Whizzing down a hill in Pescadero with aching legs and an immense sense of pride building in his chest, Palo Alto High School senior James Fetter completes the Everest Challenge after what feels like an interminable 14 hours. This endurance challenge, often attempted by professional bikers, requires one to cycle up and down a mountain as many times as it takes to reach the combined elevation of Mount Everest — approximately 29,000 feet.
“At 6 a.m. I started riding, and I didn’t finish until 8:30 p.m.,” Fetter said. “It felt super good to complete a huge challenge like that.”
Although few Paly students engage in such strenuous rides, road cycling has dramatically increased in popularity over the past few months due to the limited exercise options with COVID-19 regulations. Not only do these cyclists benefit from the workout, but also from the socialization and natural tranquility that their rides provide.
At the start of this school year, Fetter and senior Alex Selwyn decided to recharter the Paly Biking Club, founded in 2018 by Kevin Cox (Class of `19), after seeing the recent increase of interest in the activity over the summer.
Members of the club include athletes of various sports who picked up cycling as a result of canceled practices, from runners like Fetter and Selwyn, to swimmers, water polo players, and volleyball players.
Motivated by the sport’s accessibility and her love for the outdoors, senior and club member Catherine Reller began cycling over the summer.
“I really like the outdoors in general and throughout quarantine I used my dad’s old bike to go on rides,” Reller said. “That’s when I really picked up road cycling as a way to exercise and hobby.”
“It [biking] is a perfect way to exercise and take advantage of the amazing nature around us.
— Ben Antonow, junior
New bikers also discovered similarities between biking and running in terms of aerobic effort and distance covered. However, biking also offers the addition of a whole new dimension of leisure.
“Biking is more relaxed and less competitive [than running], it also helps you bond with others,” said Jimmy Miller, a junior on the cross country team.
The club is planning on meeting every other Sunday to go on group rides on Cañada road, with 25 Paly students involved so far.
“I was hoping we could just bike there [Cañada road], and get to know each other while enjoying our shared interest,” Fetter said.
Northern California is home to numerous scenic bike rides varying in difficulty and length, many of which are frequented by Paly students.
“Santa Cruz, San Gregorio State Beach and the vast Portola Valley are some of the most popular locations for rides among experienced Paly students while developing riders can enjoy the accessibility of Arastradero and Foothills,” junior Ben Antonow said.
Although the ride’s difficulty and location may differ, most riders use the app Strava to monitor their trips. The app helps bikers track distance traveled, maximum and average speed, as well as heart rate.
“Strava is almost like a social media platform, where you can post your activities and see a map of what you’ve done,” Antonow said. “It is a really useful feature to see where you have ridden and how far you’ve gone.”
As many riders plan to continue this activity past quarantine, members of the Paly Biking Club hope that other students take up cycling as an opportunity to safely go outside during quarantine and appreciate the great outdoors.
“The Paly [Biking] Club is new, but we hope its recency won’t take from its ability to attract new members,” Antonow said. “It [biking] is a perfect way to exercise and take advantage of the amazing nature around us.”