Officially, National Bike Month doesn't come until May, but in Wine Country, where the weather is almost always fine for riding, two-wheeler enthusiasts don't wait. For them, every month can be bike month.
This spring, we can expect to see an ongoing evolution, not only of what cyclists ride and what they wear, but also where they ride.
Cyclists and motorists are expected to share the road now, but both groups still may be pleased and relieved to know that some new bike trails will be open soon for motor-traffic-free cycling.
Construction started last month on a stretch of trail along the planned Sonoma County Rail Transit (SMART) route in Santa Rosa, from Bellevue Avenue to Hearn Avenue, with completion expected within a couple of months.
This summer, Sonoma County Regional Parks will build another mile-long connecting piece of the trail, from Hearn Avenue north to the existing Joe Rodota Trail hiking and bike path, which stretches along Highway 12 from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol.
"It'll work out nicely," said Ken Tam of Regional Parks, "because our piece of the trail will connect with the Joe Rodota Trail, which connects with the Prince Memorial Greenway Trail," ending in downtown Santa Rosa.
The cyclists out riding the trails now increasingly choose hybrid bikes, designed to handle well both off-road and on the road, said John Mastrianni, owner of Wine Country Bikes Touring Center in Healdsburg.
"That's probably the most popular bike that we rent to guests visiting the area — the hybrid bikes. They're perfect for casually touring the area and seeing the sights," he said.
"The hybrid bikes have a nice, casual upright riding position and a lot of the comfort that people associate with mountain bikes," Mastrianni said. "At the same time, they're lightweight and efficient enough on the road that you can cover a bit more ground more easily than on a mountain bike."
The Sonoma County Bike Coalition (bikesonoma.org) is gearing up for some new programs to launch in May for Bike Month.
"We're really focusing on doing organized rides for families and beginning cyclists," said the coalition's executive director, Gary Helfrich.
Plans also call for family bike clinics, which will offer safety tips and other advice at various locations around the county, he said.
"We've expanded the Biker Chicks program that Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane started," Helfrich added.
The program, intended to encourage more women to start cycling, now will offer rides at both the beginner and more advanced level.
Efforts to encourage cycling safety are ongoing, and Helfrich reports seeing more riders wearing helmets.
"In Sonoma County, most people do. We've got to reach out more to the homeless" to encourage those riders to wear helmets, too, he said. Cyclists are encouraged to outfit their bikes with lights, as well.
"Knowing how to give your bike a safety check is probably as important as having all the right stuff," Helfrich said. "Check the tires. Check the brakes."
(You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See his ARTS blog at http://arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.)