When it comes to riding a bicycle, let’s say you’re a beginner.
Or maybe it’s been years since you hopped on and started pedaling.
You know it’s fun. You know it’s great exercise. And you’d like to ride with a group.
But somehow, those cycling clubs you’ve seen zipping through town remind you of the Tour de France peloton — and you suspect you wouldn’t be able to keep up.
Don’t worry, said Michele Schasberger, who is leading a YMCA-sponsored series of bike rides called Y Cycle Sundays this month.
Beginners are welcome on the Y Cycle Sunday rides, she said, as are children and people whose cycling skills may be a bit rusty.
“We have so many opportunities to explore the outdoors in this region,” she said last weekend as she rode a bicycle with five other adults and four children alongside the Lehigh River in the Lehigh Gorge State Park near White Haven. “People from other areas, who might be on vacation, come here while people who live here might never take advantage of them.”
“We love just being outdoors. Pennsylvania is a beautiful state,” agreed Denise Olack of Shavertown, who brought her daughter, Christina Cikowski, 10, along on the ride.
For mother and daughter, Sunday was their first visit to the Lehigh Gorge State Park, where the rail-trail, part of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, provides a view of the Lehigh River and steep walls that are covered with trees and mountain laurel and occasionally punctuated by a waterfall.
“It’s very scenic,” Cikowski said.
This week, the Y Cycle Sunday excursion will be about nine miles along the Greater Hazleton Rail-Trail.
On Sept. 22 the ride will take place on the Delaware & Lehigh Black Diamond Trail starting in White Haven, and on Sept. 29 the ride will be a Pittston/West Pittston loop.
“People don’t always like to go to new places, especially with kids,” Schasberger said.
But the organized rides, she pointed out, are a place where children and their parents can arrange to meet friends, as Cikowski and other girls she knew from school did for last week’s ride.
“Kids tend to want to do it if other kids are going to be there,” said Schasberger, a self-described “in-town, neighborhood rider” who scouts the rides in advance.
If children are too young to ride their own two-wheelers, Schasberger said, the adults who come with them can use tag-alongs (a seat and one wheel that can be attached to the back of the parent’s bike), child bike seats or bike trailers.
“A lot of these trails are relatively long; you wouldn’t necessarily want to walk four miles one way on them,” Schasberger added. “But being on a bicycle gives you a chance to see more of the landscape.”
For anyone who is participating in the Keystone Active Zone passport series this season, the bike rides can help you find the answers to passport questions. One question, for example, asks about a sign near White Haven that thanks a famous person from the past. Hint: “It’s not Audubon,” Schasberger told the group.