Many biking to work this week nationwide and here

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Denis Coyne demonstrates how to tighten a derailer during a road maintenance clinic at his Carson City bike shop Bike Habitat on Thursday evening. This week is National Bike to Work Week.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Denis Coyne demonstrates how to tighten a derailer during a road maintenance clinic at his Carson City bike shop Bike Habitat on Thursday evening. This week is National Bike to Work Week.

Cycling and cyclists have always been a fringe or counter-culture.

The sport, perhaps like soccer, is viewed by many here as a healthful activity for children, or to be viewed at arm's length.

Nobody in the mainstream seems to decry the value of cycling. It's a good cardiovascular activity. It's a great thing to do on the weekends with a spare hour or four. It's wonderful to watch a child wobble their way to freedom for the first time on a two-wheeler.

But when cycling is trumped up for something more - a means to get to work, to the store - to school and back - folks seem to cringe.

That's where Bike Month comes in.

If you haven't guessed by now, May, with its genial weather and pre-summer rush, is said month. And today begins national Bike to Work Week, sponsored by the Washington D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists.

A growing phenom in places like the Bay area, Portland and parts of Southern California, Bike to Work Week is an event organizers say takes place nation- and world-wide.

"Everyone that comes in the shop is talking about the gas prices," said Barry Dahl, who opened Barry's Bikes in Bismarck, N.D. in April.

He sold more than 50 bicycles in the first month, double the projections in his business plan.

About 18 million bicycles have been sold annually in the U.S. over the past few years, accounting for about $6 billion in annual sales, said Fred Clements, executive director the National Bicycle Dealers Association in Costa Mesa, Calif.

"People are riding bicycles a lot more often, and it's due to a mixture of things but escalating gas prices is one of them," said Bill Nesper, spokesman for the League of American Bicyclists.

"We're seeing a spike in the number of calls we're getting from people wanting tips on bicycle commuting," he said.

Indeed, this year's iteration of the week-long event features clinics and classes around the nation, including several events locally.

And while the trend of gas creeping past $4 a gallon nationwide is causing workers to dust of their two-wheelers, some Carson-based organizers feel cycling is just a fringe phenom whose time in the local limelight is now.

"(Local cycling advocacy group) Muscle Powered has many events scheduled to celebrate and raise awareness for the benefits of cycling," said Carson-based cyclist Jeff Potter. "Several local shops have begun to hold special clinics and forums to help people interested in learning how to utilize their bikes for commuting purposes."

Indeed, Potter, who is publishing a new bike map of Carson City and has been integral in helping get bike racks installed in the downtown ("A town cannot function completely without bike racks," he has said), is planning on kicking off Bike to Work Week today with Supervisor Shelly Aldeen.

The pair will ride a tandem bike from Aldeen's house to work and, on the way, stop at Lumos and Associates Engineering on College Parkway to meet up with other regular bike commuters.

"It is possible to ride to work in Carson - everyday," Potter said at a recent local "how to" clinic on turning that rusty mass of chain and frame into a commute machine.

The Bike-to-Work Week events will culminate in Bike-to-Work Day on Friday. Potter said he hopes locals take an interest this week, attend some workshops and, on Friday, give two wheels a try.

"With fuel costs rising, and a shrinking economy, bicycling is a viable and inexpensive way to travel around town," he said.

Nevada numbers reflect the national average of less than one-half of 1 percent of Americans riding a bike to work, but some hope that number changes - this week.

"Millions of people have bicycles hanging in the garage and they're getting them down and riding them," said Rebecca Anderson, advocacy director for Trek Bicycle Corp. "People are looking at the bicycle as more than just a toy."

The Waterloo, Wis.-based company last year started a program called One World, Two Wheels to promote bicycles for transportation and recreation. Anderson said that about 40 percent of trips by car are 2 miles or less - "a habit for some people to get in a car and drive just a few blocks."

Clive Greenberg, a salesman at Metro Bicycles in New York City, said spin cycling classes at health clubs, where people use stationary bikes for a workout, also are spurring bicycle sales.

"It's pretty interesting, a good majority of middle-age people involved in that spinning craze at the gym used to come in and buy cycling shoes," he said. "Now they are getting on real bikes."

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Schedule of Events

Some local and regional Bike to Work Week events:

Bike and Walk Conference/The Nevada Bicycle and Pedestrian Conference:

When: Thursday to Sunday, May 15 to 18

What it is: Find out what you can do to make Carson more bike/pedestrian-friendly

Where: MontBleu Resort Casino, Stateline, Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Third-annual Trail Building and Crew Leader Training

When: 5 p.m. Friday though Sunday, May 16 to 18

What it is: Teaches how to design, construct and maintain trails

Where: Galena Creek Park

Bike to Work Week wrap party and raffle

When: 6 p.m. Friday, May 16

What it is: A commuter bike will be the grand raffle prize as Bike to Work Week draws to a close

Where: Firkin & Fox

Tour of Carson

When: Noon Sunday

What it is: A celebration of local bike dealer Bike Habitat's one-year anniversary with a ride around Carson City

Where: Bike Habitat (911 Topsy Lane - next to Best Buy)

Bike Clinic

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 22

What it is: Evening clinic will feature how to dress for bike commuting

Where: Bike Habitat

Web sites to visit during Bike to Work Week:

www.bicyclenevada.com

www.tahoerimtrail.org

www.musclepowered.org

www.bikeleague.org

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