Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The ins and outs of cycling in Amherst

Experienced cyclist or not, Amherst serves as a hub for the bike friendly and can easily meet both recreation and transportation needs.

Cycling serves as a swift way to get to any destination whether heading to class, going to social events or simply running errands. And riding is great exercise that simultaneously reduces carbon footprint.

There are different types of bikes available to fit one’s needs, allowing a cyclist enormous amounts of self-expression. Try throwing some panniers on the sides and a rack on the back for a self-made cargo bike, or travel light and try your hand at some road racing. Biking options vary from cheap or expensive, self-made or designer. There’s riding to increase swagger and smugness by showing off a well-tuned, color coordinated steed or there’s the enjoyment of a simple bicycle to get from point A to point B and anything in between. The possibilities are endless and self-reliant transportation can help you achieve them all.

The Amherst area and the University itself offer many different types of cycling activities ranging from competitive to recreational cycling. Participation options include road, mountain, cyclocross racing and riding, recreational cycling and group rides around the area. Even bike polo is offered in Northampton, for those interested in trying their hand – or rather, their mallet – at the sport.

Flyers for cycling activities are located all over campus and town and more information on how to get involved in cycling is available on the Web. The University of Massachusetts Bicycle Racing Club boasts information on the student run organization, offering a range of cycling opportunities from novice racing and beyond.

For those in the market for a new bike, or for anyone looking to get a bike fixed, there are several shops that can be of service. Two off-campus shops – Hampshire Bicycle Exchange located on University Dr. and Laughing Dog Bicycles located on Pleasant St. in downtown Amherst – specialize in sales, maintenance, and repair or new or used bicycles.

On-campus, there’s the UMass Bike Co-op, a student run cooperative business located in the heart of campus inside the Student Union. The Bike Co-op resides inside the Student Union and offers a range of repairs at a reasonable price. They also offer stand time and access to tools if interested in attempting a self-repair. Don’t be intimidated by their loud music or small space –  they offer a wide variety of skills and knowledge to help find or repair a ride.

These bike shops can help to locate a few necessities that are integral to a bike ride: portable bike pumps, patch kits, tire levers, spare tubes, fitted or adjustable wrenches and a multi-tool are necessary for on-the-go fixes. All of these items can conveniently fit in a bag and will come in handy in the case of an unexpected flat. Should one find a bike in need of repair during a ride, shops and knowledgeable cyclists are likely nearby to assist. If unsure of how to fix it, try asking someone for advice or directions to the nearest shop.

Other cycling necessities are those that entertain safety regulations in effect, thus it is important to use lights, reflectors, helmets and other important gear. Town safety regulations require that cyclists use a front light, a back light or reflector and ankle reflectors. Although cycling is a great transportation alternative to class or to parties, remember that there is a responsibility for adhering to driving under the influence regulations. The Amherst town government website lists regulations like these in more detail.

Now for the most important question – once one is equipped with all this cool stuff, where is the best place to flaunt it?

For recreation purposes, the Norwottuck Rail Trail is a level terrain linking Northampton, Hadley and Amherst. The trail – originally established in 1887 as the Boston and Main Railroad – now operates as a paved flat path with serene views, intertwining through rural fields and forestland.

While visibility is great during the daytime, be sure to wear a strong headlamp at night. The path is unlit and a thick canopy of foliage above omits most light from reaching the pavement. Also keep in mind that recycled glass was an aggregate used to construct the path. While most of the glass is dull and contained in concrete, a few sharp shards may make their way onto the path causing flats.

The valley offers serene flat riding, but for those interested in riding on inclines, the rolling foothills often admired from a distance offer quite a challenge. Scattered throughout the area are cycling friendly roads and roadside paths. The bike friendliness of this region is often taken advantage of by a myriad of cycling opportunities including group rides, bicycle brewery tours and the occasional critical mass.

If interested in reading more about routes in the area, check out, where riders upload and describe their experiences. Given all of the available bike resources, try out your bike. Amherst’s extensive bike culture is sure to accommodate your niche in some way or another.

Kimberly Ovitz can be reached at [email protected].

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    Gaius GracchusAug 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    It would be nice if the trail could be repaved.
    Hard to believe they used glass shards and botched the whole thing.
    On a bike trail, no less.