trail.”
While cycling in the snow and ice, Tarbay said, it is crucial to focus on technique and understand that falling will be part of the experience.
“You are going to get messy,” he said. “You just have to take your time and not worry about your speed.”
He added that riding in the snow also improves stamina and builds leg muscles.
“It is way more tiring,” Tarbay said. “You will see the improvements when you are riding in the summer and your stamina is so much better.”
Many of the riders were wearing special boots and thermal clothing, which they say keeps them warm and dry during the winter.
“Today isn’t super cold,” said Rizzi, who was sporting a pair of boots with spikes on the bottom to provide traction, “but these boots I’m wearing help grip the bike pedals in the bad weather.”
After completing a three-mile trail, Kimberley Corwin had a succinct assessment: “Now that was amazing.”
The group paused for close to 10 minutes after completing the first loop. Shade said, in total, the group will ride for close to two hours.
“We will do two, maybe three five-mile loops,” he said. “It is quite the workout.”
Reach Gazette Reporter Matt McKibben at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mattmckibben.