A peek at the Northeast’s bicycle culture

For the next few months, NEast Philly will welcome two new contributors to the site – Christeen Vilbrun and Sean Supplee. Christeen and Sean are students in Philadelphia Neighborhoods, Temple University’s senior journalism capstone class, and they’ve been assigned to explore the Northeast. From now until the end of the year, Christeen and Sean will be hitting the streets of the Northeast to find stories. Their work will be a great addition to NEast Philly, as they explore our corner of the city from an outsider’s perspective. This is the first of many stories and videos from Christeen and Sean. You can also see this story at Philadelphia Neighborhoods.

For more than 100 years Pennypack Park has provided Philadelphians with a place to do numerous activities. One can walk, jog, roller blade, play a game of baseball or simply just relax and enjoy nature. The park, which covers almost 1,400 acres, is part of the Fairmount Park system. It is one of the most popular places in Philadelphia and provides excellent scenery for photographs and paintings.  Every month the park holds a recycling day. On this day, volunteers get together to clean the park and keep it a safe and visibly appealing place for people to enjoy.

One of the most common activities in Pennypack is bike riding. Sixty-two year-old Mark Brown of Philadelphia, says that bike riding is the best form of exercise in Pennypack. Unlike walking or jogging, bike riding does not produce a pounding on the knees. Pennypack is just one of the many parks he chooses to ride in. On good weather days the park can be a crowded place on some of the narrow paths.  Riders can travel around the park on some of the smaller paths or challenge themselves by riding the full length. One example would be to ride from Pine Road all the way to the Delaware River.  Brown has traveled this distance before and has, also participated in numerous rides that stretch over dozens of miles. One of his most memorable is a ride from Philadelphia to Atlantic City.

“Pennypack is a fantastic place to ride. If you want to take it easy and cruise down the paved path,  you can. If you want to challenge yourself and go off road, that option is there also,” says Brown’s roommate Matt Vogler.

Vogler, 23, is a young rider in training. The two ride not just in the park but also all over Northeast Philadelphia. The two can recite word for word facts about bike riding from a poster in their favorite bike store. One of their favorites is that a person who weighs 190 pounds can walk for one hour at a moderate pace of three miles per hour and burn 343 calories. That same person can ride a bike in the same time period at a slow pace of 10 miles per hour burns 518 calories.

“Not enough kids are riding bikes these days,” Brown said.

He feels the bicycle is the No. 1 reason why there is more obesity today than in years past. Children in Philadelphia rely heavily on public transportation to travel back and forth to school every day. Brown feels if more kids are encouraged to ride or even walk the obesity number would drop significantly.

The cost of a bicycle can be an issue for some. It may be one of the reasons why less people choose to ride today. Brown said he paid around $700 for his bike, which has lasted for several years. Some of the bikes the professionals ride can cost several thousand dollars. A helmet, which is the most important accessory for riders, can cost around $100. Most serious riders choose to buy special sneakers designed to grip onto the pedal much better than a pair of ordinary sneakers. They almost appear to be like track shoes with spikes. Another alternative is the clothing. Shorts and a T-shirt are a popular choice. Brown and Vogler prefer to dress head to toe in their favorite traditional Spandex outfit.

After buying a bike, shoes, helmet and clothes, the initial purchase can cost around $1,000. That figure appears to some, to be very overwhelming. Vogler ensures that if people understand just how much money can be saved with a bike more people would ride.

“We ride everywhere. Instead of driving to the grocery to purchase a few items, ride your bike. We ride to the gym every day. The ride there is our warm-up, while the trip back is our cool down,” said Vogler.

Unlike a car, the maintenance on a bicycle is very cheap. Brown said once a year it is normal to give the bike a “tune-up.” Unlike a car, the tune-up on a bicycle is simply a tightening of the chain, replacing the grips on the handlebars, adjusting the seat and making sure there is still plenty of tread left on the tires.  Proper maintenance will ensure that the investment will last for a long time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-qILoY6MfI

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