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Inside the Ride

Pedal Power

April is Valley Bike Month, a time to celebrate our gorgeous spring weather and go for a spin. Whether you haven’t ridden a bike since you were 12 or you’re an avid cyclist, dozens of family-friendly bike events aim to accommodate riders of all kinds.

So why bike? Three local bicyclists share their stories on why they took to two wheels.

The Convert

Korina Adkins Korina Adkins never gave much consideration to biking.

“I used to think I was not a bike person,” she admitted. “I thought I’m not one those people who wears spandex and helmets.”

Now, she rides as many as 80 miles a week.

“I just feel so much better both mentally and physically,” said Adkins. “My attitude has improved a ton. Socially, I met a lot of really great friends. I lost a good 15-20 pounds.”

Her cycling conversion began because she didn’t have a choice.

“The transmission went out in my truck,” said Adkins. “I couldn’t afford to get it replaced immediately so I just started bicycling exclusively to work and I got hooked.”

The fixation translated into riding for fun.

“I kept challenging myself,” revealed Adkins. “My first social ride was 12 miles. It seemed so long. The next ride was 20 miles. I thought that’s cool, that wasn’t so bad. And this past January, I biked all the way to Tucson!”

She understands why others feel skeptical about biking but encourages them to give it a chance.

“I know all ages, all body types and all skills levels of people who bike,” said Adkins. “Everybody can do it, and the bicycling community is super welcoming and encouraging. I wouldn’t have tried those longer rides if my friends hadn’t said you can do it, just show up. And all of the sudden, you’ve done it.”

The Commuter

Bill McComasBill McComas started riding as a kid, enjoying the freedom of exploring his neighborhood in suburban Chicago. Now an uptown Phoenix resident who works in downtown Phoenix, McComas commutes on his bike at least three to four times a week.

“I just enjoy it,” said McComas. “The exercise I can get, it’s invigorating. I come to work after a bike ride and I just feel better than having to fight traffic.”

Door-to-door, it takes McComas a half-hour to navigate neighborhood streets but he says the physical effort is minimal.

“When I tell people I’m commuting five miles a day to work, they think I’m running a marathon,” said McComas. “They make it sound like five miles one way is so far. Five miles on a bike is a relatively easy ride.”

What about biking during the summer heat? He insists it is no sweat.

“I ride slower, and wear shorts and t-shirts,” he said. “When I get to work, I clean up. The way home is hotter but I can take a shower when I get there.”

In fact, our climate is one of the precise reasons McComas believes Phoenix should be a premiere bicycling community.

“We have great weather most the year,” said McComas. “It’s probably better than most cities that are known for biking, like Portland, Seattle and Chicago.”

The Advocate

Nicole UnderwoodNicole Underwood turned to bicycling six years ago when she was a member of AmeriCorp, a non-profit Peace Corps group that works with non-profits around the Valley.

“Our income was humble,” Underwood admits. “Initially, it was an affordable option to the do the work I love. “

Through commuting by bike, she became dedicated to a larger cause.

“I became very aware of the cost of car repairs and how owning a vehicle puts more pressure on road repairs and requires more parking needs,” said Underwood, who recognizes concerns about convenience.

“The argument comes up quite often about convenience,” said Underwood. “One of the main challenges I hear is the need for solutions for families and individuals who need to get to their destinations quickly.”

With programs like Grid Bike Share and support from groups like the Arizona Bicycle Club, Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists and Phoenix Spokes People, she says there are plenty of people along for the ride.

“The best thing people can do is take the first step,” advises Underwood. “You don’t have to do this on your own.”

For this cycling advocate, she views the bicycle as more than a piece of equipment.

“When you ride a bike, you experience so many things,” said Underwood. “You increase your activity and your awareness of your community through sight, smell, the touch of the breeze and the people you meet. The bicycle is a symbol of connectivity, health and hope.”

Ride a bike during April to be eligible for great prizes in and be part of the movement to celebrate Valley Bike Month.

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