In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s if you wanted to find a trustworthy bicycle shop you needed to find one selling Schwinn bicycles. To own a Schwinn franchise you needed to either purchase one from another retiring dealer or begin a dealership in an area not covered. The cost was quite expensive and the Schwinn company required all their dealers to be trained at their factory in Chicago. They offered a co-op advertising program and monthly visits from a Schwinn representative.

Times have changed. The Schwinn factory no longer exists but the name does. You will find them made in China and sold at Wal-Mart. Many long-time Schwinn dealers now offer numerous new brand name bicycles of high quality.

Today brand names like Trek, Giant, Raleigh, Bianchi, Fugi, Cannondale, Specialized and numerous other quality manufacturers capture the market for serious bikers who want a quality made bicycle.

How do you choose the best bicycle for your needs? Many people refer to the ”10 speed” as a bike with drop down handlebars. The old popular Schwinn Varsity of the 50’s-70’s weighed in the mid-40 pounds. The Italian Colinago C64 racing bike weights about 8 pounds at a cost of $12,999. You might like that one if you win the lottery.

Occasionally you will observe a biker in a laid-black reclining position. These bicycles are called recumbent bikes, where the rider‘s weight is distributed comfortably over a larger area. Sixty-five-year-old Gary Mutchler from Sebring bought one last year and has ridden 8,000 miles on it already. Another popular bicycle sweeping the country is the electric bike. They carry an inclosed rechargeable battery and offer the biker gentle boosts with pedal assist. They run in price from around $1,500 to over $3,000. Sebring biker Gary Breault, age 75, bought his last March and has traveled 6,000 miles on his since.

The most recommended bicycle for the casual biker is a hybrid, a cross between a narrow bike tire and a fatter tired mountain bike. They have upright handlebars for ease of use and are good for a wide range of riding condition and applications. A model named Townie has 7 gears and it is a perfect bicycle for an older person as the center tube is dropped down for ease of getting on and off. Fat wheel bikes are popular especially along the Florida beaches. They have the potential to ride just about anywhere. They work well in unstable surfaces like snow, sand and mud.

Choosing a bicycle from a local dealer is often a smart way to go. You will be assured of purchasing a bike to meet your needs. The bike is assembled correctly. You will receive a free 30-day check-up and usually have a trouble free bike.

Two popular shops in Sebring to receive the knowledge of an expert dealer and find a bicycle just for you are the Trek Bike Shop at 215 US 27S, in Sebring, 863-402-2453 and Legacy Bicycles 204 S. Ridgewood Dr., Sebring, 863-471-2453. The old adage “you get what you pay for” holds true for a bicycle purchase as well.

If you drive many of the backroads of Highlands Country you will see all types of riders, from the teams all dressed in their yellow, red and orange outfits, riding in groups of five, 10 or more, to young families out for an occasional ride with their children. A number of riders prefer a three-wheeler, an option for older seniors who may have problems with balance and equilibrium.

The hardy riders of the Sebring Cycling Club meet daily except Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Trek Bike Shop on Highway 27 in Sebring at 7:30 a.m. You can often catch them on Payne Rd. and Henscratch Rd. in those colorful outfits and their super light-weight bikes.

Another hardy group begins at the YMCA. They call themselves The Breakfast Club. They bike 35 miles and stop for breakfast at Dimitri’s Restaurant. Both groups welcome more hardy riders.

The Cycling Club’s usual yearly endurance race sponsored by the Rotary Club of Sebring scheduled for February is cancelled this year because for COVID-19. It will be held again in 2022. The race which begins at the Sebring International Raceway and winds throughout the county for 100 miles attracts riders from all over the country.

Many active seniors relish riding in Highlands County because you will hear them exclaim, “No hills!” If they formally biked in states like Wisconsin they loved cruising down the state’s steep hill country, but agonized having to bike back up the next hill. You’d often find them walking their bikes to the top. The flat roads of Highlands are a dream come true for snowbird retirees.

Many country side roads are a pleasure to explore. Highlands State Park offers a leisurely trip along their roads shaded with cypress trees. Daily you will observe seniors getting their morning exercise trekking around Lake Jackson, admiring some of the older beautiful homes decorating the shores of the lake. If timely planned, the trip can easily end with a refreshing margarita at Don Jose’s Mexican Restaurant.

The county offers miles and miles of safe sidewalks built for golf carts, walkers and bicycle riders with the unwritten rule that golf carts pull over for passing bikers and walkers.

For safety be sure to wear a helmet and bright clothing. Some of the new helmets include a flashing red light onto back to alert drivers. A small bike bag allows you to carry an extra tube and a small tool to remove the tube and replace it in case of a flat. It is quite easy to do.

Be courteous when passing another bike by indicating “I’m coming on your left,” or have a bell on your bike to make them aware you are going to pass. And of course, look both ways when coming to an intersection. Also be sure to keep the recommended pressure in your tires to assure a comfortable ride. It’s good to check the pressure before each ride.

What better time to get out into the fresh air, get some exercise and enjoy the beautiful countryside of Highlands County? Bicycle riding is a great way to beat the cabin fever cause by COVID-19.

Matthew Schult owner of Trek Bicycle Shop confirmed that: “I have 10 bikes left in my store. People are buying bikes like crazy because of COVID. A component manufacturer of bicycle parts is 18 months out. I have 325 bikes on back order. People indeed want to get outside.”