I have that Queen song stuck in my head. It repeats like a mantra: I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride my bike. I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride it where I like.
For me, that’s Atlantic Beach or the serene pathways around Fleming Island. I’m in it, however, for the journey, not the destination. And truth is, I don’t journey enough. Because on the bike, in the open air, with trees and landscapes racing past, there is a loosening of the fetters, an unplugging from the digital terrain we normally travel, that offers us absolution from the daily grind of jobs and the endless influx of information.
Jessica Stancik of Arlington got into mountain biking with a group of friends, riding every Sunday morning. “It’s the fact that you are outdoors in nature,” she told me. “It’s very stress relieving for sure.”
Ernest Hemingway believed that it’s by “riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best,” and Jacksonville is a city rich in contours. From Black Creek Trail, throughout the urban core and across the miles of beaches from Amelia to St. Augustine, the First Coast has much to offer cyclists.
Stancik has a few favorite trails to which she returns. “For a quick, easy ride, we’ll go to Hanna Park,” she says. “That’s the main place mountain bikers ride. For a day trip, we’ll go to Palm Coast. There are three trails out there that you can hit up, including Mala Compra.”
Biking in the city, however, offers different possibilities. Tiffany Biziewski, an art director in Riverside, rides a fixed-gear bike. She notes the simple elegance of a bike with one gear: pedals moving, no coasting, and sometimes no brakes. For her, the city bike experience is both form and function. “I love riding my bike in Riverside. It’s more fun to be on a bike than in a car. You get to see more things and get a closer take on your surroundings.”
Alice Gould, manager of CityCycle agrees. “On a bike, you’re not closed up. You go at a slower pace. You notice new neighborhood businesses. Houses for sale. That feeling of connection is more extensive on a bike. You notice the world around you.”
Riding a bike offers respite from the ubiquitous surge of cars and public transportation. It allows the rider to exist apart from the daily commute. And, as Biziewski added, “Biking to work saves gas. And, no worries about parking.”
Still, for most, biking begins as a fun way to get fit. At least at first. “We see people who are simply looking to lose weight,” says Gould. “Then they ride a bit more and next do a few charity rides. Then a triathlon. It’s really inspiring.”
To be on a bike offers a beautiful rebellion in an increasingly gadgetized world. It gives us permission to enjoy the summer breeze, to notice the soft glow of dusk, and be just present enough to rediscover once again all there is to love about cycling. “I have a lot of people come to CityCycle, who had great experiences on bikes when they were younger,” Gould says. “And, when they get older find themselves drawn back to it again.”
To find the best places to bike around Jacksonville and to find bike groups or purchase bikes and bicycle gear, visit:
North Florida Bicycle Club www.nfbc.us
Open Road Bicycles www.openroadbicycles.com