[Road Biking Warrior: Phil Whirley]
During grad school in Houston in the 1970s, a friend asked Phil Whirley to go cycling outside of the city. “In cut-off jeans, on my $60 JCPenney bicycle, I rode 50 miles that day,” he says. “I was very, very sore.” But the ride was a revelation, and Whirley’s been road cycling and joining club rides ever since. “Bicycling is just about the most efficient form of human-powered transportation...it can feel close to flying,” says the software developer who has lived in Charleston since 2000 and coordinates a weekly Saturday ride for Coastal Cyclists on James Island. He’s also the group’s membership chairman and considers himself a bike evangelist: “I love to get people into cycling. The community here is made up of interesting, intelligent people. We’re tolerant. We’re aware of our impact on the environment. And we’re more aware as drivers.”
Whirley’s tips on what you’ll need to go road biking:
Road bike. Get a new or used bike with a lightweight frame, thinner tires for longer rides on paved conditions, and a saddle (seat). Fittings are available at most shops to evaluate how you’re sitting on your ride.
Helmet. Make sure it’s cushioned inside and has a hard shell.
Rear-view mirror. “I wear a mirror attached to my helmet that allows me to monitor traffic behind me in the same way I would if I were driving a car,” says Whirley. Other options mount on eye- or sunglasses, handlebars, or the forearm.
Lights. If riding at night, you’ll need a headlight on the front and a red light for the rear.
Clothing. Lycra and other form-fitting materials avoid the irritation of wind-whipping loose clothing.
Padded gloves. Often fingerless, these have padding in the palm to reduce pressure and protect hands from vibration.
Tracker. Whirley uses the Garmin Forerunner to log his route, speed, heart rate, and calories burned, then uploads to Garmin Express to track his progress. Map My Ride is a popular app for finding and keeping track of routes, speed, and mileage.
Whirley leads Coastal Cyclists’ free group rides from Folly and Grimball roads on James Island. Saturdays, 8 a.m. in front of Gold’s Gym; www.coastalcyclists.com
Other self-guided rides:
Mount Pleasant: Trek Bikes of Mount Pleasant publishes an online list of self-guided routes East of the Cooper divided into short (under 18 miles), medium (20-49 miles), and long (50-plus miles). www.trekbikesofmountpleasant.com
Bears Bluff Road, Wadmalaw Island: Bears Bluff offers about 18 miles of there-and-back paved road with less auto traffic than Maybank Highway. The intersection of Maybank and Bears Bluff is the starting point for this ride, and the national fish hatchery is at the southern end.
Chisholm Road, John’s Island: You can log nearly 20 miles if you pedal the entire paved route that has low traffic and rural scenery of horse farms, tidal creeks, and woods. Park and ride from the John’s Island High School parking lot near the intersection with Main Road.
West Ashley Greenway: This former path of a rail line runs from the South Windermere Shopping Center to Main Road on John’s Island for bicycle and pedestrian-use only. Paved in portions, the Greenway traverses neighborhoods and woods, with marsh and Stono River views in the final third of the trail. (10.5 miles) Open dawn to dusk.
Find your cycling tribe:
Coastal Cyclists coordinates a variety of weekly group rides of 20 miles and longer. www.coastalcyclists.com
Ride Bikes hosts Thursday night rides. The routes vary, and beer is served afterward. www.ridebikes.net
Trek Bicycles’ Mount Pleasant and West Ashley stores organize group rides of varying distance; speed; and levels, plus women-only and family-friendly options. www.trekbikesofmountpleasant.com
Rather cycle indoors with an instructor leading your every move? Here, find dedicated studios as well as health-club classes in the area
■ Revolution: This three-year-old studio in the Elan Midtown building fills its schedule with upwards of 30 full-body, 45-minute workouts a week. The studio has complimentary lockers, showers, and cycling shoes, plus water bottles, juices, and apparel for sale. $20 per class; packages range from $90-$299, with student and military discounts available. Open daily. 441 Meeting St., Ste. A. (843) 737-5330, www.ride-rev.com/charleston
■ Ridehouse: Located in Mount Pleasant’s Shoppes at Brickyard, this brand-new studio has some 30 weekly classes that incorporate aspects of Pilates and outdoor sports movements such as rowing. Amenities include complimentary cycle shoes, lockers, and showers; water and apparel are available for purchase. Childcare is offered for children eight weeks to 12 years. $23 per class; packages range from $110-$1,399. Open daily. 2700 Hwy. 17 N., Mount Pleasant. (843) 936-6408, www.ridehousestudio.com
■ Velocity Cycling Studio: Each week, this downtown studio schedules eight to 10 hour-long rides containing elements of climbing and interval training. Riders must provide their own cycling shoes. Bikes may be reserved up to two weeks in advance. $20 per class; packages range from $70-$300. Open daily. 140 East Bay St. (843) 779-6248, www.vcyclingstudio.com
Health Club Classes
(Note: for all of these classes, riders must provide their own cycling shoes.)
■ Chucktown Fitness: 60-minute cycling classes with 12 bikes available to reserve. $25-$40 monthly membership; $10 single class. 1561 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. (843) 764-9349, www.chucktownfitness.com
■ Journey Cycling & Fitness Studio: 40 bikes on-site for up to 20 spin-related classes a week, including those that combine a spin and core workout as well as spin and weight training. $17.50 single class; $80-$260 packages. 1168 Basketweave Dr., Mount Pleasant. (843) 388-4981, www.journey-cycle.com/spinning.html
■ MUSC Wellness Center: One-hour “group cycle” classes and 45-minute “lunchtime express” classes on 45 bikes with clip-in capability. Call for membership prices; $15 day pass. 45 Courtenay Dr. (843) 792-5757, www.musc.edu
■ O2 Fitness: 45- and 60-minute spin classes in eight of its 11 area locations; 20 to 35 bikes with clip-in capability. $39-$49 monthly membership. Multiple locations; www.o2fitnessclubs.com
■ Pivotal Fitness: Classes (30-, 45-, and 60-minute sessions) at various area locations include simulated terrain riding, drills, technique cues, and elements of HIIT (high-intensity interval training). Membership price varies; multiple locations; www.pivotalfitness.com