By Amelia Pavlik
Imagine the feeling of a cool breeze whipping past your cheeks as you fly down a hill on a bike. Whether you're 7 or 70, this energizing feeling never gets old.
Now that summer is in full swing, what better way to enjoy the warmer temperatures – and squeeze in a workout – than by going for a bike ride?
"Not only is cycling a great way to explore the outdoors, but it is also low impact, and you can make the ride as hard or as easy as you want," says Jody McDanal, senior mechanic at Peachtree Bikes. McDanal has worked behind the scenes at professional races and competes in races himself. "I can't think of many other ways to burn as many calories as I do when I'm on the bike."
Gerry Halphen, a spinning instructor at Concourse Athletic Club and a triathlon coach, adds that whether you're prepping for a race or looking for an engaging workout, you can't beat riding outdoors. "An outdoor ride provides more realistic preparation," he says. "Plus, when you're outside, there is more stimuli, which makes the ride more of a mental challenge than riding a stationary bike in an indoor cycling class."
If you're new to riding outdoors, Halphen has the following tips to set you up for success:
Buy the right gear. This includes cycling shorts with built-in padding and cycling shoes with cleats that will help you pedal more steadily.
Learn from the veterans. Connect to experienced cyclists through local cycling shops. "Most are enthusiastic about the sport and are willing to help others get into it," says Halphen. "They are also often willing to loan or give away some of their old gear."
Go slow to go fast. "It takes time for the body to adjust, so don't overdo it and decide you're going to ride 100 miles five days in a row," he says. "That will likely result in significant discomfort, soreness or even injury."
And for those days that you don't have time to head outside, McDanal and Halphen add that indoor cycling is a great alternative. "You don't have to worry about traffic or weather," says Halphen. "And from a coach's perspective, the lack of obstacles like stop signs allow you to pedal continuously, enabling you to focus on a goal like a heart rate target." Many of Atlanta's indoor cycling options will show your metrics right on the bike or an overhead screen, helping you meet your fitness goals. Some even offer an upper-body component to ensure that you're getting a full body workout.
Read on for a list of spots where you can get a great outdoor or indoor ride in Atlanta and beyond.
Hit the Trail
PATH400 Greenway Trail
The first phase of what will be a 5.2-mile path through the Buckhead area opened earlier this year, from Old Ivy Road to Tower Place. Eventually, the trail will extend from Loridans Drive south to the Atlanta BeltLine's Peachtree Creek spur trail. When complete, this paved trail will wind through the North Buckhead, Peachtree Park and Lindmont LaVista neighborhoods. It will also give cyclists, skaters, walkers and runners plenty of room to share, with a path width of 10 to 14 feet.
Classes incorporate two-pound beanbag weights and a variety of movements from more than 20 different sports, including boxing and swimming. Childcare is available, and when taking a Cyc class, you also have complimentary access to The Forum facilities and amenities two hours before or after class. Hop on one of their 50 bikes for $25 per class for adults or $20 for students.
Details: Lenox Mall, inside The Forum Athletic Club, 3393 Peachtree St., Atlanta GA, (404) 698-4343, www.cycfitness.com
This popular studio incorporates arm work with weighted bars and regularly has themed rides so you can work out to music you love. They offer complimentary cycling shoes for riders and showers with Bliss hair and body products. If you can't reserve a spot on one of their 52 Buckhead studio bikes, try their Midtown or Alpharetta locations. Your first class is $28.
Details: 102 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta GA, 678-702-5684, www.flywheelsports.com
Roc House Fitness Spa
In addition to 25 bikes for cycling classes, the women's only Roc House also offers customized personal training, more than 45 group fitness classes a week, a full-service spa and cafe. The first class is free for Buckhead residents.
Details: 3402 Piedmont Road, Atlanta GA, (404) 500-1621, www.rochousefitnessspa.com
Hit the Trail
This project utilizes an existing 22-mile historic rail corridor that encircles the City of Atlanta as its foundation. Pedestrian-friendly rail transit and 33 miles of multiuse trails will follow this corridor and stem off of it. "I ride the BeltLine all the time," said Madison James, BeltLine fitness ambassador, B98.5 radio personality and AJC fitness blogger. There are currently four active trails – the Eastside Trail, the Northside Trail, the Southwest Connector Spur Trail and the West End Trail – and more in the works. Check out the map pictured to find your nearest BeltLine access point, and hop on your bike today!
James continues, "If you want a safe place to ride with your kids, it's perfect. Plus, there are bike tours and classes for first time riders." Check out the temporary art installations that can be found along the trail, or take one of the free fitness classes offered in various locations that range from yoga to aerobics.
Details: Visit www.beltline.org for details on upcoming expansion and an interactive map.
Core Cycling is one of a suite of classes offered at exhale, including barre, boot camp and yoga. You can also enjoy a detoxifying coed hammam, sauna and steam rooms after your ride. Pay $25 for a cycling class, or sign up for the Week of Transformation for $30, which includes unlimited classes for a week and discounts on spa therapies and private training sessions.
Details: Loews Atlanta Hotel, 7th floor, 1065 Peachtree St., Atlanta GA, (404) 720-5000, www.exhalespa.com
Torq Cycle Atlanta
Classes incorporate light weights for a total body workout, and all 30 bikes show an accurate display of power and RPM output to help you track and meet your training goals. Cool off post-ride with chilled eucalyptus hand towels, and enjoy showers stocked with Malin+Goetz products. Try your first class for free.
Details: 935 Marietta St. NW, Atlanta GA, (404) 606-6931, www.torqatl.com
At Vibe Ride, which opened this April, 35 bikes use a performance IQ/class metrics system to track your heart rate, calories burned and power. The fun comes in with the instructors' rhythmic riding style that encourages you to "dance on the bike." The studio also offers boot camp and barre classes, so if you enjoy your first free cycling class, you can round out your routine with their other offerings.
Details: 950 West Peachtree St. NW, Suite 225, Atlanta GA, www.theviberide.com
Outside the Perimeter
Hit the Trail
Big Creek Greenway Trail
This trail spans 13.5 miles through Roswell, Alpharetta and Forsyth County. Currently, there are two sections to the trail. The Forsyth County portion extends from Bethelview Road to McFarland Parkway. The Alpharetta portion extends from Marconi Drive to just south of Mansell Road in Fulton County. There are plans to connect the trails, but nothing has been solidified yet.
Details: Find directions, parking and maps at www.bigcreekgreenway.com
Silver Comet Trail
This 61.5-mile trail was build along an abandoned railroad line. It starts at the Mavell Road Trailhead in Smyrna and ends at the Georgia/Alabama state line, near Cedartown. It is a quiet, non-motorized, paved trail for walkers, hikers, cyclists, horses and dog walkers. It is also wheelchair accessible.
Concourse Athletic Club
In addition to a 42-bike cycling studio, this club offers a variety of other classes ranging from yoga to Zumba. Members also have access to indoor/outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, whirlpools, steam rooms, saunas, and a restaurant and cafe.
Details: 8 Concourse Parkway, Sandy Springs GA, (770) 698-2000, www.wellbridge.com
Life Time Fitness
Life Time Fitness' class offerings vary by location, but they range from EDGE Cycle, which provides an individualized experience to push riders, to Cycle Sculpt, which incorporates an upper-body workout. The Alpharetta and Johns Creek clubs also offer outdoor cycling programs for the best of both worlds. Classes are complimentary for gym members, and nonmembers can pay a guest fee, which varies by club.
Details: Locations in Sandy Springs, Lawrenceville, Alpharetta, Norcross, Woodstock and Johns Creek, www.lifetimefitness.com