Jack Muscarella isn’t much on winter.
He caught the biking bug a couple of years ago – after finding out about the Big Wheels Bicycle Club while reading WNY Refresh – and far prefers hitting the open road, and bike trails, once the outdoors become more inviting.
His wait is pretty much over.
GObike Buffalo has encouraged those in the region to pledge to “30 Days of Biking” during April, and the Big Wheels club will help get things rolling with its annual open house next weekend.
“It’s not any fun going nowhere on a treadmill," Muscarella said. "On a bike, you’re accomplishing something, seeing the different scenery at different places. It’s a fun thing to do.”
GObike asks folks who want to share their biking adventures, including with photos, and post biking-related events to do so on Twitter using the hashtag #bikeBFLO. Those who pledge to ride every day during April can also weigh in using #30daysofbiking.
"This is a fun, social challenge for people to get in the habit of riding their bikes every day," GObike Executive Director Justin Booth said of the April challenge. "It's a great start to the biking season, especially since May is Bike Month and there are plenty of events and opportunities to continue riding.
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Biking highlights on tap for the next several weeks include:
WNY Mountain Bike Association Swap: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the dig, 640 Ellicott St., on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Drop off bikes and bike parts to sell, buy others.
Kidical Mass Buffalo: Season of family bike rides starts at 10 a.m. May 7 from the Rose Garden playground in Delaware Park. Learn more at facebook.com/KidicalMassBuffalo.
Sky Ride Launch Party: 1 to 4 p.m. next Saturday, Flying Bison Brewery, 840 Seneca St., Larkinville. Learn more at gobikebuffalo.org.
Big Wheels Bicycle Club Open House: 1 to 3 p.m. next Saturday, Zion United Church of Christ, Koenig Circle and Parker Boulevard, Town of Tonawanda. Learn more at bigwheelsbikeclub.com.
Slow Roll season opener: May 1 at a site to be announced in the next week or so. The ride on June 19 will start outside The Buffalo News, near Canalside. Learn more at slowrollbuffalo.org.
Bike to School Day: May 3.
Cinco de Cycle: Buffalo’s bike-curious can join Yelp and GObike for tacos, bikes and more May 5. Learn more gobikebuffalo.org.
SkyRide 2017: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 21. GObike’s annual bike ride around Buffalo, including over the 100-foot-high Skyway. Register at gobikebuffalo.com.
CanAm Century and Cycling Weekend Ride: Ride 100 kilometers or 100 miles in the U.S. and Canada. Registration will open soon on the GObike website.
Muscarella may try the SkyRide but he aims to spend as many as five days most weeks taking various bike treks across the region with Big Wheels.
His club membership during the past two years has boosted his health, eased his transition into retirement and forged new friendships.
"It's filled a void during the summer," said Muscarella, 66, a former analyst with U.S. Customs and Border Protection who continues to work part-time as an international trade consultant with the World Bank.
He pays $18 a year to participate in club rides, which take place across the region but mostly in Erie County. Family members who live at the same address pay the same rate. Club members get a subscription to a monthly newsletter, a current year ride schedule, and maps of most rides. They also are invited to have breakfast with the club on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day, as well as the annual club picnic in July, banquet in November, and potluck supper in February.
Club members can be as young as 18, though the bulk range in age from their 40s into their 80s.
"You don't have to be retired because they do have rides in the evening, especially when the daylight extends to 8 or 9 o'clock," Muscarella said. "Some do both morning and evening rides. Some go out on the weekends."
Club rides start this weekend. You can visit bigwheelsbikeclub.com to connect to them. The club likes folks to try a ride or two before they consider joining. Helmets and a spare bike tube are mandatory.
"One good thing when you're in a group is there's always other people there to help," Muscarella said. "We help each other. … This a not a demanding group. They don't leave anybody behind."
Rides earlier in the season are a bit shorter so people can get in shape.
"You acclimate yourself," Muscarella said. "A couple weeks ago, I looked at my statistics from last year and think I averaged 28 miles a ride." Weekday rides tend to stretch 20 to 25 miles; weekend rides, 30 to 40 miles.
"My favorite rides are to Canada, Niagara-on-the-Lake," Muscarella said. "We usually go once a month. It's a reasonable distance. We leave from Niagara Falls, N.Y. and go across the Rainbow Bridge and pretty much follow the Niagara River up to Lake Ontario. We stop at a gelato place. It's a motivation."
He appreciates stops along the way, generally for coffee or other beverage on the shorter drives, and for lunch or a snack on the longer excursions. It also gives members a chance to get to know each
"I used to run two or three times a week," he said, "but that really puts a beating on your knees and your joints and your legs. Biking doesn't have those issues. It doesn't add the same stress to your joints. And there's a physical aspect of this that helps anybody, especially as you get older. Cycling is really, really good for your heart. If you cycle just 20 miles a week on a bike, it can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent. It also tends to boost the immune system when you participate in physical activities."
His blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels all improve during biking season.
"You have more energy," he said. "I'm just a proponent of biking. If you can bike to work, you save money. It's environmentally friendly. You're increasing the lifespan of your car. You get a little bit of sun and a lot of people insufficient in vitamin D levels. There's a lot of interesting places in Western New York but when you're driving, you see them from a different perspective. When you bike, you experience the places we live near in a different manner. You can sit without thinking too much about it because you enjoy it so much."
Muscarella encouraged those toying with the idea of getting healthier this summer to visit the open house next weekend. It will give visitors a chance to learn more about Big Wheels, meet members and address questions or concerns they might have.
"A lot of people don't realize it, but if you start to bike with some regularity, you get fit along the way so what you think you can't do you end up accomplishing," he said. "You can get in pretty darned good shape.
"I would encourage people to bike in any form. The Slow Roll is becoming popular here and other parts of the country. It's a good way to start out biking. And it's a sport, an activity, that's good for all ages. There's certain things you can only do when you're young or in your 20s. Biking you can do well into your 80s or 90s, and, if you do it, and do it consistently, you'll live to be in your 80s or 90s.
"It's just that good for you. Just like it's never too late to stop smoking, it's the same thing with biking. The sooner you get at it, the healthier you're going to feel – and it's not just the longevity, it's the quality of life."
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon