Just because there will be no International Tour de 'Toona this summer, it doesn't mean that the sport of cycling is on its last legs, or make that wheels.
Scott Woomer, president of the Blair Bicycle Club says the group is about 100 members strong, and growing.
"Our goal is to foster a positive cycling experience in and around Blair County," he says, "and to advance the sport of cycling."
The club coordinates four on-road group rides per week, including a beginner's ride on Tuesday nights. The members also plan annual trips and social events for participants of all colors of collars.
"We have a very diverse group - doctors, lawyers, school teachers, people who work in factories around Blair County,'' Woomer said, "and for all of them this is their outlet, their exercise. Once you get on the bike, all of your during-the-day titles go out the window and everyone is there to enjoy the common interest of riding your bike."
Woomer notices more and more people using their bicycles for transportation, especially since last summer, when gas prices reached almost $5 per gallon. However, the economic and environmental benefits of riding are just the beginning.
Biking is a healthy, low-impact aerobic activity that is good for just about everyone. Even beyond the health factors, there's something liberating about climbing on a bicycle and going for a ride.
"Go out and relive a little bit of our childhood," Woomer said. "For a lot of people the bike is the first break-away from home, the first vehicle that let them get away from their parents, even a little bit, and that feeling doesn't change. It's a release."
The Blair Bicycle Club will disappointedly miss the postponed Tour de 'Toona, which was scheduled to start July 16. The multi-stage race gave the local cycling community a chance to rub elbows and derailleurs with cycling royalty like Lance Armstrong and George Hincape.
"It always got our club excited," Woomer said. "Each year we did a ride where we invited the pros to join us as a cool-down opportunity for them to just spin their legs. It was nice to intermingle with the pros in their domain on the bike, and it was enjoyable for club members to get up close and personal with some of these pros.''
Woomer, a member of the Tour de 'Toona steering committee, hopes the race will return in 2010, reinstating Altoona as a key stop on the summer pro cycling schedule. In the meantime, the Blair Bicycle Club will continue to encourage residents to trade in their four-wheeled rides for two wheels.
"We are very fortunate living here because we have a lot of roads with good shoulders that allow you to ride safely," he said.
A good road, good weather and a good attitude are all you really need to have a good summer on a bicycle. You can find out more about the local club online at www.BlairBicycleClub.org.
Goodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.