Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride.
— Eddy Merckx, five-time winner of the Tour de France
For many of us, childhood happened on a bike. We cruised with our friends on banana-seat bikes and then graduated to 10-speeds that meant freedom. Bikes were transportation to school, to friends’ houses, and just to get away.
We can still use two wheels to get to school or work, to friends’ houses . . . and just to get away!
We are lucky to live in an area that makes it easy to start riding or get back in the saddle. Cycling is possible 12 months out of the year in the Southwest, and as cyclist and advocate Ashleigh Curry notes, Doña Ana County has relatively low traffic and offers a choice between riding on flat roads or hills — you can take your pick!
Ashleigh is the Las Cruces Public Schools’ Safe Routes to Schools coordinator and a member of the Mesilla Park Cycling Group. At first, she rode for practical reasons. When her kids were small, she’d pack them into a trailer to take them to preschool, then commute to her classes at Doña Ana Community College. According to Ashleigh, “It was a great way to exercise, do something with the kids that they loved, and get where I needed to go!”
When she wanted to start cycling for recreation, Ashleigh started riding with a (now defunct) group of women cyclists called the ROYALS — Riding Out Yonder at Leisurely Speed. Ashleigh notes it was a “huge confidence builder” to ride with other women at different levels of ability while learning how to ride safely. Ashleigh has advice for people who want to ride but feel a little self-conscious. She says, “I look at someone out there on a bike and think, good for them! If you haven’t been out in a while, you might be self-conscious going out the door, but as soon as you feel the wind in your face, you’ll have a crazy, goofy smile and you won’t care what anyone else thinks!”
Getting back in the saddle
Her other advice is about safety and money. First, go to the Velo Cruces website — velocruces.org — for information about road rules and resources and to inquire about (post-COVID) League of American Bicyclists safety classes. Second, she said, “Don’t be overwhelmed by the investment.” To get out on the road, the only thing you need is a bike in good repair and a helmet. Wear comfortable clothes and don’t wear anything dangly that could get caught in the chain or spokes. Don’t be tempted to buy a brand-new, high-end bike. Instead, Ashleigh suggests getting a used hybrid to start with.
Her final piece of advice? “Ride, ride, ride!”
Donald Wilson and George Pearson are president and vice president, respectively, of Velo Cruces, a nonprofit advocacy group with the mission of transforming Las Cruces into a great bicycle and pedestrian community. Velo Cruces also hosts the Visibility Ride the second Monday of each month.
According to George, the tragic death of Anthony Lemieux, who was struck by a car while riding to work in 2008, brought the cycling community together and ultimately led to the adoption of the City of Las Cruces’ Active Transportation Plan and Complete Streets resolution, which includes pedestrians, bicycles, and public transit into plans for street improvements. George notes, “The city is trying to address these issues, but there’s always more to be done.”
A longtime bike commuter, Donald’s biggest tip is to take safety seriously, mentioning that George is a certified League of American Bicyclists instructor. Donald notes, “Fifty years on a bike and I learned things from George that helped me be a safer rider.” Follow the rules, and respect drivers the way you want to be respected. Be visible, wear a flashing light and high-visibility colors, and be predictable. George agrees, adding, “Unpredictable behavior scares motorists.”
The Hub Community Bike Shop is the newest labor of love for Velo Cruces. Offering low-cost bicycle repair services, before the pandemic, The Hub also featured basic bike repair instruction. The Hub’s bicycle distribution program provides bikes at no cost to those who are homeless, and donations of bikes, parts, accessories, or volunteer mechanic time are welcome, as are financial donations for locks, helmets, vests, and safety lights for those bikes.
E-Bikes of Southern New Mexico
New to our cycling community is E-Bikes of Southern New Mexico. Electric bikes, or e-bikes, are an option for those who don’t want to or can’t ride a regular bike. On an e-bike, the rider chooses the level and duration of pedal assist — as much or as little help as they want.
E-Bikes of Southern New Mexico owners Barbara and Jim Toth say there is no typical customer, and about half buy an e-bike to commute and half for recreation. Jim noted their youngest customer was a 14-year-old whose parents couldn’t get her to ride a regular bike to school, and their oldest customer was 83 at the time she bought her e-bike so she could continue to ride with her husband. Peace officers on e-bikes say they aren’t as tired at the end of a shift, and commuters like the pedal assist to get to work and then get a bit more exercise on the way home.
Barbara calls e-bikes “equalizers,” noting one customer who so wanted to ride with his friends, but didn’t feel he could because his fitness level wasn’t what theirs was — but an e-bike got him on the road, giving him the boost when he needs it.
Although e-bikes generally run $5,000 and up, E-Bikes of Southern New Mexico specializes in high quality bikes that are an excellent value — expect to spend $1,100 — $2,700. Jim notes the most expensive component of an e-bike to replace is the battery ($450 to $800), but as a battery will last about 10,000 miles, you won’t replace it often.
An avid cyclist throughout his life and an electronics technician for 33 years, Jim is intimately familiar with the inner workings of the e-bikes they sell and provides maintenance services.
Barbara is enthusiastic about our friendly cycling community and the city continuing smart, bicycle-friendly infrastructure improvements to make cycling part of our lives. Donald from Velo Cruces agrees, noting that e-bikes are a welcome addition to the cycling community to encourage more people to get outdoors and trade their four-wheel rides for the joy of two wheels.
What are you waiting for? Get on your bike and ride!
Written by Elaine Stachera Simon • Courtesy photos
Originally published in Neighbors magazine | 2020
Posted by LasCruces.com