Cycling gains popularity during pandemic
The combination of wanting to stay active but safely socially distanced is drawing many people to the sport of cycling this summer, according to Ed Mantaring, manager of Danny’s Cycles in Darien, at 1950 Boston Post Road.
Mantaring said as a result of the pandemic, there has been such a high demand for bicycles that there is currently a national shortage.
“The bicycle industry is experiencing the toilet paper syndrome right now. COVID really just turned everything upside down,” Mantaring said. “With the gyms being closed, people are getting tired of walking and running, so the next best thing is cycling.”
Up until about two weeks ago, Danny’s Cycles was selling 75 bicycles a week. “Now, we probably get about three bikes a week because manufacturers are running out of inventory,” he said, adding there are about 10,000 bikes on back order.
With the exception of eBikes, he said he doesn’t expect inventory of new bicycles to be to be back up to normal levels until September or October.
With everyone out on the roads, safety should be a top concern, according to Mantaring.
Aside from wearing a helmet when riding, having lights on the bike is very important, he said. There are two types of lights available — visibility and illumination.
“Visibility is more of you want to be visible to everybody no matter what time of the day, and illumination is more if you are riding at night home from work, that illuminates the road.
You put the lights right on the handlebars and right behind the seat posts, so people can see you coming and going. They are like daytime running lights.”
Additionally, Darien Health Director David Knauf suggested wearing clothing with reflective stripes and helmet.
“Make yourself as visible as you can be,” Knauf said.
Mantaring also recommends regular bicycle maintenance once a year, in person, which includes adjustment of brakes and gears.
“Make sure the bike gets a safety check to make sure all the cables and bolts are fitted properly,” he said.
Also, sizings and fittings are key to bike safety, he said. A sizing involves a needs assessment.
“We will recommend the proper size for you, based on the bike,” Mantaring said.
He added that a custom fitting is more comprehensive. “That’s really geared towards the avid cyclist, and somebody who is riding a lot,” he said. “Custom fitting is more of the five percent level, the triathletes.”
Additionally, he said most people buy a bike based on what they used in the past, assuming that it is the perfect size for them.
A bike that’s one size too large or too small can make a difference and potentially cause injury, according to Mantaring.
“They will come into a store and say ‘I want a big bike,’” he said. “They were always used to a big bike from childhood.”
However, their bike may not have been properly fitted initially or they may have grown since they first purchased the bike, according to Mantaring.
“That’s where the hidden injuries will come out, according to Mantaring.
He said while family members sometimes share bikes, since each person is built differently.
“Even with identical twins, the way that bike will be set up could be different based on your history with injuries, as well as how you want to sit on the bike,” he said, adding most bikes are fully adjustable.
Riding a bike that is not fitted can be uncomfortable, which can lead to other problems, he said.
“It becomes a challenge to ride. You can experience a strained lower back, your hands become numb, your neck starts to hurt.” he said. “Your bicycle experience has become a nightmare.”
According to Mantaring, as part of a bike fitting, riders should answer the following questions to ensure they’ll get the perfect bike for them:
Have you ridden a bike before?
What are your biking goals?
Where do you plan to go on the bike?
What type of riding do you do?
Those questions “ sually gives us an idea of the kind of bike that that person will actually need,” Mantaring said.
Learning how one’s bike works is very important to bicycle safety as well, according to Mantaring.
“It’s essential to read the manual that comes with the bicycle,” he said, adding the manual either comes with the bike or is accessible online.
Regarding whether or not to use clip-on cycling shoes, Mantaring said he advises clip-ons for everyone.
“Not everybody buys into that because they hear horror stories that people are unable to take their feet out of the stirrups and fall off the bike,” he said. “The first thing we advise people is not to panic because if you do panic, you start doing things you wouldn’t normally do.”
Yet, he said there’s a greater chance riders can fall off their bike without clip-ons.
Additionally, according to Mantaring, the clipless pedal shoe combination saves approximately 15 to 20 percent of energy on the road.
“You are attached to the pedal,” he said. “As you’re rotating on the pedal, your feet stay with the pedal as opposed to being separated from it.”
“Plus, when you’re climbing a lot more hills, you’re attached to the pedals so you’re not slipping,” he said.
According to Mantaring, due to the quarantine, the only bicycles that are currently in stock at the store are eBikes — electronic bikes or pedal assist bikes.
eBikes are the biggest wave right now in the cycling community,” he said
They are so popular, they sell themselves,” he said. “When you take a test ride on the eBikes, game over.”
Additionally, he said eBikes can help riders go uphill.
“When you’re going up a hill, you’re expending a lot of energy,” he said. “With the pedal assist, there’s a little motor that helps you go up the hill but you still have to generate that rotational movement with the pedaling motion.”
He added that when there is no longer a bicycle shortage, he still feels eBikes will be very popular.
Darien resident Susan Daly and her family are avid cyclists. They recommended some local biking routes.
A loop from Pear Tree Point Beach or Weed Beach. Park at either beach and take Ring’s End Road to Post Road. At Pear Tree, riders can do the Long Neck Point loop.
North County Trail in New Haven. This stretches over 4,600 miles, passing through eight states. It is the longest of the eleven National Scenic Trails.
Pequonnoock River Trail. This trail goes through 15 states, including Darien. It is 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida.
East Coast Greenway connects 15 states and 450 cities and towns for 3,000 miles, from Maine to Florida.
Biking in town
Knauf said it’s important to follow the rules of the road that pertain to bicycles.
This includes staying on the same side as cars.
According to Knauf, some of the roads in town have sand or dirt on the margins along their edges, and many are narrow, “so it makes them tricky to navigate,” he said.
A sand patch can lead to an accident on a bicycle, according to Knauf.
“Sand or dirt washes into the sides of the road after a rainfall, and that can be a problem to someone riding on the side of the road,” he said. “Your tires don’t have a lot of traction to hit the sand.”
He also said to be aware of all drivers — other bicyclists, motorcyclists, and cars.
“Bikers should not assume that cars always see them,” he said. “They need to stay to the side of the road.”
He added that “too may times” he sees bicyclists who take up a whole lane because they are riding side by side with someone else, and not paying attention to cars.
“You’ve got to have eyes all around your head,” he said.
Masks are required when you cant maintain social distance of six feet or one is in close contact with someone for more than 15 minutes.
Usually, even when groups of riders go out together, they’re still able to maintain a safe distance, according to Mantaring.
He said however, that when in a group of other cyclists, be sure to practice safe social distancing when gathering prior to and after a ride.
“I say just go out there and have fun,” said Mantaring, in regard to cycling.
“You don’t have to race, go at your own pace, and enjoy the sun,” he said. “The more you ride, the more you improve on the bike, the more your overall experience will improve.”
“Everybody wants to ride,” he added. “The weather is nice and they’re home. This is a way to another outlet for them.”