5. Familarize yourself with the RCTS and other surrounding areas cyclists frequent. The Russellville Connected Trail System is a great go-to guide for any human-powered transportation around Russellville-proper. The RCTS is a city-wide effort to designate existing streets and roads on a spectrum from shared-lanes with cars (that are marked with “sharrows”), roads that have dedicated bike lanes, and bike/walk only greenways. It also contains information about future/proposed greenways. Note: Most existing shared-lane roads in Russellville are at or under 35 MPH, which should make cyclists feel more comfortable due to the decrease in motorists speeds.
There are also many existing roads in the five county area that cyclists prefer to plan their rides around. Download the Strava app and check out the “Maps” section – this contains routes that other users have created as well as segments that indicate heavy usage areas and heatmaps that will help with deciding where to ride.
4. You don’t have to wear Lycra, but a helmet is a must. There’s a preconceived notion that if you make the decision to commute or exercise on a road bike,you have to wear tight-fitting clothing. You don’t! While Lycra/Spandex have their benefits (think enhanced aerodynamics when riding, sweat wicking, etc.), as long as you’re comfortable while riding, your outfit doesn’t matter.
If you’re going to share the road with motorists, a helmet, however, is a must.
3. Get familiar with your bike. Bikes are far easier to maintain than vehicles and don’t require a lot of tools. At minimum a solid “ABC” check before you head out on your ride is a must. “ABC” stands for “Air, Brakes, and Chain.”
- Air: Check the recommended tire pressure that’s indicated on the sidewalls of your tires and, using a gauge, make sure they’re at the PSI they need to be. This could alert you to potential flats.
- Brakes: Make sure your brakes are functioning by squeezing each lever while rolling.
- Chain: Check that your chain is clean of debris and lubricated.
Don’t have chain lube? Aren’t sure about checking your tire pressure? The folks at Jackalope Cycling in downtown Russellville are ready to get you up to speed.
2. Check the weather and prepare your hydration. If you’re familiar with the River Valley, you know we enjoy all four seasons of weather. While ideal temperatures for outdoor recreation like cycling are between 50-80 degrees, many cyclists will continue riding regardless of the temperature.
In cold weather, layering is key. By the time you’re 20 minutes into your ride, you will be much warmer than when you started. Be prepared to shed layers quickly. Regardless of outside temperatures, staying properly hydrated is important. When it climbs into the upper 80s, 90s and beyond, however, hydration is especially important while riding. Equip your pack or bike with an appropriately sized bottle for the conditions you’re riding in.
1. Sidewalks vs sharing the lane: what’s best? In Arkansas, riding a bike on the sidewalk isn’t against the law, as it is in some states. If you’re beginning to get comfortable with riding in town or around heavy traffic, starting out on the sidewalk or dedicated greenways might be best for you. Many local cyclists got their start by riding at Bona Dea Trails before they felt comfortable and confident enough to share the lane with motorists.
- If you are going to share the lane and ride on the road, there are a few things to remember:
- Traffic laws still apply to you: make sure you signal, use turn lanes, etc.
- At night, cyclists must have a front white light and two rear red reflectors/lights.
- Take note of one Arkansas-specific law called the “Arkansas Stop”: this law provides cyclists special options at stop signs and red lights. Stop signs call for a cyclist to slow and, if required for safety, to stop. If no car is approaching, the cyclist may continue through the stop sign without stopping at all. At red lights, cyclists must first stop, and may proceed cautiously through the red light if no cars are oncoming.
Bonus: Meet other road cyclists and form group rides. The Russellville Community Cyclists have created a hub of information about a variety of group rides and events around the area. This page will often share group ride information for Urban Cyclists, Straphangers Bicycle Club and other area pop-up rides. If you’re new to cycling, this is a great way to learn the rules of the area and connect with other cyclists!