April 7, 2010

Bicycle Built For Ithaca

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Ithaca was made for biking. No, I’m serious!  In a town only recently converted from an icy arctic tundra, who could’ve guessed that we’re surrounded by some of the best biking terrain in the country?Boasting some wicked steep roads and endless loops of downhill single-track, the city of Ithaca and the surrounding Finger Lakes region has miles and miles of adventure for the average biker, whether you prefer to cruise along Route 79 or bomb down Shindagin Hollow.

I imagine that most of you haven’t picked up a bike in some time, especially if you have a car.  While I don’t deny that the automobile is the ultimate ticket to freedom (personally I’ve driven across the country five times in 14 months), I’m here to make an argument for the bike.

Faster than foot, and with free parking anywhere you like, a bike is the ultimate way to explore both on and off campus. Everything within 15 miles or so becomes easily accessible within the hour, making lazy trips to the lake or the plantations a reality for even just the afternoon.

For those unfamiliar with bikes, there are basically two kinds: mountain and road (the purists will kill me for saying that, but I’ve only got 600 words here, so cut me some slack).  Road bikes are meant for riding on, well the road, and mountain bikes, for, gee, mountains!

In and around campus — and especially for exploring areas such as Cayuga Heights, Varna or anywhere up Routes 13, 79 or 366 — road bikes are the way to go. Slimmer, lighter and outfitted with smooth, narrow tires, these bad boys fly along paved roads, allowing you to pedal at amazing speeds and go for hours on end.  Ithaca’s infamous hills are both a blessing and a curse for road biking — they will make your calves incredibly burly, but they’ll also make you work damn hard to get to the top. Some of the best riding terrain exists around the Finger Lakes. Bring the six major lakes makes for ato compete over the course of a semester or summer, starting with Owasco, then Keuka, Skaneateles, Canandaigua, Seneca and finally Cayuga, which you can stretch to a full 100 miles of biking (known as a century ride) in a day!

If you’re more into dodging trees than pumping pedals, a mountain bike is the ride for you. It is a bike, heavier, with a sturdier frame and wide, rough tires. Mountain bikes have a front or full suspension designed to take the brunt of the impact from logs, rocks and roots, sparing your body the inconvenience of a hospital visit.  Although campus doesn’t offer much in the way of mountain biking, there is a wonderful place just up Route 79 — Shindagin Hollow. Shindagin is considered by many to be the best place on the planet (at least for those who don’t venture much out of state) for mountain biking, and for good reason.  Featuring steep, windy trails with an impressive array of natural and man-made obstacles, Shindagin is a great afternoon adrenaline rush for those looking to get a quick workout in after class.

Regardless of whether you choose the open road or the forrested mountain, biking is the ideal way to get off campus for a bit this spring and really start to explore the surrounding areas. Pavement or dirt, there is always another adventure to be had — and sometimes it’s just down the road.  Happy riding!  RLD

Original Author: Guy Ross