Riding trails is a favorite past time for older adults
MONTGOMERY – Rosemary Seibert of Montgomery explodes with excitement and anticipation when she talks about her “century plus” ride planned for this summer, a bicycle ride on the Pine Creek Rail Trail from Jersey Shore to the Wellsboro area and back. It is 125.5 miles of cycling in one-day, a 12-to-13-hour trip.
The Brady Township woman is 65 and retired, one of many baby boomers and older adults reshaping the demographics of bicycling, thanks to the growing number of bikeways where the cyclists are safe, not having to share the road with cars.
The Associated Press reports the increase in street cycling has coincided with a 6.6 percent rise in car-bike crashes and a 1.5 percent increase in deaths between 2001 and 2013.
A few weeks ago, a man was charged with the hit-and-run death of a 12-year-old girl who was riding her bicycle along a road in Tioga County. But there are no cars, no motorized vehicles on the bikeways.
Seibert and two of her biking friends, Tom Smith, 71, of Jersey Shore and Ralph Mantle, 90,of Salladasburg. have been bike riding for many years. Smith for 30 plus years has been a riding member of the Century Plus Club, (finishing the 125.6 mile ride) since 2008.
Ralph Mantle started biking when he was 75 and like to ride the Pine Creek Trail. Pine Creek Outfitters, located west of Wellsboro, documents the trail as one of the “top ten places to bike,” sharing the designation with places in Ireland, Puerto Rico, Italy and Nova Scotia, among others. The trail is a converted railbed that winds along the bottom of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and the picturesque Pine Creek Valley.
Lycoming County Transportation Planner, Mark Murawski, says the other four major bikeways in the area are the Susquehanna River Walk, a six-mile trail on the levee system in Williamsport and South Williamsport; The Lycoming Creek Bikeway between Williamsport and Hepburnville, a 5-mile trek; The 3-mile ride on the Montoursville Bikeway at Indian Park; and the Loyalsock Bikeway that connects the Susquehanna River walk at Commerce Park Drive and meets the Montoursville Bikeway by the Green Bridge.
Outside of the county, there is the Buffalo Valley Bike Trail, nine-miles from Lewisburg to Mifflinburg; The Susquehanna Warrior Trail in Columbia and Luzerne County along the Susquehanna River and new trails opening in the Danville area
The benefits of bicycling are well documented. But Seibert and her fellow bicyclists suggest to take it easy from the start. “Don’t try to go too far too fast,” she said echoing a Mayo Clinic study that most injuries occur during physical activity resulting from the “terrible toos” – too much, too hard, too fast, too soon, too long.”
Asked for his views on bicycling, Dr. Patrick Carey, Orthopedic Surgeon with Susquehanna Health, says, “As the human body ages, it begins to wear down and many of us have learned to live with the pains of getting older. The repeated abuse of daily activity can take a toll on the body. Often, people are interested in losing weight, increasing their fitness level, or simply becoming more active. But a sore knee, hip or ankle restricts them from participating in typical exercises such as walking or jogging. Low impact activities allow you to experience similar benefits of more traditional form of exercises without experiencing joint damage.”
Dr. Carey further states, “Depending on your issues, low impact activities may actually promote the healing and recovery of your damaged joints, thereby allowing you to return to higher impact activities in a timely manner.” But, he cautions, “Consult with your Doctor before beginning any exercise routine.”
Rosemary Seibert was a strong runner most of her life, having completed her first marathon 30-years ago. But her life changed in 2014. A nagging muscle injury forced her to see a physician. The news she got was as hurtful as the bruised muscle. She had to have a hip replacement, a terrible verdict for a runner. The hip was replaced, and Seibert bought a bike instead. She has been running ever since without her feet touching the ground, the low impact activity encouraged by Dr. Carey.
When ready to hit the trails, visit one of the local bicycle shops like Marty’s Bicycle Shop in Muncy and Pearson’s Bike Shop in Hughesville. They will get you started with a new bike or a tuneup of the bike you are bringing out of the basement or garage.
The selection of new bikes is exceptional. They recommend that if you already have a bike, a tune up is a must. The owners will take your bike on a ride of its own, tighten all the nuts and bolts, adjust or tighten the brakes and shifting cables, and adjust the gearshifting mechanism for controlling the speed by shifting the sprocket chain from one to another set of different-sized sprocket wheels. The chain and cables will be lubricated with a special lubrication you may not have at home.
Tires will be checked for wear and pressure. Tires for rails to trails biking should be smooth in the center but have an aggressive tread on the outside to grip any loose gravel or dirt according to the mechanics. The bike seat will be checked for your comfort. Padded gloves will be recommended to help grip the handle bars and not stop circulation in your hands.
The handle bars will be adjusted to your biking style. You will be advised to carry a tube patch repair kit and pump or a bike tire inflator sealer that can repair flats in seconds. An ID bracelet is also suggested to carry identification on every ride, and let someone know where you will be biking.
A key to a pleasant bicycle trip is to have the proper rack on your vehicle to be able to load and unload your bike with ease. They will show you the hitch, rear and roof mounts. When you leave their shops with your new bike or your old bike with a tuneup, you can count on a worry-free season of riding the trails and experiencing what Rosemary Seibert describes as “a peaceful feeling, clearing your head, serenity.”