Thursday, July 9, 2009

Great cycling opportunities in LKN

Editor's note: This story appeared in the Charlotte Observer's Lake Norman Magazine.

If you're considering getting into cycling, there's no better time in the Lake Norman area to take to the road or the woods.

The sport is growing, and experts say reasons for customers range from seeking stress relief to finding alternatives to gas-guzzling cars. Members of the cycling community are excited about recent developments ranging from new mountain biking terrain to a proposed cycle network.

Experienced mountain bikers can look forward to a new section of the Itusi trail. It's a challenging bike trail under construction at Lake Norman State Park in Troutman. Volunteers have been building the trail for more than a decade. The newest three-mile addition, Laurel Loop, will have larger rocks, narrower paths and fast descents with turns. Other sections of the 13-mile Itusi are good for beginners.

The trail makes the park an attraction that draws cyclists from other parts of the state, says Wes Davidson, manager of First Flight Bicycles, which has helped build the Itusi.

“There's a ton of people that go ride that trail,” he says. “The more and more mileage we get, the more and more people we will have to ride.”

Road cyclists, meanwhile, are excited about a proposed Lake Norman bike network. The N.C. Department of Transportation has selected Lake Norman and its four counties (Mecklenburg, Iredell, Catawba and Lincoln ) for the state's first regional bike plan.

The idea is to create a safe and lasting network of bike lanes and paths that connect to parks, transit stations, downtowns, the lake and other destinations.
The N.C. DOT committed $171,000 to complete a plan, and they've been seeking public input. In May, residents had an opportunity to comment on the plan at a series of meetings. Possible sites for the network include Lake Norman State Park, Blythe Landing Park in Cornelius, Beatties Ford Park in Denver and the Davidson College lake campus.

“It really opens up the door for the cycle community and getting out with our family to bike for fun,” says Sarah Matchett, a manager at Cool Breeze Cyclery in Mooresville.

Matchett leads several area rides for the shop. There are four rides, from novices to experienced, on Sundays at Lake Norman State Park. Matchett also leads a women's ride on Wednesday mornings in Davidson. She knows the challenges cyclists face on the road.
Motorists have been slow to accept bikes on the streets, Matchett says. Back roads are fine, but some roads, such as Brawley School Road in south Iredell, are more dangerous, cyclists say.

“We're sort of in the baby stages,” Matchett says.

Matchett says they try to make it easy for cars to pass because they know it's frustrating to be stuck behind slow-moving bikes.

“We have as much right to be there as anybody else,” she adds.

Whatever kind of network the N.C. DOT builds will be a welcome addition to the area, because more people are taking to the roads on bikes. Arleigh Jenkins, of Trek Bicycle Store, says in recent months they've seen more customers buying bikes for different reasons. Last year, new customers said they wanted inexpensive transportation to save money on gas. Once the economy soured, Jenkins noticed more customers bought bikes for their families.

“People realize their kids aren't getting enough exercise and people are trying to find things that are local and cost-effective,” she says.

Cycle shops (many of which have rides and clubs)
Cool Breeze Cyclery
Mooresville Gateway (Exit 33)
124 Trade Court
Suite F
Mooresville, N.C.

First Flight Bicycles
216 S. Center St.
Statesville, N.C.

Spirited Cyclist
Rosedale Shopping Center (Exit 23)
9911-A Rose Commons Drive
Huntersville, N.C.

Upcoming rides

2009 Lake Norman Excursion, July 18. Lowe's Corporate Headquarters.
Cackalacky Cup 2009, August 21-23. Lake Norman.
Hospital 2009 Kids Triathlon Series, July 25. Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics, 11725 Verhoeff Dr. Huntersville,.

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