Greater Peoria Metro Area, IL

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

The Season of Cycling


By Alexander Germanis


When I was growing up, the end of the school year meant far more than just no more books and no more teachers. Late spring was the start of The Season; it was finally time to open the garage, pull my bike out of winter storage, and head off to adventure.

Whether it was by riding around the block by myself, building a ramp with my friends so we could injure ourselves by pretending to be daredevils, or racing down a hillside or the library steps, bicycling was one of the best things to do during the warmer months.

Decades have passed and while the type of bicycle I ride has certainly changed, my attitude toward cycling has not.

Cycling is a sport unlike any other. Because of the variety of bicycle types, the unending list of locations and environments in which one can cycle, and the relative ease of accessibility of the sport, it is something that can appeal to people from all walks of life and all skill levels. And even though it can also be enjoyed by riders of all ages, there’s something so pure about it that it can transport all of us back to those summers of childhood.

The Bicycle Family Tree

Like many other inventions, bicycles have evolved over time. Since the days of the wooden-framed velocipedes of Europe, the high-wheels, and even the heavy-framed cruisers still in use by many to this day, there are always those who look for new ways to enjoy the two-wheeler.

For some, the bike is a way to feel the rush of speed. Nothing quite matches the thrill one can feel as the landscape streaks by, the road beneath one’s wheels blurs, and the wind courses past the ears. For those, the racer or road bike was invented and remains the standard for speed seekers. Companies like Specialized, Giant, Cannondale, Cervelo, Vitus, and Trek provide models in a variety of prices and models to fit the different needs for speed.

The hikers of the bike world, however, prefer the mountain bike. Its versatility allows for paved road runs, certainly; but at the drop of a hat, one can turn off into the woods, ride over rock strewn trails, or tackle terrain that would leave a road bike in ruins. Santa Cruz, Trek, Ibis, GT, Specialized, and Yeti are just some of the best mountain bike makers.

Sprouting off the bicycle family tree, the E-Bike, or electric bicycle, has been steadily gaining in popularity. Pedaling provides power to the attached battery which, in turn, powers an electric motor that assists the rider. This can be especially helpful for making it up difficult hills, for mountain bikers who want to ride down the same course several times but want to save their own energy for the ride down, or for simply going faster on level roads than one would otherwise be able. A friend of mine also used his to aid in his commute to and from work in downtown Chicago as a practical alternative to driving or using public transportation. Aventon, Velotric, Lectric, Rad Power, and LeMond are some of the leading brands in the E-Bike market.

Of course, the weather in Illinois does not always cooperate with our desire for an enjoyable ride. A form of virtual cycling can be achieved with at-home training stands for your bicycle. For the tech-savvy, Smart Bikes or Smart Trainers can be used in conjunction with any of several virtual cycling programs or indoor cycling apps such as MyWhoosh, Zwift, or TrainerRoad. Many of these apps even allow you to socialize with other bikers from around the world as you engage in virtual rides while still enjoying the health benefits and fun of biking. Peloton is perhaps the most widely recognized brand for Smart Bikes, but Wattbike, Wahoo, and KICKR also make highly rated mounts.


Explore Your World

For those who want to enjoy the world around them, the Greater Peoria area offers several trails—off-road and paved—that will sate the appetite of many classes of cyclists. Easier paths are good for beginners or for those who just haven’t ridden in a long time. For those with more hours in the saddle, however, longer and/or more challenging trails—specifically the off-road ones—may be more appealing.

Peoria boasts a few paved trails of easy to moderate difficulty: the Rock Island Greenway, which follows the Illinois River; its offshoot, the Rock Island Greenway: Dominion Square to Dunlap; the Laura Bradley Park Loop; and the Springdale Savanna.

For a longer ride, the River Trail of Illinois, also called the Carl Bud Schmitt Trail, runs for nine miles, while the Rock Island Trail runs 38 miles from the Bob Michel Bridge to Toulon. Information on these trails and more can be found at

Should your bike be built more for the rugged outdoors, Peoria also has a long list of mountain biking courses: Wildlife Prairie Park, Kinsey Park, Jubilee State Park, Fort Creve Coeur, Independence Park, Farmdale Reservoir, Everett McKinley Dirksen Park, and Black Partridge Park. An excellent source to determine the current state of each trail can be found at the Peoria Area Mountain Biker’s Association website (

If riding in groups, socializing, or racing is more your speed, cycling events can be found in any area by visiting


Get Back in the Saddle

Regardless of the class of bike one chooses to ride, the health benefits are plentiful. Cycling improves cardiovascular health, mobility of the lower joints, and will grant many of the aerobic benefits of running and jogging without the detrimental long-term impact those exercises can have on the back, knees, ankles, and hip joints.

Routine cycling, especially at higher intensity levels, can help you lose weight, build stronger lower muscles—specifically the quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, and glutes—and it will boost the metabolism. It can also improve coordination, balance, reaction time, and posture.

Like most other forms of regular exercise, cycling can also decrease stress levels. While, for most adults, that should be an enticing enough reason to get back in the saddle, the real reason to put foot to pedal is because cycling is fun.

Every day that I head out on my bike, I throw a Camelbak hydration pack on, select some tunes for the ride, and forge ahead. Sometimes I select a route ahead of time and sometimes I don’t.

Therein lies the beauty of cycling. It is freedom on two wheels. For the adult just as for the child, cycling can be a passport to explore new neighborhoods, expand your boundaries, or clear your mind and allow your imagination to flow.

While for some, cycling can be a way to tap into one’s inner child and feel young again, for others it is simply a way to stay young.


Why I Ride

Although two centuries have passed since the invention of the bicycle, the interest in throwing a leg over the saddle, setting feet on the pedals, and pushing off to adventure has never been stronger.

I have been in love with the sport since my father and older sister taught me how to ride. Three days of practice for that little kindergartener turned into a lifelong obsession. There is nothing like speeding down the trails, coursing past the cornfields, or trekking to new towns powered simply by my own steam.

Years ago, I came across a sign that summed up why I love to ride in such succinct terms, I saw no reason to attempt to improve upon it: “I don’t ride my bike to win races; nor do I ride to get places. I ride to escape this world. I ride to find peace with myself. I ride to feel free; and I ride to feel strong.”

Why do you ride? And if you’re not riding yet, what are you waiting for?