Cycling community strong in Central Pennsylvania

Whether your preferred bike ride features 20 miles, 40 or more, summertime in Central Pennsylvania offers lots of opportunities to compete, recreate or relax.

This weekend marks the 24th annual Bicycle Ride for Multiple Sclerosis.

The Glimcher Keystone Country Ride has become a Central Pa. tradition, and will once again draw hundreds of cyclists for the two-day, 150-mile excursion from Hollidaysburg to Happy Valley and back.

Bicycle enthusiasts prepare for months for the challenging trek, which also offers beautiful scenery, enthusiastic volunteers, and the personal reward of accomplishing a serious cycling goal for an important cause.

In fact, if you love to ride, you could spend almost every weekend making day trips to participate in organized activities. Just last weekend, the Hidden Valley Mountain Metric challenged cyclists to a variety of rides to benefit Special Olympics programs in Somerset County.

Bike Bedford County (and Beyond) is in its sixth year and will draw cyclists from as many as six states to Shawnee State Park on Aug. 10.

Riders of all ages, skill and interest levels can choose from a myriad of rides, from a free family jaunt around the Shawnee Lake to a half-century covered bridge tour showcasing the county’s historic landmarks, to a challenging climb through the Allegheny Mountains to the Flight 93 National Memorial and back. Proceeds benefit career exploration and other educational programs for Bedford County students.

Mountain bike lovers have lots of options of their own. The Allegrippis Trail System at Raystown Lake features 32 miles of fun for those who like to go off the beaten path. The three stacked loops, maintained by the Friends of Raystown Lake and the Raystown Mountain Bike Association draw riders from all over the country. Blue Knob is another of the many Pennsylvania state parks that beckon to mountain bikes.

Rails-to-Trails, including the popular Lower Trail offer beautiful scenery as well as a safe place away from traffic for both beginners and seasoned cyclists to enjoy.

Cycling itself is more than a sport or a hobby. Those who commit themselves to what can be a year-round training regimen embrace the cycling culture and a community. Area outfitters and bicycle shops offer expert advice, and sometimes even training rides and other networking opportunities in addition to sales and service.

Bicycle lovers seem to love to share their experiences, knowledge and skills with one another, welcoming the less experienced among them to rise to new challenges. In organized events, riders can start as strangers and finish as friends, often stopping to help one another fix a flat or discuss strategies at rest stops or with post-ride refreshments.

Pennsylvania communities are seeing the economic benefits of bikes as well, with trail towns recognizing the opportunities for tourism and related recreational and lifestyle industries.

We are fortunate to live in a beautiful region with filled with rural landscapes and rolling hills, and lots of opportunities to see it all … by bike.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at kellie@bedfordcountychamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.

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