Time to Hit the Road!

Follow these ladies' advice and enjoy National Bike Month

For Lynn Harper and Andrea Jackson, there's nothing like being out on the open road. Many days, there's nothing but scenery, blue skies and the swishing sounds of their feet pedaling through each and every stride on their road bikes.

"When I turned 40, I got my first road bike," Lynn says, admitting it was a pretty nice present to herself. She had always looked up to her older brother who had been riding in events and for pleasure for decades. "Last year, he rode from Seattle to Miles City. When I was young, he actually taught me how to ride a bike!" Lynn has kept her eyes on the road and feet on two wheels ever since that milestone birthday. "I just love it."

Not long after she bought her road bike, she signed up for the Bike MS event in Billings. She spearheaded a team with her co-workers at Stockman Bank and vowed to raise money for the two-day, 150-mile trek. She smiles and says, "I just jumped right in."

When the team was ready to form again the following year, Lynn didn't have to look far to find a friend to join her. Andrea Jackson had already dabbled in cycling. She even borrowed her aunt's bike to take a spin or two before investing in a bike of her own. "For me, it is a passion. It's what I love," Andrea shares. "I love being out in the open. I love covering lots of miles and having no sound of a motor. You are the sound of the motor internally."

As a cardiovascular nurse, Andrea has seen firsthand what can happen when a person isn't physically fit. And for her, heart disease hits very close to home. "My dad had a quadruple by-pass when he was 39. When I was in the fourth grade, I remember going in the ICU and seeing him. My life changed at that age." Since then, physical fitness has been a key part of her life. She says, "It really has to be with my genetics."

Lynn feels much the same. She says it's been shocking to see those not much older than her falling victim to unhealthy lives. "I have looked in the paper recently and have seen friends and acquaintances in their late forties and early fifties that are passing away from heart attacks. It is scary. I am going to live life and this is going to be part of it," she says of her cycling passion.

Together, Lynn and Andrea are part of a cycling group that they affectionately call "The Wheels of Steel." While they tackle charity rides in all parts of Montana, this summer the trail will take them hopefully on a leisure ride to tour wineries either in Napa Valley or possibly south in Colorado. Each and every trek has brought this pair a little closer together. Andrea laughs and says, "It's made us more like sisters." Lynn adds, "Soul sisters!" On their rides, they not only share news of their day, they tackle problems and as Andrea says they often "pedal out the stress." She smiles and says, "What you say on the road, stays on the road."

While they often hit the hills along Buffalo Trail or River Road in the evenings after work or first thing Saturday mornings, they laugh when they say they've gotten over their fear of using the "big gears." They've taken time to figure out how to tackle the area's hills and found out to use their bikes as tools for the journey. With that experience under their belts, this year they hope to take on their first "century ride." In other words, they want to log 100 miles in a single day-long ride. Lynn says she knows she won't be the top finisher, but in her words, that's not what her journey is about. "It's not about finishing first,” she says. "It's about finishing with your friends alongside you. It's about enjoying the ride." With their sights set on tackling new stretches of road in 2014, Andrea nods and is quick to add, "We always look forward to spring when we can get back on our bikes."

IT DOES A BODY GOOD: 6 Benefits of Cycling

1. It helps a beating heart! Women who cycle 20 miles a week reduce their heart disease risk by 50%.

2. It keeps the "C" word away. Women who cycle just a half hour a day have statistically lower breast cancer rates.

3. Cycling is good for your joints. Unlike other cardio and toning regimens, cycling is a great low-impact mode of getting active. It helps to build the muscles in the lower half of the body, increasing your strength and reducing the day-to-day impact on your knees and hips.

4. Cycling ramps up your metabolism. One hour of cycling at just 10 miles per hour can burn more than 450 calories.

5. It's good for your grey matter! Cycling boosts the blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Those who improved their cardio-respiratory fitness with this mode of exercise witnessed up to a 15% improvement in mental tests.

6. It's good for the planet. Did you know 20 bikes could be parked in the same space for one vehicle? And, riding produces zero pollution.


WHERE TO GO? Hit the trail and explore your community

Looking for some stretches of trail to tackle this spring and summer? BikeNet.com has some suggested rides for all fitness levels. BikeNet is a grass-roots organization that supports urban trails in and around the Billings community. Log on to www.bikenet.org and click on Maps & Rides.

HOW TO LEARN? Resources are just a click away

The Spoke Shop in Billings has been a pillar for the biking community for decades. If you click on spokeshop.com, you'll not only find information on how to buy a bike, but maintenance guides (including how to change a flat tire), details on how to rent a bike, and even training tips for competitive rides.

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