Top of the Morning, May 13, 2014

Top of the Morning, May 13, 2014

Bike to Work Day is every day for Sarah Hoyle-Katz. The co-director of C-U Bike Month (May) never has owned a car.

"My grandma wanted to buy me a car after my 16th birthday, but I wanted none of that," she said. "I wanted a new bike. I'm still riding the one she bought me almost a decade later.

"I wasn't keen about all that insurance and gas stuff. too."

Thursday is Bike to Work Day in C-U, an event that drew about 900 registered cyclists in 2013. Participation doesn't require the knowledge or vigor of someone like Hoyle-Katz, who spent her spring break biking in the Smoky Mountains.

Just a bike and some directions.

"Make sure you know the path you'll take to work before you head out," Hoyle-Katz said.

And ...

"Make sure your bike is in good repair."

And ...

"Have some contingency plans. If the weather turns foul and you don't want to bike home, you'll appreciate knowing your local bus routes or having a friend you can phone to drive you home."

From 7 to 10 a.m. Thursday, 12 welcome stations — "coffee, anyone?" Hoyle-Katz said — will be spread across Champaign, Savoy and Urbana. Hoyle-Katz will be in Urbana providing advice and encouragement and answering any of our questions.

Like ... why didn't I drive again?

"It's much faster to find a free bike rack than a parking space. No meters to plug, either."

And ...

"Riding your bike is a breath of fresh air — literally. I've heard that many air pollutants are present in much higher quantities inside a car than outside it, even considering the exhaust."

And ..

"Getting even leisurely physical activity perks you up and prepares you for your day."

And ...

"It's an adventure! Every day I ride my bike to work I experience something new: a new garden someone put in, snippets of odd conversations, a rainbow or (my favorite this past year) a snowstorm with thunder. Not a joke, but I literally saw a chicken cross the road for the first time in my life last week, probably not something I would've noticed if I was driving."

Here's more:

I'm assuming C-U Bike To Work Day is a lot easier than, say, Denver Bike To Work Day?

It depends! Every year we have a couple folks who ride in from places like Monticello for Bike to Work Day; I think they have a more challenging commute than someone who's riding a mile or two in Denver. But yes, biking to work in Central Illinois is expedited by the flatness. No hill climbs here!

Can you fill me in about the mountain biking over spring break?

I joined Illini Cycling, the student bicycle racing club at the University of Illinois, mainly to go on the spring break trip. Over spring break about a couple dozen of us packed up and drove to Sevierville, Tenn., to go road and mountain biking. The mountain bike group hit nearby trails in Knoxville and the surrounding area most days. We were in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, but it was still easy to see how they got their name — and it was nice to see quite a bit more topography than we have here in the flatlands. It was nice and warm compared to Urbana, but we did get hit by a snowstorm as we came off the trail one day! We also spent a couple days in Asheville, N.C., riding trails in the Pisgah National Forest — there were some great climbs and teeth-rattling downhills there.

Where's the best place to go mountain biking in the area?

Locally, the best place to mountain bike is definitely the mountain bike trails at Kickapoo State Park. The Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club does a great job of maintaining and building trails. If you're willing to go farther afield, I recommend Brown County State Park in Indiana — it's one of the International Mountain Bike Association's "Epic Rides" (you read that right).

Any other tips for Thursday?

If you don't know how to start choosing a route, ask a bike-savvy friend — most folks are happy to share their advice and preferred routes with you. The Champaign-Urbana area bike map (available online at the Champaign County Bikes (CCB) website and at various locations around town) is another good resource, as it identifies bike lanes, routes, and low traffic streets. CCB also has an online discussion list where you can ask questions and discuss routes with the larger CU cycling community.

For more on C-U Bike To Work Day, visit cubike.org

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