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From the novice to the experienced, Tour de Wellness is open to all

Dr. James Wessely of St. Luke’s Hospital, avid cyclist and Tour de Wellness participant (Photo courtesy of St. Luke’s Hospital)

Dr. James Wessely of St. Luke’s Hospital, avid cyclist and Tour de Wellness participant
(Photo courtesy of St. Luke’s Hospital)

Whether you are a novice bike rider or one with a half-century or more experience, you’ll fit right in at the third annual Tour de Wellness, which takes place in Chesterfield on Sunday, May 31.

Sponsored by St. Luke’s Hospital, the event is designed to further the hospital’s mission of improving the quality of life in the community. Cyclists have a choice of three routes ranging in distance from 14 to 60 miles to match their experience level. All routes begin and end at the Chesterfield Amphitheater, 631 Veteran’s Place Drive, in the city’s Central Park.

More than 370 riders participated in the 2014 event and race organizers anticipate an even larger turnout this year. Cyclists participating this year will receive a free T-shirt and post-ride celebration lunch. During the event, rest stops will be staffed with bike technicians and drinks, snacks and SAG support (support and gear) will be available. All riders must have a helmet, but beyond that basic element the only other requirement is a desire to get healthy while having fun.

Dr. James Wessely, medical co-director of St. Luke’s emergency department, has been cycling since age 12 when he bought a Schwinn Varsity 10-speed with money earned from his paper route.

“Cycling combines aerobic, anaerobic and strength training for the lower body,” Wessely, 63, said, noting that the activity is especially well suited for weight control. “It’s also psychologically beneficial to get outside and enjoy nature.”

Wessely clearly believes in practicing what he preaches – he bikes to and from work daily and dedicates at least one weekend morning to riding.

Most exercise programs recommend a frequency of at least two to three times weekly with each session lasting 20-30 minutes, Wessely said. One can gradually expand that regimen as time permits. But whether it’s cycling or another activity, “it has to become a priority if one is to succeed.”

Although she played soccer earlier in life, Cindy Bohnert got her start in cycling only a year ago when her husband, Jeff, bought her a bike suitable for both on-road and off-road use. Now 44 and the mother of two teenagers, Bohnert was looking for something new to do and biking seemed like a good choice, she said.

As most kids do, Bohnert learned to ride a bike when she was young, but the upcoming Tour de Wellness will be her first cycling event. She has selected the tour’s intermediate route of 29 miles for her debut. Her husband also is riding, “so I think we’ll push each other,” she said.

The couple’s son, 14, and daughter, 16, also enjoy biking so the activity has developed into a family affair.

“It’s easy to forget to make time for exercise but the benefits make it worthwhile to do so,” Bohnert said. Among other things, she firmly believes an exercise program encourages better eating habits. She’s also looking forward to the camaraderie she expects to find at the upcoming cycling event.

Wessely’s own experience confirms Bohnert’s expectations.

“Group rides such as the Tour de Wellness motivate you, show you great areas where you can ride and are an opportunity to make new friends with similar interests,” he said.

Early registration has ended but the Tour de Wellness will accept online sign-ups at www.stlukestourdewellness.com/index.html until 5 p.m. on May 30. The individual rider fee is $45 regardless of the route selected.

Tips on preparing for the Tour de Wellness

Thinking about cycling as part of an exercise and wellness program?

If so, Dr. James Wessely, the medical co-director of the St. Luke’s Hospital emergency department, has some suggestions based on his more than 50 years of cycling experience.

  • Many local bike shops rent bikes, which may be a good way to try out cycling before purchasing a bike.
  • The kind of bike you should use varies, depending on the type of riding you want to do. Off-road bikes have big knobby tires while road bikes have skinny tires. In between are cross bikes. Cross bikes and mountain bikes are better for the Katy Trail, for example, but all the bikes described here can be ridden on the road and in the Tour de Wellness.
  • Wessely recommends visiting a local bike shop, talking with personnel there about the type of riding you want to do and deciding how much you want to spend.
  • A person’s biking budget should allow for additional equipment such as a helmet, a computer/speedometer, pedals with clip-ons to hold shoes in place, water bottles and cages to hold them, biking shorts and tops, rain gear, sunscreen, cold weather clothing, lights if night riding is planned, lubricant, a repair kit, extra tubes, a tire pump and perhaps CO2 cartridges, chain oil and cleaning supplies.
  • Rules of the road for cyclists are the same as for cars, but savvy bikers stay as far to the right as possible to allow faster traffic to pass.
  • Remember to “follow your eyes,” which means keeping your eyes focused well ahead, not down on the road directly in front of you.
  • Cycling on roadways is not a time for conversation, but riders in a group should shout out warnings such as “gravel,” “slowing,” and “turning” (left or right). Always pass other riders on the left and announce “on your left” when doing so. Shouted warnings about car movements ahead also advised.

“The main thing is to enjoy the outdoors, stay healthy and fit and stay safe,” Wessely advised.

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