Weather frightful? Winter cyclists find it snow delightful

Fred Stucky (right) and Sandzhar Abdullaev enjoy a ride in Tyler State Park after last Saturday’s big snowfall.

When the weatherman says big snow is on the way, many people think of a day off from school or work, breaking out the skis or building a snowman.

Notice we use the word “many,’’ but not everybody.

There is a group of bicycle riders from Bucks County and beyond who actually cheer when the white stuff arrives about a half-dozen times per winter just for the chance to pedal when they have trails and backroads to themselves.

The past weekend’s big storm, the first of its kind this winter, had Fred Stucky and friends literally racing to Tyler State Park to test out a fresh half-foot of powder.

So the first thought which comes to mind might be: Isn’t this a little dangerous?

Well, actually no. See, first they use off-road or gravel bikes with all-terrain tires for traction and stopping ability. Second, if there is an “accident,’’ there’s plenty of soft snow to ease the fall.

Once a rider has mastered how to negotiate the landscape, it becomes easy to appreciate the beauty and peacefulness of destinations such as Tyler, Core Creek Park, Lumberville or any off-road locations with more panoramas and less traffic headaches.

Stucky says there are a couple reasons why he enjoys getting out there while other people are sledding or doing other traditional winter activities.

“First is the challenge,’’ he said. “The other for me is the serenity. The snow in Tyler Park is probably one of the most serene two hours I get on a bicycle. It’s super quiet. There’s no one in the park. I love how it makes me feel. It’s just a variety of motivators. It’s as much for my mind as it is for my body.’’

It should be noted the 58-year-old Stucky rides upwards of 15,000 miles per four-season year, which is more than a lot of people put on their cars. A 300-mile week might be a lot for the most aggressive of riders but for him it’s just an average seven days.

Stucky is often joined on these excursions by Sandzhar Abdullaev, a doctor who hails from Russia, along with Brian Berry, Jane Willenbucher, Mark Hemming and Henry Eastburn. Perhaps the biggest “name’’ rider in the group is Bob Burke, long-time co-owner and manager of Guy’s Bicycles in Feasterville.

When the snow really starts to pile up – let’s say a foot or more – the group switches over to “gravel’’ bikes with wider tires for stability.

“I go into Core Creek (which is flatter than Tyler) on occasion, too,’’ Stucky said. “We ride some plowed roads and then cut our own trails. I would say it’s about 60 percent for the trails.’’

Falling over from time to time is inevitable but again there’s that built-in safety net.

“You do end up tipping over invariably,’’ Stucky said. “Sandzhar is still a bit new to this and fell over a number of times. We both chuckled for that reason. We were like, ‘it doesn’t hurt when you fall into the snow.’ So it’s great.’’

All the bikes have disc brakes to provide extra stopping power. Also, even on downhills, the riders stay at a controlled pace to maintain stability and balance. Stucky said on the big Tyler downhills, the speed is only about half what it would be in the summer.

A graduate of George School and Georgia Southern University, the Middletown Township native jumps off his bike on occasion to continue his career as a contractor in the school furniture business.

When the next major weather event arrives on the horizon, the Bucks bunch will be ready to go.

“I get so excited when I see the snow coming,’’ Stucky said. “I get my extra winter bike clothing out. I make sure my tire pressures are lower. I really love it.’’

>Mastering Millrose

The Millrose Games have been around since about the invention of the spiked shoe and last week’s races at the New York Armory upheld the fine tradition.

The Greater Philadelphia Track Club sent a large contingent to compete, including a number of masters teams, and they all met with success.

GPTC swept the 4×400 relay events for ages 40, 50 and 60.

Council Rock High School graduate Rob Ciervo was part of the winning 50 squad. The team ran what amounted to a mile in 3:55.12. Ciervo ran the third leg in 59.14 seconds. Leadoff runner John Curtis clocked 58.07, second man Delvin Dinkins ran a 57.41 and anchor Nick Damalas hit the line in 60.51. The quartet won by a whopping eight seconds.

Also, Warminster native and Archbishop Wood High School student Gary Martin, a two-time PIAA state champion in the mile and two-mile who broke the state mile record last year in 4:03, ran in the open mile against adult runners/professionals and clocked in at 4:05.47 to finish a highly respectable eighth.

“Just a great event and so many exciting races, especially the later races,’’ Ciervo said. “Ollie Hoare, who is 38, outkicked Josh Kerr and Nick Willis of New Zealand in the Wanamaker Mile to extend his streak of sub-4 miles to 20 straight years.’’

GPTC’s 40 and 60 teams tore it up as well, with the 40 guys going 3:47.85 and the 60s claiming top prize in 4:35.63.

Next stop: The Penn Relays.

“Everyone on the team can’t wait for the opportunity to race the 4×400 again after last year’s meet was canceled due to COVID,’’ Ciervo said. “Some of us also will be competing in the 2022 USATF Masters National Indoor Championships in March at the Armory as well.’’

Masterful performances, to say the least.

Race calendar

Sunday

Bucks County Roadrunners Club Winter Series Terrible Tyler 15K (9.3 miles), 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.bcrrclub.com

 

  • Stucky uses a bike with special tires to negotiate snowy trails in Tyler.

 

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About Wayne Fish 1793 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.