On the road

If many mountain bikers would like to see less traffic on the trails, most road bikers — such as Randy Roland of Hearn’s Cycling and Fitness — would enjoy seeing more bikes on the streets.

“It’s not just a way to get to work,” he maintains; “it’s a better way to get to work. Bike commuting is particularly important for the downtown area — for instance, parking is always an issue. With a bike, you don’t have that problem. I can get anywhere downtown a lot faster on my bike that I can in a car.”

While bikers like Roland are passionate about this city’s potential as a bike town, they’re less than enthused about local efforts to make Asheville more bike-friendly. “The city could definitely do more to help bikers and to help biking catch on,” Roland explains. “Bike lanes are crucial, but it seems [that] every time the city puts up a new road, that’s not even a consideration. If you look at some other … larger cities — Seattle, Phoenix — there are a ton of bike lanes, and they have a high commute rate. Even down in the low country, [in] places like Hilton Head, they encourage biking. [In many people’s opinion], the less traffic around a crowded downtown like Asheville’s, the better.”

Aside from more bike lanes, Roland suggests that the city — and individual businesses — could make biking more convenient by installing bike racks in accessible places. “Bike racks are really helpful,” he says. “Sometimes you’re stuck with [leaving] your bike in a dark alley. If businesses would put [out] more public bike racks, they would get more customers, I think.”

Road biking, however, is not without its hazards. First and foremost is the unpleasant possibility of being struck by a moving vehicle. That chance can be minimized, says Roland, by following the rules of the road and by employing such precautions as proper hand signals to let motorists know what you’re doing.

Of course, North Carolina’s famously unpredictable weather can also be a drag. “Knowing how to dress properly will make your commute a lot more pleasant,” Roland explains. “For instance, in the spring, a good windbreaker-type thing works really well. Some type of messenger bag is good for carrying around extra clothes and extra shoes. You’ll need rain gear for inclement weather, and a rear flasher is necessary for others to see you.” Roland also recommends that riders render themselves extra-visible with reflective vests and tape. But the single most important safety precaution, he stresses, is wearing a helmet helmet: “That’s the big one.”

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