Ride On: Frisco's Cycling Scene Welcomes AllJan 01, 2022 ● By Stephen Hunt
It has been 16 years since Frisco was named a bicycle-friendly community by the nonprofit League of American Bicyclists – one of 13 Texas cities to have the designation. As the city continues to grow, more cyclists have hit local roads and trails.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the local cycling community further expanded as many who had not previously purchased a bike did so, and others who had one sitting in the garage collecting dust resumed cycling.
“I’ve seen three big booms in my lifetime,” says Dallas-Fort Worth cycling enthusiast Craig “Junior” Miller, co-host of the top-rated “The Musers” morning radio show on SportsRadio 96.7 FM/1310 AM The Ticket.
“First was when (former professional road-racing cyclist) Greg LeMond got famous (during the 1980s) and started winning the Tour [de France].” About a decade later, Miller says, “When Lance (Armstrong) started winning the Tour, bike sales shot through the roof. Now, the third one wasn’t because of a famous racer, but the pandemic. I have noticed casual acquaintances or friends who ride. They’ve gotten their wives or kids into cycling during the pandemic because it was a family activity that they could all do.”
Not only have riders of all ages and skill levels started cycling during the pandemic, but industry experts estimate that most are sticking with it. According to a recent study conducted by the National Bicycle Dealers Association, 50 percent of those cycling today entered the sport within the past two years or returned to it.
In the Metoplex, “We don’t have a whole lot of natural beauty or great roads here. Cyclists love mountains and rolling terrain like the (Texas) Hill County and quiet country roads. We really don’t have any of that,” Miller says. “Despite that, we have a really strong cycling scene in Dallas-Fort Worth. I’ve always been blown away by the fact that there’s such a giant cycling scene here.”
The cycling scene in Frisco particularly is not only vibrant and welcoming, but it’s also a community that continues to grow. Cycling shops here, including Bike Mart and Endur3 Bikes (the latter opened in Frisco in May 2021), even sponsor local racing teams.
Join The Club
If there’s one area in which the local cycling community has excelled, it has been in making newcomers feel welcome, one of the many benefits riders can experience by joining a local club.
Joel Hoback is president of the Shawnee Trail Cycling Club, Frisco’s largest social cycling club, which currently has around 800 members. The group hosts weekly rides, including ones geared specifically toward cycling newcomers. Last year, he says, the group saw so much interest that he established a group for novice riders.
“Historically with our club, the novice rides will stop in late August, early September.” Into late 2021, he says, the club continued to have new riders attend its meets on Saturday mornings. “People just bought bikes and it’s a great thing. It’s a slower ride for me, but I’ll keep going out as long as they’re coming.”
That welcoming vibe is one thing that initially drew Rich Allen, a Shawnee Trail member, to cycling in 1985. “It’s a sport you can do without feeling inferior or not capable,” Allen says. Cycling clubs “have the different tiers which allow beginners to feel really comfortable in a group of peers, intermediate riders to put a little more effort in but not have to go with the A (-level) riders who want to go out and just bust it.”
Cycling, Allen says, is “a way to stay competitive, but within a zone that makes it comfortable. Many of the other sports – as you age or as newer, faster, younger players come on the scene – you feel like you’d be sitting on the bench. This isn’t a bench sport, which is what I like about it.”
Learning the ropes from more experienced cyclists who lead group rides can provide newcomers the comfort level they need to continue cycling so that one day they may lead group rides themselves. “With some people, it’s the sense of safety if you’re on the road, especially some of the newer cyclists. Until they get used to how to ride on the road and make themselves visible, they find a lot of comfort and safety riding with others,” Hoback says.
Shawnee Trail Cycling Club and Preston Ridge Cycling Community are social organizations that encourage members to get together and ride for fun. Members of other clubs, including the Frisco Cycling Club, use rides to train for races.
Bill Woodard is vice president of the Preston Ridge Cycling Community (PRCC), Frisco’s newest cycling club that started in October 2021. He says the group appeals to a niche market of local cyclists.
“We just decided there was a need that we could fill with trying to get more families out, more kids out, having a truly social group. That’s why we call it ‘Preston Ridge Cycling Community,’ not ‘club.’ … We’re really focused on the community aspect of that – just getting people out and enjoying the outdoors.”
PRCC offers rides on gravel and mountain bike excursions on local trails and standard rides on Frisco roads. This spring, “We’re going to start doing some family bike rides on weekends where it’s neighborhoods, parks, trails,” Woodard says. “It might only be five or 10 miles at a real casual pace, but it allows parents to get out with their kids, be part of the group and learn more about the city (and) cycling. It’s a little bit different type of focus than you see with some of the other clubs around town.”
Cycling in Frisco
In 2019, the City of Frisco updated its Hike and Bike Master Plan, which may be viewed at friscotexas.gov/DocumentCenter/View/19643/Frisco-TX-Hike-and-Bike-Master-Plan-2019.
Multi-use, paved paths suitable for cycling (as well as walking and running, among other activities) are available at several Frisco parks. The city also boasts a mountain-bike trail that was built at Northwest Community Park, near Panther Creek and Teel Parkways, in partnership with volunteers from the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association and Shawnee Trail and Frisco Cycling Clubs.
Last fall, officials with Frisco’s Parks and Recreation Department unveiled early conceptual plans to the Frisco City Council for a proposed 40-foot gravity-riding tower that could be built at Northwest Community Park as part of an approximately $25 million package of improvements. Gravity riding is a popular activity with adrenaline seekers, particularly in the United States and South America.
The proposed tower would send riders into 9.5 miles of trails within the park, which are also included in the project. “You would build up enough speed to feed into these trails to be able to have that very advanced riding experience,” Frisco Parks and Recreation Director Shannon Coates explained during the presentation, the Dallas Morning News reported. “It will become a facility where you, as a beginner — or child as a beginner — could go out there and learn to bike, and then progressively continue to move throughout the park and throughout the system as you get better and better at it.”
Construction on the Frisco gravity-riding tower could begin in 2023.
What’s Not to Like?
The benefits of cycling are numerous. Most obvious is that the sport provides great exercise and allows riders to get their heart rates up, strengthen their leg muscles and get a low-impact workout. Cycling can also help calm the mind as riders can avoid technology while on their bike, enjoy nature and the company of fellow riders.
“For a lot of people, it’s therapeutic,” Jason Savill, co-owner of Endur3 Bikes, says. “It’s that time you just get to be out, not be worrying about what’s going on at your job, at home or anything like that. You can just escape, experience the wind in your face, enjoy nature and what you’ve got.”
Then there are the obvious social benefits of riding with fellow cyclists – a community generally filled with peole who are passionate about the sport. “It’s the camaraderie” that many people enjoy, Hoback says. “You go out on a road ride and just the social aspect (of it). You can be chatting with somebody and you look down and you’ve gone 20 miles and haven’t realized it.”
Following many group rides, groups of cyclists often go out for coffee, a meal or an adult beverage (depending on the time of day) – a further extension of the bond that the sport helps create.
“I think it’s a universal thing. I think all bicycle clubs are able to share in a communal experience,” says Mike Kurz, director of advocacy, community relations and education for the Shawnee Trail Cycling Club.
“The wonderful thing about cyclists is most are pretty passionate and (have) a lot of enthusiasm. There is a feeling of community. The benefits of cycling are not just physical, but the mental benefits are huge. It is a nice bonus to be able to share that with other folks. Plus, in cycling it’s nice to not be solo, (to) ride with a group and have people there to support you.”