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Bicycling along the American River
First time group bicycling excursion lives up to billing
pic vince-bike-3
For some, the toughest leg of the bike ride was uphill via the Folsom Dam. - photo by PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED

SACRAMENTO — I had always wondered about the much ado made over group bicycling.

That was until last Friday’s ride along the American River Bike Path.

A group consisting of a few members of the spin class at my local fitness club took up an invitation from instructor Angela Leonardo.

A no-show at the morning session scheduled earlier that day due to car problems, she still managed to get the word out that the planned bike ride was still a go.

I made it to the meeting place on my mountain bike purchased nearly 20 years ago. The only work done to the 18-speed Omega-brand bike during that time called for replacement of the crank shaft and tires. I prayed for this bike to get me through the unknown.

I was a first-time cyclist on the American River Bike Path. Thankfully, I wasn’t alone. Jeff, a truck driver and recently divorced father of a grade-school son, along with mother of two, Flossoll, and Claudia, a licensed massage therapist, were also rookies.

All told, eight of us turned out for the bike ride, including Mike, a mechanic and mountain bike enthusiast; Don, who is a regular in Angela’s spin class at the University of the Pacific; and Row, who was fresh off running a marathon.

The American River Bike Path is 33.37 miles, running through Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, Fair Oaks, and Folsom. We used the eastern span, driving from Stockton to the parking lot of the Nimbus Fish Hatchery via Highway 50 – also known as the El Dorado Freeway – at the Hazel Avenue exit, and located some seven miles below Folsom Dam, which, as it turned out, would be our destination.

It wasn’t long into the ride that I understood why people enjoy cycling as recreation. With my bike aimed at the right side of the lane – the path had plenty of twists, turns and elevation changes – I was wowed by the fall scenery particularly along picturesque Lake Natoma.

As a group, we made sure to look out for one another, staying on course and, of course, safe. It’s no surprise some riders probably get too caught up in “chewing the scenery.” Now, I say that after experiencing a near-collision with an off-road group on mountain bikes caught drifting off into the paved bike path at a point where the dirt road ends.

Fortunately, no one was hurt. However, I was without a bike helmet as was Claudia, who admitted later that she was initially afraid to go on the bike ride after being involved in a serious motorcycle accident some 13 years earlier. By the way, I was just presented with a helmet by my boss with the promise of wearing it on any bike ride from this moment forward.

Meanwhile, the American River Bike Path also included a suspension bridge with a great view of historic Rainbow Bridge, with the final few miles of the ride consisting mostly of uphill climbs along the path running adjacent to Folsom-Auburn Road.

It was also at that point I realized the morning spin classes had paid dividends. A year ago I probably would have struggled to make this or any bike ride. But the group exercise classes now part of my lifestyle since the summer was clearly the difference maker.

Our group convened at Beals Point overlooking Folsom Lake, catching a breather before our return trip, which, as it turned out, was an adrenalin-filled downhill ride.

Besides the cycling experience, I’ll cherish the time spent that day with good folks. In this case, both seem to go hand in hand.

I’m already looking forward to the next group bike ride.

To reach reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail