Joy Riding

Joy Riding

I t’s finally feeling like winter, and the wimpy among us have put away our bikes for the season. Not the folks at D’Aniello’s Amity Bicycles, though. They’re putting on their booties and their pogies and riding their studded tires through mud and snow. They’re also presenting the year’s final cyclocross bike race of the CT Series in Edgewood Park this weekend.

Cyclocross is “the most spectator-friendly version” of bicycle racing and “the most rapidly growing discipline in cycling racing in New England, by far,” says Kurt D’Aniello, whose family has owned and operated Amity Bikes for 36 years. The race features grass and pavement and mud, tight turns and barriers and plenty of dismounting. “You see a lot of elevation change, so short ride-ups and ride-downs, or run-ups, a lot of dismounting in certain courses and running [are] involved,” D’Aniello explains. For that reason, cyclocross bikes are designed to be light enough to be carried, with a flat crossbar so riders can sling them on their shoulders. Races are timed, and most racers will complete five to seven laps on a course about a mile and a half in length. On Sunday, about 250 racers are expected, as young as nine and as old as are willing, to vie for cash prizes, merchandise, baked goods, bragging rights and downright fun.

Cyclocross isn’t the only kind of riding Amity Bikes supports. There are monthly “fat tire” rides, including upcoming Fat New Year’s Eve and Fat Tuesday rides. The shop also hosts year-round mountain bike rides on Wednesdays after work and Saturdays at 8 a.m., the latter a good ride for first-timers to join. Monday road rides head out April through September.

Winter riding might not sound like a walk in the park, but with the right tires and the right clothing, pretty much anyone can be happy riding through the winter, D’Aniello says: “It’s all about layers.” Wearing a base layer, mid layer and outside layer like a heavy jacket is a good start. He also recommends booties, which fit over biking shoes; a thin wool hat or balaclava under your helmet; and lobster claws or some other glove that keeps your fingers together. Or you can try those aforementioned pogies, like giant pockets for your hands that attach to the handlebars.

Most riders prefer to be off-road in the winter, D’Aniello says, “because you’re not going down a paved hill at 30 miles an hour with ice at the bottom.” In fact, off-road biking has overtaken road riding in popularity in recent years. Road safety is one big reason, he says. “Being able to train on the roads is a challenge… Distracted drivers are the biggest problem.” Instead, bike paths, dirt roads, double-track fire roads and trails are now the favored locations.

D’Aniello himself is a competitive mountain bike racer: a state champion and a silver medalist at the Cross-Country Mountain Bike National Championships in 2013. His father, Guy D’Aniello, started out racing track bikes and road bikes in the early 1970s. His yellow jersey for winning the multi-day America’s Cup race in 1985 is on display in the shop. He was also the 1982 National Criterium champion and won numerous medals at the state level. He mostly races mountain bikes today, and he plans to compete in Sunday’s cyclocross. Kurt’s mother, Sue D’Aniello, worked for the US Olympic committee and was commissioner for cycling at the 1995 Special Olympics World Summer Games in New Haven. The wall of the office at Amity Bikes is plastered with old race numbers, a testament to the fact that, as Guy says, “The whole family rides.”

Despite this hardcore competitive history, “We try to have something for everyone,” Kurt says. The shop does seem to stock it all, from high-end racing bikes to commuter bikes to the littlest Strider bikes without pedals. They also offer expert bicycle fitting. “Being comfortable on the bike seems like a new idea to a lot of people, but you should not experience pain on a bicycle, just fatigue, and that’s kind of our goal is to get customers comfortable,” Kurt says. The shop is also bursting with repairs, especially in the spring and summer, when appointments are required and the waitlist can be long. That means winter is the best time to bring your bike in for a tune-up or even a complete overhaul.

So, let the snow fly. If you love biking as much as the D’Aniellos, there are plenty of ways to get out there even now, as winter wheels around.

D’Aniello’s Amity Bicycles
18 Selden St, Woodbridge (map)
Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm
(203) 387-6734
www.amitybicycles.com
Elm City Cyclocross: Sun 12/17 at Edgewood Park’s Coogan Pavilion (details)

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is The Daily Nutmeg’s associate editor. She’s also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter at KathyLeonardCzepiel.com. Her favorite New Haven scene is a packed summer concert on the Green with dinner from the food trucks, and she loves that there’s always something new to discover here.

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