A distinctive subset of people emerges in force about this time of year. Theyre identified, easily enough, by their brilliant, fancifully colored plumage as they travel, alone or in packs, along rural highways and back roads. These are cyclists, of course, who mix a love of the outdoors with the health benefits of distance rides.
Yet how does one introduce kids or teens to this world? Theres a big difference, obviously, between pedaling around the neighborhood and setting out to bike 50 miles.
Fortunately, there are local routes school-age cyclists may find less intimidating. Here are some we recommend.
On any of these rides, be sure to wear a helmet, pay attention to your surroundings and obey the rules of the road. Have fun out there, but please, please, please try and stay safe, too.
• Neuse River Greenway: Admittedly, Raleighs sprawling greenway system isnt much of a secret. Huge as it is, though, it can be hard to know where to start particularly if youre coming from out of town. Maybe try the Neuse River Greenway section, which follows the river for some 28 miles through eastern Wake County, connecting Wake Forest, Knightdale and even neighboring Johnston County.
More: Information on the greenway system can be found at www.raleighnc.gov under the Arts and Parks tab.
• Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex: Theres more than one way to ride a bike, and maybe your kids are more interested in launching off of sick jumps than pedaling across an entire county. The good thing about this family-oriented, BMX-friendly complex in Holly Springs is that it has indoor and outdoor courses; unlike the other items listed here, though, its not free.
Getting there: The complex is at 171 Tradition Trail, Suite 207 in Holly Springs, or find out more at http://www.ddasc.com.
• Third Fork Creek Trail: While only 3 miles long, this Durham connector trail maximizes that area by running through several wetlands some closely enough to see it flood with heavy rain. Its only a few miles from Interstate 40 and Southpoint Mall yet retains a relatively rural feel, making it perfect for Durham or even some Chapel Hill residents who want a scenic ride without having to take a potentially long scenic drive to get there.
Getting there: For this trail, park at Garrett Park (6815 Garrett Park Road) or Southern Boundaries Park (100 Third Fork Drive).
• The Ice Cream Ride: For those comfortable with greenway cycling and interested in road biking, the Ice Cream Ride is a fairly easy gateway to that world. The downside: Its on a 16-mile mix of town and country roads, and not great for little kids. The upside: ice cream. The route runs from downtown Carrboro north to Maple View Farm in Hillsborough where you stop for ice cream before cycling back.
Getting there: For route maps, simply Google Ice Cream Ride Carrboro. For more on the ice cream itself, see www.mapleviewfarm.com.