Winter is over; spring is here. Yes, there are still miserable weather days ahead, but plenty more beautiful ones. If you haven't yet done so, it's time to get the bicycle out of storage, check it over and get it ready for some good riding.

Check that everything is clean, properly adjusted and lubricated.  Check the tires for pressure, tread wear, and cracks or tears.  Check the brakes.  Don’t know how or what to do?  Take it to your local bike shop and have it professionally inspected and adjusted.  Be sure that your tire pump works and the patch kit is complete, especially the tube of glue.  If you used it, it’s likely dried out and needs to be replaced.  If you don’t know how to fix a flat tire, now’s the time to ask, learn and practice. 

If you have not been riding over the winter, get back into practice; those muscles have rested too long.  Start off easy; don’t overdo it.  Sure, you might gut it out overexerting yourself but why suffer afterwards with pain and possible injuries?  A little practice makes all the difference and keeps it all FUN! 

Want some good riding for health and exercise?  The sun is up early and sets late enough that you can likely work in a ride early or late in the day, whichever suits your schedule.  Mornings might still be cold but the evenings will become warm. 

Where to ride?  Well, if you still fear pedaling in traffic and want only to ride pathways, you could haul yourself and your bike over to the Acorn Trail or ride the pathways around The Centre.  Sure beats a stationary exercise machine in a gym.  Rolla has several streets with marked bike lanes but I will never recommend them; too dangerous. 

Anyone reading my columns over the years knows that I recommend riding on roadways.  Consider the bicycle to be another vehicle and obey all traffic laws.  Always ride with traffic, never against it, and stay off sidewalks.  Always pay attention to what’s happening around you.  Put the phone down and do not wear earbuds or earphones.  A bicycle is slow compared to motor traffic, so ride close to the right and expect to be passed often.  Do not fall into the habit of squeezing past slow or stopped traffic just because you can do so.  Drivers do not expect to be passed while stopped in traffic or when turning right and so they are not paying attention for it.  Again, no matter how tempting, do not squeeze in between lanes and never pass on the right at intersections.  That’s where most bike/car crashes occur. 

Once you embrace riding in traffic on the open road, you find that there are countless miles available to you.  Instead of endlessly circling a city park or aimlessly cruising up and down a bike trail, you can actually go somewhere, anywhere, simply by pedaling the bicycle instead of driving a car.  You will likely cruise along at 10-12 mph and so plan enough time for your travels. 

You can choose to avoid the heavy traffic routes and enjoy the many city side streets and lightly travelled County Roads.  Don’t know where they are or how to find them?  Well, do not rely on a State Highway map since County Roads do not even appear on it.  Instead, get a County Highway Map.  Use it to plan your route.  My rule of thumb:  Avoid US Routes (like US 63/Bishop Ave) and numbered State Routes (like Hwy 72 and Hwy 68) and instead ride on lettered State Routes (Hwy O, Hwy T) and 4-digit numbered County Roads.  And don’t forget about the US Forest Service Roads in the Mark Twain National Forest.  There are plenty of them in Phelps County.  Mostly packed dirt or gravel, they are both scenic and serene. 

Want a quick, easy goal?  Rolla’s Route 66 Summerfest is two months away.  On Saturday, June 1, is the Tour de Phelps Bicycle Ride.  Registration starts at 7 AM and the ride starts at 8:15 AM.  From Matt’s Steak House, to Old St. James Road down to St. James City Hall and back.  Total distance is 12 miles.  It’s a ride, not a race, so it’s great fun for everyone; all levels welcome.  Check the Rolla Summerfest website for added details.

Want to try something challenging with real bragging rights?  Consider the “Big Bike Across Missouri” (Big BAM) ride.  Last year it followed Historic Route 66, passing through Newburg, Doolittle, Rolla, St. James, Rosati, and on to Cuba.  As reported in the 28 March RDN, this year’s 300 mile ride is 9 to 14 June and it starts and ends in Columbia, following a circular route with stops at Perry, Macon, Moberly and Arrow Rock. 

There is also a “Big BAM on the Katy” ride from 6 to 11 October from St. Charles to Pleasant Hill along the Katy Trail. 

Neither ride is for me, but if you are interested, go to the website for information and to register. 

But all of this is pie in the sky unless you actually get started.  Pull out your bike and get started.  You will be glad that you did. 

I hope that I’ve dispelled some concerns and encouraged others to give bicycle riding a try.  Perhaps we’ll meet soon.  I’ll ring my bell!