Cycling through |

Cycling through

Photo for The Union by Walter Ford
Photo for The Union by Walter Ford |

For my 12th and final month of working out in Nevada County, I did something I hadn’t done years.

I rode a bike.

More specifically I took part in a simulator program at Real Wheels Bicycle Studio in Nevada City and went riding on trails and streets in Nevada County.

Riding a bike was something I had spent much of my youth doing, but it had somehow disappeared from my daily, weekly or even monthly living since graduating college.

As a young boy growing up in San Jose, I would comb the neighborhood on my bike for hours, cruising the streets and cul-de-sacs until the sun went down.

When we moved to Nevada County in 1992, I switched over to BMX riding. With so many hills and awesome dirt trails, it was an easy transition. Even in college, I rode quite a bit, using my beach cruiser as my main mode of transportation while attending UC Santa Barbara and later riding at times while attending Chico State.

But it had been at least 18 months since I had hopped on a bike that wasn’t in a gym and bolted to the floor.

So I was a little nervous when it came time to jump back in the saddle.

Admittedly, it was bad planning on my part to do a month of bike riding in December, so finding time and places to ride with the weather and holiday/family obligations to keep in mind was difficult.

I took my mountain bike out for a couple morning rides at Empire Mine State Park when the sun was out, and I rode Pasquale Road in Nevada City a few times when the trails were too muddy.

I found my morning rides at Empire Mine were the perfect way to get fresh air, clear my mind and get in a workout that made me feel like a kid again.

Pasquale Road is like most (paved) rural roads in Nevada County — low traffic, long and windy with several inclines. Just be sure to wear reflectors and be careful when coming around blind corners.

But where the real cycling workout can be found is at Real Wheels Bicycle Studio in Nevada City.

Chris McGovern and his wife, Hollie, have opened a full service bike shop that offers a fantastic class to help anyone with novice to serious biking goals.

At Real Wheels, they offer a simulator class that measures a cyclist in many different aspects, tracking progress and offering insights into a rider’s mechanics so that adjustments can be made.

“What the rider gets is a super specific workout based on their aerobic-based capabilities,” Chris McGovern said. “You’re not competing against the person sitting next to you. Everybody’s doing the same workout, but it’s based on your current fitness.

“From that, you get to build the foundation of your fitness. We’re building building blocks of fitness. We also get to see bio-mechanic efficiencies or inefficiencies, and we can make recommendations that will yield free power.”

The simulator is a great way to gauge progress and set specific goal parameters. It’s also a lively environment, as up to five riders can take part at a time.

“It ranges from novice (riders) to people who are training for major goals this year,” Chris McGovern said. “That’s the neat thing about it. You can be in a class, and the class can be full, and you could be in there with a professional cyclist and someone who just bought a bicycle last week. You’re all going to do the same workout and be in the same place at the same time but be within your own physical ranges.”

While the simulator class is similar to spin class in that the bikes stay put, Chris McGovern stresses that it is not a spin class but much more.

“You can focus on the pedal stroke to see where the efficiencies and inefficiencies are and make those adjustments on the fly, and that’s free power, that’s a mechanical thing, that’s an efficiency thing,” Chris McGovern said. “You can’t cheat in this class.”

Chris McGovern, an accomplished cyclist and coach who grew up in Nevada County and raced professionally in Europe and in the U.S., takes the data from simulator and is able to apply it to the riders, helping them reach their individual goals.

“If you have a bike, enjoy riding your bike, and you want to get better at riding your bike outside, this is probably a really good place to learn about that stuff,” Chris McGovern said.

A handful of the approximately 60 members who take part in the simulator class also take a workout class at the Core Movement Center that combines cross training and Pilates. I took the class taught by Kristen Fredericks and was sore for days after. It is a very demanding class that worked muscles I had forgotten about. That class is $15 per session.

To take part in the simulator class, one does need his own bike, mountain or road. Mountain bikes may need some modifications to work with the simulator, and Chris is great about helping potential clients get that squared away.

The cost of the simulator class is $15 for a drop-in or 10 classes for $125. The class is offered 15-20 times per week depending on availability and interest.

Even if the simulator class is not your thing, McGovern said Nevada County is a great and challenging place to be a cyclist.

“It’s a beautiful area, and the terrain is awesome,” Chris McGovern said. “We don’t have stop lights every 15 feet — that’s an exaggeration — but I know cyclists that train in more metropolis settings that have to go through 40 minutes of stop lights before they can actually start riding, so that’s a plus. The antithesis of that is it’s actually a hard place to be a cyclist if you can’t really use your common sense. You have to rest a lot more up here. A lot of people with coaches from out of the area over-train.”

Over-training was not a problem for me. I didn’t lose any weight, and that doesn’t fall on Real Wheels. This month, I got a slow start to the workouts and did not shy away from the holiday treats. I conclude my year of working out in Nevada County weighing in at 233 pounds. I didn’t reach my goal, but I did lose 24 pounds throughout the year and managed to stay active in one way or the other.

Check back Jan. 8 for a full recap of my year of working out in Nevada County.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford call (530) 477-4232 or email him at

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