Cycling is about fun, recreation and fitness.
And, done right, safety.
So, with the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation's sixth annual Wheel 2 Heal fundraiser set for Saturday, May 3 in the Tri-Cities, here's some tips for cyclists of all ages and experiences to travel safely on two wheels:
When Mike Mostrenko speaks about the health benefits of and safety considerations for biking, he knows what he's talking about.
A physician at Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody, he's also a registered Wheel 2 Heal participant who started mountain biking more than 20 years ago as the North Shore trail network developed.
He switched to road riding three years ago after "a few too many injuries on these highly technical trails."
"Now, I truly enjoy riding my bicycle through the Tri-Cities and often venture out to Fort Langley for a coffee and some fabulous scenery," he said.
Cycling offers many health benefits for all ages and is especially good for the heart and lungs, Dr. Mostrenko said. People with arthritis who can't do higher-impact sports like running, hiking or even walking find cycling is more forgiving as it improves balance and strengthens most major muscle groups, he added.
Of course, cycling is an excellent way to burn calories and reduce fat.
"In North America, we are currently battling with issues such as childhood obesity and earlier onset diabetes," Mostrenko said. "Cycling is such a wonderful way to get the youth of today to turn off their electronic devices, get off the couch and enjoy the timeless joys of outside activity. It is a perfect outing for the entire family."
Still, Mostrenko sees plenty of injuries and offers these tips for new and experienced cyclists:
ride within your limits;
wear the appropriate personal protective equipment;
obey traffic signals;
avoid busy routes;
and used designated bike lanes.
Most importantly: "Under no circumstances should any individual ride a bicycle without a helmet - no excuses. It is the law but, more importantly, it is just the right thing to do."
And now, a word from a sponsor of Wheel 2 Heal
As the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation fundraiser gears up and weather improves, Pedalheads is reminding riders that cycling can be fun but it can also be dangerous - especially for little ones.
Last year, Pedalheads taught about 1,700 kids aged two to 12 years to ride in its two Coquitlam summer camps.
Lesson number one? Helmet safety.
"We emphasize the importance of not only wearing a helmet but how to wear a helmet," said Nick Pavlakis, community and media liaison for Pedalheads, which organizers the Wheel 2 Heal kids' race.
From there - depending on the level - instructors focus on how to stop properly, steer, apply hand signals and shoulder checks as well as the importance of staying focused and riding in a controlled manner.
At Level 4 and beyond, Pedalheads participants practise their skills on the road. At all stages, proper clothing is required: light and bright gear and running shoes (no sandals or flip flops) are best.
Pavlakis said parents like that their kids are adhering to safety and are comfortable to go out with them for a long family ride.
"Biking, we believe, is one of the best activities to be part of," he said, "because they get to be outside, it's great exercise and it's social."
And after each camp, instructors give tips to parents on how to keep up the cycling. He recommends the Deboville Slough trail in northeast Coquitlam and the Stanley Park seawall in Vancouver as good destinations, where the ground is flat and the view is nice.
Aiming to hit a half-million dollars since its inception, Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation's sixth annual Wheel 2 Heal (W2H) will be held on Saturday, May 3 at Coquitlam's Town Centre Park.
W2H, which launched in 2009, is a bicycle ride through the Tri-Cities that raises money for the foundation and features a variety of routes; they include a flat Traboulay PoCo Trail ride with options for 15km, 30km or 40km courses, or a mostly flat but challenging road ride of 65km or 100km. There is also a free kids' race.
The rides start and finish from the Coquitlam's Town Centre Park.
Since W2H began in 2009, the 1,200 riders who have participated have raised more than $445,000 to support Eagle Ridge Hospital, which serves more than 100,000 people each year.
Registration is $60 for adults, $15 for youths eight to 18 years, and kids under eight participate for free. Adults are asked to raise a minimum of $250 and youth are asked to raise a minimum of $85 to support their local hospital.
For more details and to register, visit wheeltoheal.ca.