Joel Reichenberger: Bike fanatics speed up

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My official indoctrination into the bicycle cult of Steamboat Springs still is two flat tires and an hour's worth of rust-scrubbing away from becoming reality.

Early last week, I got a juicy preview of what that life will be like, however.

I still am amazed every time I see people come out of the woodwork to fill the Yampa River Core Trail whenever temperatures peak above 50 degrees. I joined that multitude for the first time Wednesday when I took Beau, the companion I spent all week dogsitting, for a walk.

He pulled me the entire way, barked at about half of the living things we passed and fought until I finally allowed him one quick roll in the rushing waters of the Yampa.

We both marveled at all the bikes - both the number and the various styles - we saw on our trip.

I have a bike, though as I pointed out, it needs some work. I bought it back in Kansas City at a local big box store's going-out-of-business sale. It didn't have a price tag, and I thought I was smart in carrying it to the front of the store, confident I'd get a great deal.

Instead I paid a pretty average $150 for a pretty average mountain bike. Riding it home was the high tide of one of my many fitness initiatives, a poor decision only outdone by my bizarre choice to join an expensive area gym that catered to senior citizens.

The bike made the trip to Steamboat with me, however, and I intend to finally cash in on my purchase.

Steamboat has proven to be a lot of things, I'm realizing. The town obviously colors itself a ski town, and, of course, it is. But it seems the bikes come out faster than anything else when the skis are put away.

That really struck home while researching an article for the Style section of today's paper. I talked to the people at Orange Peel, Nina Darlington and Johnny and Gigi Walker, and all proved not to be bike enthusiasts, but fanatics. Outreaching, friendly, helpful fanatics, even. They all asked about my own biking prowess and encouraged me to take to the trails.

What I found most encouraging about the whole venture, however, was that it doesn't take a fortune to bike in Steamboat. Sure, the first bikes that have caught my eye at every local outdoors store I've entered cost more than my first car, but there are plenty of cheap alternatives.

Area bike shops will help refurbish old mountain bikes, tailoring them to whatever need is to be met. You don't have to pull out the plastic to get on the trail.

I still don't know whether my bike needs an official tune-up. I doubt many of its parts are close to failing, considering the long and healthy rest it got after being wheeled home from the store.

I'm finally ready to find out. And if things do go poorly, I'm confident Beau will pull me all the way to rescue.

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