Brooke Nicholls Nelson: Mountain biking — A healthier you, a wealthier Anniston
Mar 10, 2013 | 5626 views |  0 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bike City, USA. That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart thinks so. Recently Stewart said he wants it to be the city’s new nickname. He and area biking enthusiasts see the city’s biking opportunities — particularly Coldwater Mountain’s trails — as salvation for the city’s future. One local mountain biker, Brian DeGaetano (see profile below), agrees and says mountain biking has changed his life, so why not the economic life of the city?

Have you tried mountain biking? If not, you should. It’s a thrilling, challenging fitness option that is definitely on the upswing in our area.

It’s convenient: Coldwater Mountain is the west ridge of trees and woods that parallels Quintard Avenue as you drive from Oxford to Anniston. The mountain is visible from almost every downtown locale and is just a stone’s throw from Noble Street.

It’s fun: Mountain bike trail designers don’t call those series of bumps and jumps “whoops-de-doos” for nothing, and nothing gets your blood pumping like slinging yourself through a berm (a speedy banked turn).

It’s outdoors: Our area is blessed with natural beauty, and mountain biking allows you to experience it on two wheels.

It’s healthy: Well, as long as you stay on your bike. No endos allowed, which brings me to the next point — wear a helmet.

It works for all fitness levels: Coldwater Mountain has beginner and experienced trail options. Choose wisely, and advance slowly with experience.

Don’t have a bike? No problem. You can rent one to try out at Wig’s Wheels on Noble Street, or you can borrow one from a growing number of local riders.

Get involved by joining the Northeast Alabama Bicycle Association at www.neaba.net. It’s the city’s future, and maybe yours. Invest now.

Have a fitness-related idea? Share it with Brooke Nicholls Nelson at brookenelson@amcvets.com.

Gadsden man gets ‘serious’ about biking

Brian DeGaetano isn’t kidding when he says biking has changed him. Just one look at his before and after pictures is evidence his choice of sport has turned him into a lean cycling machine.

The Georgia native, who lives with his wife Jill and baby daughter Katherine in Gadsden, says he started riding casually in 1998, but did not get “serious” about it until the summer of 2011. DeGaetano has several bikes — two mountain bikes, a road bike and a cyclocross bike.

“I’d like to say I enjoy all types of cycling, but mountain biking started it all,” he said.

DeGaetano is passionate about cycling, and he really enjoys seeing others embrace the sport. He spent a little time via email answering questions about mountain biking in our area and what the sport has done for him.

Q: Why did you start mountain biking?

A: I started mountain biking to be out in nature and to explore the outdoors, but when I realized what could be achieved through better fitness and endurance, I got serious.

Q: What health benefits have you experienced?

A: I have lost over 80 pounds cycling since the summer of 2011. I used to have health problems at my peak weight of 270 pounds. I would have problems breathing and had major acid reflux issues — both of which are completely gone — not to mention how much stronger my heart must be after all the riding I have done.

Q: Where do you ride?

A: I have ridden all of the trails within about a 50-mile radius of Gadsden and have even done some regional traveling to trails in other states. I’ve ridden at Oak Mountain, Tsali, Tanasi, Blankets Creek, Five Points, Raccoon Mountain, Enterprise South and the Olympic Trail in Conyers, Ga. I have completed many century rides on the road bike, including the Cheaha Challenge, Hot Hundred in Tuscaloosa, Mountain Goat Century in Springville and the Six Gap Century in Dahlonega, Ga.

Q: What is the best trail you have ridden?

A: Coldwater Mountain is the best all-around trail I have ever ridden.

Q: Tell me about Coldwater Mountain, what do you like about it? What makes you scream like a little girl?

A: I love Coldwater! I love the climbs. The smooth flowing descents are second-to-none. They really remind me of skiing. You can go way faster at Coldwater than at most other trails due to how well manicured it is. The screams are only ones of delight!

Q: What about crashing?

A: If you’re not crashing, you’re probably not pushing yourself hard enough.

Q: What would you tell someone contemplating mountain biking?

A: Ride with someone more experienced in mountain biking to show you the ropes. It can be as exciting or relaxing as you want, by controlling your speed. You don’t need an expensive bike to learn on either. You may want to upgrade later to make riding easier and more fun.

Q: Final comment?

A: Mountain biking just makes you happy.

Name: Brian DeGaetano
Age: 29
Hometown: Gadsden
Biking since: Summer 2011
Weight Lost: 80 pounds
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