Kitty Zeringue is an avid cyclist. So much so that when she moved to Blacksburg and bought a car, she made her decision based on how the car would suit her bike. “I got a Honda Fit so I can fit my bike in without taking the front wheel off,” says Zeringue.
Her bicycle is a Bianchi Campione, a steel-framed, 10-speed road bike with down-tube shifters. She uses it for four-season commuting as well as recreational and distance rides. “It’s very versatile,” she says. Getting from her home in Blacksburg to her job at Virginia Tech is “basically the same, time-wise” whether she takes her car or the Bianchi. Being a bike enthusiast, she naturally almost always chooses to it. Even during the cold spells of this past winter, Zeringue would ride her bike, wearing fleece-lined tights to keep warm.
This bike has platform pedals with toe clips, cages which help keep a rider’s feet in place while allowing him or her to ride while wearing street shoes. Clipless pedals – which involve cleated biking shoes that snap into a specially designed pedal – allow for better power transfer and efficiency and make quite a difference in the quality of a ride, particularly the 30-plus mile weekend rides Zeringue likes taking in the warmer months.
Both designs have their advantages, particularly for a rider like Zeringue who uses her bike both to commute and for distance rides. There are combination pedals which incorporate both designs – one side is clipless, the other side a platform suitable for riding with street shoes – and which Zeringue has her eye on. She is considering replacing her current pedals with a combination set.
When it comes to using the bike to haul stuff – items she needs at work or goods she buys at a store for home – she uses a bicycle commuter bag. “It’s like a backpack but bigger,” she explains. She also has a rack and panniers (bags which hang over each side of a bike’s wheel), but she usually keeps them stored, preferring to keep the bag lightweight for her longer recreational rides. The bike has two water bottle caddies for those rides, though, as well as an under saddle pack in which she keeps bike tools and other important gear.
The saddle Zeringue uses did not come from Bianchi – it is a leather model she used on her previous bike. A leather saddle, she says, is like a baseball glove or a pair of shoes.
“At first it’s really hard – as hard as a rock – then it breaks in and softens.” On longer rides, Zeringue wears padded bike shorts. She has also modified by the bike by adding leather grip tape to the handlebars.
Bianchi is a legendary name in biking circles. Started by an Italian orphan (Edoardo Bianchi) in 1885, the bicycle company gained notoriety at the turn of the 20th century by building bicycles with wheels of equal size. Today, when many bicycle manufactures experiment with building bikes from lighter materials – such as aluminum and carbon fiber – Bianchi still makes its bicycle frames from steel.
“It had always been my dream to have a Bianchi,” Zeringue states. She moved to Blacksburg in the summer of 2012 to take the position as Virginia Tech’s Alternative Transportation Coordinator. Prior to moving here, she lived in Texas and Louisiana. Moving to the New River Valley has given her the opportunity to experience road biking in mountainous terrain. “I like the challenge, pushing yourself to do something you couldn’t do before.”
Soon after arriving, Zeringue found herself a member of the area biking community. She was elected and served as President of the New River Valley Bicycle Association (Bike Club) in 2013. During her tenure, the bike club donated a bicycle fix-it station, complete with bike tools and an air pump, to the Town of Blacksburg . The station is outside the Blacksburg Public Library near the head of the Huckleberry Trail.
With winter finally about to say good-bye, Zeringue is looking forward to more frequent recreational rides. In the spring and summer, she usually rides about five times a week on the country roads outside Blacksburg, almost always with friends. “I like the social aspect of riding,” she says. “We talk while we’re riding.”
Why does she ride so frequently? “For me, I guess it’s my form of relaxation and exercise as well. I get a lot of pleasure from riding – the wind in your hair, you kind of feel like you’re flying. I just really love riding a bike.”
By Karl H. Kazaks
Photos by Laura’s Focus Photography