Why, Where, and When I Ride My Bicycle

by William Bales

April 15, 2020

When and where did you first start riding?  My dad won a contest (for collecting the most wax-covered milk cartons) and the prize was two Schwinn bikes, one for me, one for my brother. I was four. It was Salt Lake City, 1959, and we rode all over the place. Being old-school, Dad allowed no training wheels, which motivated us to learn quickly.

How often do you ride now?  I ride first thing in the morning six days a week, unless the weather’s bad. If it’s over 15 degrees, I’ll ride. If the sun’s not up, I’ll still ride. If it snows, rains (hard), or if there’s ice, forget about it. When it warms up (60 degrees or better), I may add an afternoon ride. 

Where do you like to ride? I live at the very southern end of the Battlefield National Park, and I ride into Mass at St. Francis Xavier on High Street each morning. I detour off Emmitsburg Rd., up past Big and Little Round top, past Sedgewick, the PA monument and Meade, and back to Emmitsburg Rd and then into town. Coming home I go past Rite Aid and the graveyard, cut through the armory, and come back Confederate Ave. all the way to Emmitsburg Rd. and then home. It’s pretty much a routine. Total of about 12-13 miles. For afternoon rides, I just ride randomly around the battlefield. It’s ironic how peaceful a battlefield can be. 

What bikes do you ride?  I had two decent carbon bikes and then, in the summer of 2018, I tried out a Trek Super commuter 8+ electric bike. And that was that. I love zooming around at 25-27 MPH and afterwards I’m not exhausted, but exhilarated!  I’ve put 5300 miles on my e-bike since August 2018. Thanks go out to Jes and Kent at Gettysburg Bicycle and Fitness for keeping me rolling. See them, they’ll take care of you. 

How has your riding changed over time?  Up until I got my driver’s license at 16, my bike was my car. Then I didn’t ride too much until my hip replacement in 2012. Until then I preferred running and competitive sports for exercise. But after that they didn’t want me to run, and I really couldn’t do sports, so I took up biking for exercise. The carbon bikes were great, by as I was nearing my mid-60’s biking was getting harder, and I would find myself at the end of a ride more exhausted than refreshed. Then I found the e-bike. 

What tips do you have for other cyclists?  If you’re a dedicated cyclist, get a decent bike that you will really like. If you’re older, try an e-bike. It’s not cheating and you will still get plenty of exercise! Safety tips: At intersections, focus. In the rear view keep an eye out for big pick-up trucks and tour busses—they’re the drivers who come closest to dusting you off the road. Wear high-vis and have bright lights front and back. At turns, watch out for gravel; it will take you out. 

What changes would you like to see to improve bicycling in Adams County?  Where I ride it’s just about perfect. Perhaps nice wide bike lanes everywhere? 

William Bales is a Professor at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. He and his wife Lisanne have lived in Adams County since 2003.