Friday, March 13, 2015

The Spring Classics

If you consider yourself to be a tough cyclist who can excel no matter how difficult the course and weather conditions, take a spring break vacation, head to Europe and ride some of the infamous ‘Spring Classic’ race routes.

Take pain meds with you for after the rides — the Spring Classics are arguably the most grueling one-day cycling events in the world.

Although multiweek stage races like the Tour de France capture the attention of the general public, the eight early-season classics held during March and April of each year are events that determine who the real ‘hard men’ are within the ranks of professional cycling.

These early season single-day races are held on brutally long 155-165 mile routes through Europe’s narrowest, most difficult country roads with sections of rough cobblestone pavement, mud, dust and unrelenting short steep hills on some routes.

The long race distances mean that cyclists will be in the saddle racing for 6-7 hours in unpredictable spring weather that may range from dry, dusty and windy to rain, cold, sleet and snow.

Although these races are for top-level professional cyclists, thousands of amateur riders test themselves each year by riding tours over the routes the day before actual races.

One of the most challenging of the eight spring classic races, Paris-Roubaix, will take place on April 12 this year. This 157-mile race, sometimes referred to as the Queen of the Classics or the Hell of the North, was first held in 1896 and is considered to be the hardest ‘cobblestone classic’ because of the 27 sections of cobbled roads (32 miles total) included in the route.

Paris-Roubaix is so demanding that many top professional cyclists skip the event. Those who race will be on specially equipped race bikes that may have stronger frames, wider tires with less pressure that normal, extra padding on handlebars and strong wheels to withstand the jarring impacts from bouncing over cobblestones.

Where possible, racers will often ride on the ‘smoother’ dirt adjacent to cobblestone surfaces in an attempt to avoid the roughest patches of rock-paved areas.

Team cars loaded with spare bicycles and replacement wheels follow the racers to deal with the inevitable flat tires, damaged wheels and broken bike frames.

Even though the cobble sections in the Paris Roubaix are much like riding over river rocks in a dry creek bed, the racers still manage to go fast. Recent winners have averaged over 27 miles per hour.

After surviving Paris Roubaix, the Spring Classics racers will turn their attention to Liège–
Bastogne–Liège on April 26, one of the oldest classic races that was first held 1892.

The race starts in the town of Liege and goes through the areas around Bastogne, made famous during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, before heading back north toward Liege through the challenging hills of the Belgian Ardennes.

Racers competing in Liège–Bastogne–Liège will encounter rough roads and a few areas of cobbles, but the biggest challenges during this 160-mile race are the 11 tough climbs in the Ardennes.

Some of these climbs are so viciously steep and narrow that riders must compete for a position at the front of the pack just before an uphill to avoid the congestion as riders are squeezed onto uphill roads where only two or three cyclists can ride side by side.

Unfortunately, most of us will never have the opportunity to ride one of these classics routes, so the next best thing would be to ride our own West Texas version over a course that simulates some of what racers face in events such as Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

A 150 mile simulation course might start in downtown San Angelo, head east on FM 380, south to FM 765 and then east on 765 until reaching the first unpaved section of Gesch Road (FM 1520) and then continue on narrow rough back roads to Paint Rock.

From Paint Rock, the route would go north to Ballinger, then across to Bronte and on to Robert Lee with occasional short ‘cobblestone’ sections over rough gravel roads.

After leaving Robert Lee the course would continue on to Carlsbad, then south over the Burma Road hills to Arden Road, back into San Angelo on Arden and then into downtown for a high-speed sprint finish on Concho Avenue.

Pick a day when it’s cold, windy and wet and go ride this route at race pace on your narrow-tired road bike to fully simulate a classics race.

Although the route as described is less challenging than the Spring Classic courses in Europe, you’ll still get a feel for what the pro cyclists face as they race the classic events.


Upcoming Events

Mar 21: Habitat for Humanity 5K, roadlizards.org
Mar 21: Steam-N-Wheels cycling race, bikereg.com/26622
April 11: Castell Grind cycling ride, castellgrind.com/home.html
April 25: Lone Wolf Run, roadlizards.org
April 25: Ballinger Bikefest, ballingernoonlions.org/pages/bikefest.html

Friday, January 30, 2015

The 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps

Do you think you're a strong cyclist, able to ride long distances in harsh conditions over rough
terrain? Could you do a long bike tour carrying camping equipment and food on your bike?

If so, try replicating the ride that a group of Army soldiers in the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps did in June and July 1897.

As part of a "field test" to determine the effectiveness of bicycles for transporting infantry troops long distances, this group of hardy cyclists rode, pushed and carried their bikes 1,900 miles from Fort Missoula, Mont., to St. Louis.

The Bicycle Corps officer who led the expedition was Lt. James Moss, a West Point graduate and avid cyclist. His volunteer soldier-cyclists were all Buffalo Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Regiment.

Their route went from Fort Missoula to Yellowstone and then southeastward through Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Missouri to St. Louis.

The "two-wheeled forced march" took 41 days to complete with 34 days of actual cycling. The soldier-cyclists averaged almost 56 miles per cycling day with an average speed of 6.3 mph.

Rough and unpaved dirt tracks made up the majority of the route, with roads being so bad that the soldiers often dismounted and pushed their bicycles on railroad tracks. Expedition reports indicate that the soldiers pushed or carried their bikes for almost 400 of the trip's 1,900 miles.

Conditions during the trip included cold and wet weather, deep mud, strong winds and heat exceeding 110 degrees.

One of the bivouac points during this cycling expedition was at the site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which took place 21 years earlier.

The Military Specification bicycles they rode were manufactured for the military by the AG Spalding Co. Each of the heavy and cumbersome steel-framed bikes weighed 32 pounds.
When fully loaded with blanket roll, tent, rations and extra clothing, the total weight of each bicycle was 59 pounds.

In addition to the bicycle and field gear, each soldier also carried a 10-pound Krag-Jorgensen rifle with 50 rounds of ammunition.

The Spaulding military bicycles used by the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps had only one gear (single speed), with a gear-inch ratio of 68 inches. That gearing would be about the same as a modern single-speed bicycle equipped with a 36-tooth front chain ring and a 14-tooth rear cog.

On July 24, the infantry cyclists completed their trek and rolled into St. Louis. The St. Louis Star newspaper noted that the soldiers had completed "the most marvelous cycling trip in the history of the wheel and the most rapid military march on record" at that time.

This experiment by the 25th Infantry wasn't the first time that bicycles had been tested by various military units. Both the United Kingdom and France had experimental bicycle units as early as 1886.

The first documented combat use of bicycles occurred in 1895-96 during the Second Boer War, during which cyclists served as messengers.

The use of bicycles continued during World War I with bike-mounted infantry, scouts and messengers being used by the Italian Bersaglieri light infantry as well as in the German and British armies.

Japan used an estimated 50,000 bicycle troops during its 1937 invasion of China, and the Finnish army deployed bicycle units as the spearhead of its attack during its 1941 campaign against the Soviet Union.

In 1997, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funded the development of a tactical folding mountain bike designed for use by airborne rangers. This bike, manufactured by Montague, had a 500-pound load-carrying capacity and would quickly fold into an air-droppable package.

Although the military use of bicycles today hasn't changed significantly from what the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps did back in 1897, the next military bicycle evolution may be about ready to happen.

A researcher in Japan has modified a small bipedal robot and configured it to ride a bike just as a human would (Google "PRIMER-V2 robot"). The future could include ground-based robotic "surveillance cyclists" pedaling through combat zones performing military tasks.

Remember, bicycles are a part of military history.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Cyclocross Nationals Postmortum

I raced my third Cyclocross National Championships this past Thursday in Austin, Texas, joining
2,000 other racers who came to test their fitness and technical skills on the challenging  course in Austin's Zilker Park.

2,000 other racers who came to test their fitness and technical skills on the challenging  course in Austin's Zilker Park.

The fitness was there, but my ability to maintain speed and apply power through the technical sections of the course was sub-par compared to the top racers in my category.

 After turning in a poor performance in last year's icy and snow-packed race in Boulder, Colorado my year-long goal was to finish in the top 10 in this year's event.

With that goal in mind, I spent most of the past year focused on training for this year's Nationals, doing base miles, tempo rides and strength training during Feb, March, April and May before transitioning to a structured cyclocross training program in June.

The structured program included many miles of 15-20 minute threshold intervals, trail rides on my CX bike, some running, skill work such as barriers and run-ups, VO2 max efforts and endless miles of hard race simulation laps on a practice course.

Unfortunately, I did not accomplish the top 10 goal, finishing 16th in the Master's 65-69 field of 22 racers.

I was positioned to achieve the top 10 goal, but two critical mistakes during the race coupled with a less than stellar job of keeping the speed up through the technical sections dropped me down a few places.

Although I was staged in the back row of my field since I didn't earn many USAC points during the season (only two races), I moved up to mid pack by the time we hit the first dirt section with my heart rate 'comfortably' just a beat or two over my threshold.

Shortly after that, I made my first mistake by running into a rider who stalled in front of me on a short hill. The resulting dab and loss of speed let several racers pass me.

Later in the race, I completely biffed a right hand off-camber corner and ended up falling into the course marking tape.  Again, I lost several places while getting upright and then having to run up the short but steep climb that followed the corner.

My gut feeling is that unless I figure out how to improve my technical skills, I'll need a flat and fast course with the only technical sections being off-the-bike run-ups to crack the top 10 in my age group.

I can also keep racing until I'm in the really old age groups that have less than 10 racers :)

Speaking of older racers, I had a 'race encounter' with the ageless Walt Axthelm of Durango, Colorado who won this year's 80+ category.

His field started 20 seconds behind my 65-69 group, but by the 2nd lap of the race he had bridged up to my wheel and was telling me to " Go - go- get off the dammed brakes" as we traversed through a section of off-camber turns and steep ups and downs in a ravine.

Axthelm continued to stay right me through laps 3 and 4, rolling faster than me and some other 65+ riders through the technical sections.  The only places I could gap him were on the flats and run-ups.  He says his normal training partners in Durango are all fast racers in their 50s.

During the Thursday open pre-ride of the course, the weather was sunny and 70 degrees. That changed dramatically Tuesday evening as a cold front ushered in frigid temperatures and a forecast for rain, mud and sleet for the Wednesday through Sunday championship events.

When I started warming up at 7:30 am on the morning of my race the air temp was 23 degrees with a reported 16 degree wind chill. It did not warm up much by the 9:00  start time.

My race kit for the day for the day was double socks with plastic bag over the toes, duct tape over the vents in my cycling shoes, medium tights over thin tights, two long sleeve base layers under the bike jersey, polypro liners inside wind shell gloves and an insulated skull cap under the helmet.  During warm-up I also had wind pants over the tights and a down jacket.

The Zilker course was a challenging 3.5 kilometer per lap loop adjacent to Barton Springs pool that includes pavement, rolling sections through rough grass, run-ups over limestone outcroppings and plank barriers, and challenging descents that drop 75-100 feet down the face of the park's ridge line.

The starting stretch was a 400 yard gradual uphill on pavement that veered off onto a bumpy up-and-down grass/dirt section with multiple 90 to 180 degree corners in loose dirt and numerous 'curb ramps' where the course crossed streets.

After reaching the flatter high part of the course, the route headed back down toward the start area
with multiple descents that terminated in sharp off-camber corners leading to immediate short steep climbs back up the hill.

Most corners on the descents had frozen mud ruts and rough washboard areas making bike handling skills and a 'no-fear' attitude important while riding on narrow 35 mm or smaller tires cyclocross tires. Since I lack both great technical skills and the 'no-fear' attitude I lost quite a bit of time through these sections.

There were two longer descents including a rough and rutted dirt downhill and an interesting wooden ramp that bridged down over a 6 foot limestone cliff.  Each of the descents terminated in a 180 degree turn back uphill into dismount and run-back-up sections.

There were three dismount/run sections and several more run-ups if riders who failed to stay upright through the rutted off camber corners that preceded short up-hills. Two of the run-ups were over rough natural rock outcroppings that climbed 15 to 25 vertical feet up the ridge with the 3rd section being a double set of 16" high plank barriers situated on an uphill stretch of grass.

 One of the things that I've done for many years (in every sport I've competed in) is to do a post-season and post-race analysis to determine what I need to improve on for the next event or next season.

My list is long this year, but there are also a few bright spots such as an improved threshold based on field test heart rates, no crashes this year that resulted in injuries, and no difficulty with steep run-ups.

Here's the 'to do' list that reflects what I need to improve on during the off-season and the strategies I'll use to make those improvements.

1. Improve technical skills on corners and descents: Do more mountain biking, ride my CX bike more on mountain bike trails and (whenever possible) do these rides with other riders who are more skilled than I am.

2. Improve 'no fear' attitude: This is largely related to #1 above since better skills will improve my confidence in sketchy situations, but ... I'm also considering enhancement surgery to see if some bigger 'brass boys' will help :)

3. Improve power on short steep climbs: Do more hill workouts (especially big gear uphill intervals), spend more time in the weight room, and find a practice course that has more difficult uphill power sections.

4. Regain running fitness during the off-season: This one sounds strange, but my best cross seasons happened during a period when I was training for and racing duathlons and running events during the spring, summer and early fall. I'm going to add in more trail running and duathlon workouts (bike/run bricks) this year to see if that results in a higher fitness level and more overall strength and agility.

5. Build a stronger endurance base: This involves all of the above, but I suspect that that increasing my miles and total workout hours during the off season will let me train harder later in the year and - as a side benefit - will help me lose a little more weight. I'm currently around 184 and think that I would race better at about 175. The mileage goal for this year is 5,000 or more.

That's it ... the season is over ... time for a few easy weeks and then time to start training for the 2015-2016 CX season.


Upcoming Events
Jan 17: Trail Running Series 10K, roadlizards.org
Jan 31: Trail Running Series 12K, roadlizards.org
Feb 21: Trail Running Series 15K, roadlizards.org
Feb 21: Funnel Cake 5K, sanangelorodeo.com/events/2015/funnelcake5k
April 11: Castell Grind cycling ride, castellgrind.com/home.html

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Losing Weight in 2015

(Old Guys Who Get Fat in the Winter, Patrick O'Grady)
Many of you made New Year’s resolutions that involve losing weight and getting back into shape.

You’re not alone — most Americans need to make (and follow through) with that same resolution. Statistics indicate that 69 percent of people over the age of 20 are overweight (BMI of 25-29.9) and within that group 35 percent are considered obese (BMI over 30).

The good news is that — over time — overweight individuals can lose the flab, increase muscle tone and reverse the effects of too much food and not enough exercise.

Simply put, weight loss means burning more calories than you take in and it takes approximately a 3,500 calorie deficient to burn one pound of fat.

Eat less food, cut back on high-calorie drinks such as beer and soft drinks and increase the amount of exercise that you do.

‘Calories burned’ is the sum of exercise calories plus your basal metabolic rate with basal metabolism accounting for approximately 70 percent of all calories burned. You can approximate your base metabolism using a calculator such as the one online at bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator.

Your base metabolism will stay about the same or even decrease somewhat as you age, although you can ramp it up with cardiovascular exercise and strength training that builds muscle.

Increasing the amount of lean muscle is good because it burns more calories than fat, thus increasing your base metabolism.

Lack of exercise intensity is one key area where many people fall short related to burning calories during exercise.

Short slow walks with your dog or those twice-weekly ‘no sweat’ 20 minute workouts in the gym, while still beneficial, will not accomplish what’s needed if you’re trying to lose weight and tone muscles.

Instead, you need to consistently exercise long enough and at a high enough intensity to really make a dent in those fat cells.

Aim for at least 60 minutes of exercise per day, five to six days a week, with a combination of low intensity aerobic exercise (60-65 percent of your maximum heart rate), some high intensity (75 percent of max heart rate or higher) and several days that include strength training.

You can get an estimate of your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 and then use a heart rate watch to make sure you’re ‘in the zone’ during workouts.

One good way to structure your fat-burning exercise program is to do at least two days per week of higher intensity interval sessions (body pump, spin classes or interval workouts on gym equipment) with one or two days of lower intensity aerobic exercise between each of the high intensity days.

Fast walking or walk/jog is also a great way to get your heart rate up and burn calories. Start with 20-30 minute sessions on a treadmill or on a soft dirt/grass surface (avoid pavement). Warm up with a brisk walk for a few minutes, then alternate one minute of fast walking with one minute of easy jogging. Gradually increase the length and speed of the ‘run’ segments (i.e., two minute run and one minute walk; three minute run, etc.).

You can do the same type of interval workout on an indoor or outdoor bicycle. Warm up with easy riding, then go harder for 1-2 minutes, relax and spin easy for recovery and repeat that cycle for 20-30 minutes.

Add in strength exercises on several of the days and you’ll have a solid program that, when coupled with smart eating habits, will result in a slow erosion of the pounds that you’re wanting to lose.

One additional suggestion is to keep a workout journal. Write down the minutes per day of exercise, note what the workout(s) were, track your daily weight and then calculate your average weight for each week. The data in the journal will keep you honest about what you’re actually doing and it also lets you look back and see what worked based on weight and fitness improvements.

My final tip is to set some goals with a time line. Establishing goals means you’re working toward something instead of just working out. Goals can be something like ‘lose five pounds by May 1’ or ‘complete a 4-mile walk in 70 minutes by June 15.’

Last but not least, be sure to consult with your physician before starting any type of new exercise program.

Remember — the best weight loss formula is to eat less and exercise more.



Upcoming Events
Jan. 10 (rescheduled date): Resolution Run, roadlizards.org/events/ecvfd-resolution-run-2015/

Jan. 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships, usacycling.org/2015/cyclo-cross-nationals

Jan. 17-Feb 21: Trail Running Series, roadlizards.org

April 11: Castell Grind cycling race, castellgrind.com/home.html

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Recap of 2014

Another year of San Angelo fitness activities has come and gone.

Overall, the trends this past year were more people taking part in run/walk events, a decline in road bike cycling and fewer local cycling events.

There was increased participation in local triathlon events during 2014 with the primary increase being people taking part in the shorter ‘sprint distance’ events.

As noted above, running continued to be popular with most of the same events from 2013 taking place again this year. Several new events were held, including the West Texas half-marathon, the Christoval Vineyards half-marathon and 10K, and the Goodyear Race for Celebration.

Trail running continued to grow in popularity with the Shannon Trail Running Series, Dinosaur Trail Run and the Crazy Desert Trail Run being some of the popular running events during the past year.

On a down note, several of the running events that had previously been held on the Angelo State University campus either did not take place in 2014 or were significantly smaller than in the past.

Triathletes had three local events to enjoy during 2014, including the Lake Nasworthy sprint triathlon, the Goodfellow triathlon and the new San Angelo triathlon last August.

The San Angelo triathlon, which included a sprint distance event, team relays and an Olympic distance race, was a welcomed reincarnation of the former Wool Capitol triathlon that was canceled in 2013 after being a mainstay on the local calendar for over 20 years.

Organized cycling activities in San Angelo declined during 2014, continuing a trend that started several years back. As noted in a previous column published back on October 17, the 6-Hour Dinosaur mountain bike event and the small time trials put on by the local cycling club were the only competitive cycling events in San Angelo during the past year.

The ASUFit cyclocross series that was held on the Angelo State campus through 2013 did not take place this year, ending a four-year run for an event that attracted quite a few local cyclists and some out-of-town racers.

Smaller numbers were also evident this year for the twice-weekly Loop Group rides, with only a handful of cyclists showing up each week for what once was large enough to be jokingly called the ‘Tuesday/Thursday World Championships.’

More San Angelo cyclists opted for casual small-group ‘social rides’ on mountain bikes or in areas around the lake parks with fewer people venturing out to ride onto the busy area roads.

The increase in traffic on area highways, rough chip-sealed roads, the lack of in-town cycling infrastructure such as bike lanes and off-street paths and the higher cost of bicycles and related equipment compared to running shoes and clothing were all factors that impacted local cycling activities.

So what can we expect to see during the coming year?

All indicators suggest that the trends from 2013 and 2014 will continue with running remaining strong, triathlon growing somewhat and cycling remaining at about the same level as during the past year.

More cyclists will sift their rides to low-traffic rural roads or mountain bike trails, although the construction of the Red Arroyo trail may encourage casual cyclists to ride in town on the Red Arroyo’s paved routes.

Triathlon participation is expected to grow locally during 2015 with the growth being driven by having three local multi-sport events and also a strong social media marketing campaign by the San Angelo Triathlon promoter. There are also rumors that suggest an off-road multisport event such as a run-bike-run duathlon may be organized.

Remember — 2014 is about to end so it’s time to start training for 2015 events.


Upcoming Events
Now-Jan 4: Texas Cup cyclocross series: http://txbra.org/events
Jan. 3: Resolution Run: roadlizards.org/events/ecvfd-resolution-run-2015/
Jan 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships: usacycling.org/2015/cyclo-cross-nationals
Jan 17-Feb 21: Trail Running Series: roadlizards.org

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gift Socks For An Athlete

There are only a few more shopping days until Christmas, and you may still be unsure of what to get

Don't despair — just give those athletes socks.

Depending on their sport and the "style rules" your athletes adhere to, you can select from tall socks, short socks, bright colored socks, compression socks, wicking socks, windproof socks or socks that carry a printed message such as ‘dopers suck.'

Selecting workout socks was easier back in the day — you just went to Target, Kmart or Sears and picked up a six-pack of white "athletic" tube socks. Today's athletes are a little more choosy about what covers their foot, so you have to match the sock with the sport and the athlete's personality.

Let's start with cyclists. To make an intelligent decision, you'll have to determine if the person on your list is a mountain biker, road cyclist or a cyclocross racer.

Road cyclists are the most concerned about image and style, so make sure to select socks that won't damage their ego. In general, stay away from short ankle socks (too much of a tennis look), go with black socks only if they are a Lance Armstrong supporter, and above all try to color-match a road cyclist's socks with his/her team colors.

Mountain bikers are generally a more down-in-the-dirt group and thus don't worry about style as much. In fact, some off-road cyclists have been spotted wearing hunting socks from non-cycling vendors such a Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops.

Cyclists who train for and race cyclocross events usually have the most eccentric taste in socks. For this deviant breed, get socks that are tall, funky, garishly bright in color and — if possible — that have patterns to match the cyclist's leg scars and tattoos.

If you're still confused about socks for cyclists you might want to read "Fashion Trends in Cycling Socks" published by Cyclingtips (cyclingtips.com.au/2012/10/new-summer-fashion-trends-with-cycling-socks/).

Triathletes deserve a mention although they are not real cyclists since cycling events are never preceded by a swim or followed by a run. Most multisport athletes have serious love affairs with the tall calf-height dorky-looking compression socks that help squeeze blood from the lower legs back up to their brain.

The good news is that you can save money by just buying those athletes a pair of long varicose vein compression stockings from Walgreens or similar medical supply stores. They'll never know the difference.

Runners are somewhat picky about what's between their feet and their running shoes. In general, they'll prefer something ankle-high or shorter that looks fast and saves a couple of grams of weight. Long-distance runners may prefer socks that have a slightly thicker padded underfoot to compensate for the thinly padded ultralight distance running shoes they race in.

Trail runners are a different breed from normal runners and may like slightly taller crew-height socks that are pre-stained in trail dirt and mud colors.

To be honest, most of the difference between the various subcategories of cycling and running socks is the product of great marketing by sock companies.

When in doubt, just ask the salesperson at your cycling or running store. Believe everything they tell you — maybe.

Remember — it's important to select appropriate gift socks for an athlete.
for the athletes on your list.


Upcoming Events

Now-Jan 4: Texas Cup cyclocross series: http://txbra.org/events
January 3: Resolution Run, roadlizards.org/events/ecvfd-resolution-run-2015/
Jan 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships, usacycling.org/2015/cyclo-cross-nationals
Jan 17-Feb 21: Trail Running Series, roadlizards.org


Monday, December 15, 2014

Construction Underway on Red Arroyo Trail

I was part of a 25-person group of San Angelo residents who met on June 4th, 2004 to begin discussing current and future needs for non-motorized transportation infrastructure such as bike/pedestrian paths and trails in San Angelo.

This forward-thinking group realized that San Angelo lagged far behind other communities related to bike paths, sidewalks and related venues for cycling, running and fitness.

Subsequent meetings of that group, working with the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, resulted in San Angelo's City Council contracting with the Wilber Smith Associates consultant group to develop a comprehensive Bike/Pedestrian plan for the city (sanangelompo.org/plans.php). 

The consultant group's report listed the construction of a multiuse bike and pedestrian trail through the Red Arroyo 'greenbelt' area as being one of the first projects that San Angelo residents wanted the city to complete.

More than a decade after the initial focus group meeting was held, construction has finally started on that trail project with the projected completion date being mid-July 2015.
Although the Red Arroyo trail is the first major project being done as part of the Bike/Pedestrian plan implementation, it's much more than just a paved trail.

The final product will be a 'remodeled' open space area stretching from Sherwood Way to Knickerbocker Blvd that includes approximately 4 miles of meandering 14 foot wide concrete paths providing recreational and non-motorized transportation routes for cyclists, runners and walkers.

Karl Bednarz, PE, the manager of the Engineering Services Division for the city, notes that the overall trail project will include three major trailhead access points at Sul Ross, Millbrook and Unidad Park, seven neighborhood trail access points, a restroom located at Unidad Park, five bridges across the arroyo, multiple storm water detention ponds and park benches at selected locations.

"We’ve started the pond excavation, sidewalk construction, parking lot construction at Unidad Park and bridge foundation placement," says Bednarz. "Pond excavation should be completed by mid March, sidewalk construction by the end of April, bridge construction by mid March and the parking lots by mid February."

"Concrete trail construction will begin early April and be completed by early June, and the contractor is scheduled to wrap up the entire project by mid July 2015."

If you want to view the trail route and location of associated infrastructure, go to cosatx.us/departments-services/engineering-services and click on the link at the bottom right "Red Arroyo preliminary plan."

Money from several sources is being used to fund the Red Arroyo project.

"The overall project contract price is $3,870,893," says Bednarz. "Approximately 80% is funded by a Federal Transportation Enhancement Grant and 20% is funded by the City of San Angelo (approximately $325,000 from ½ cent sales tax funds designated for general park improvements and $475,000 from storm water funds)."

When completed, this project will help support San Angelo's on-going transformation to a more active community where residents spend time engaged in healthy outdoor exercise.

You'll see people on the trail as they bike commute or walk to school or work, families 'hitting the pavement' for an evening stroll, mothers pushing baby carriages along the route and groups using the trail for run/walk events.

The construction of the Red Arroyo trail may also lead to the implementation of other initiatives that leverage the paths and associated open space.

Businesses and schools near the arroyo (such as Angelo State University) will be able to establish bike/pedestrian routes from their location to the nearest trailhead, a dog park has been proposed adjacent to the trail in the arroyo and off-road cyclists and runners are envisioning a network of dirt paths through the Red Arroyo open space.

One additional benefit of the project is that the Red Arroyo trail, when completed, could relieve some of the congestion on the KOA loop by providing current KOA loop runners and walkers with an alternative car-free place to exercise.

The Red Arroyo trail is a positive step toward making San Angelo a more bikeable and walkable city, and it's the first of what will hopefully be many bike/pedestrian projects that serve all parts of our community.

Remember - the vision developed by that bike/pedestrian committee ten years ago is starting to become a reality.


Upcoming Events
Dec 13: Run Rudolph Run, conchochristmascelebration.com/additional-activities
Now-Jan 4: Texas Cup cyclocross series: http://txbra.org/events
January 3: Resolution Run, roadlizards.org/events/ecvfd-resolution-run-2015/
Jan 7-11: Cyclocross National Championships, usacycling.org/2015/cyclo-cross-nationals
Jan 17-Feb 21: Trail Running Series, roadlizards.org