Want to explore Center County on two wheels? CentreBike has an app for that
Happy Valley Ride with GPS from CentreBike offers detailed navigation. (Photo by Darren Andrew Weimert)
Last summer, after much deliberation, I finally bought myself a new gravel bike. This is my first “serious” bike, and I love it. Its versatility allows me to tackle both paved and gravel roads, as well as the occasional gentle trail. Riding gives my squeaky knees a break from all the pounding of running and hiking, and it’s just plain fun.
While there are many different routes for cycling in Center County, to start with, I stuck to a few that I know. But I’m ready to branch out and really explore; I wasn’t sure where to go. Well, wouldn’t you know, there is an app for that: CentreBike’s Happy Valley Ride with GPS.
CentreBike is a non-profit organization founded in 2000 as a coalition of cyclists with the goal of making the State College area more bike friendly. His work includes advocating for cycling, educating cyclists, cycling safety and awareness, and encouraging cycling opportunities for all ages.
The Happy Valley Ride with GPS is the organization’s latest effort. It came into being with a grant from the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau. From the Happy Valley Ride with GPS website (rides.centrebike.org), cyclists can download the app and choose from a number of routes. Use of the app is free when riding one of the Happy Valley rides.
For road warriors, there are long and short trips that take bikers on beautiful tours of the region’s many country roads. There are routes that take cyclists on the gravel roads of our many state parks and forests. City Walks take bikers leisurely around town and through Penn State parks and campus. And for those looking to get off the beaten track, the ATV rides show some of the classic trail routes the area is so well known for.
There are rides that take bikers to Penn’s Cave or Boal Mansion for tours so the bikers can make it a day. Rides often pass through local restaurants and interesting sites, allowing for rest and refreshments.
Thanks to a biker phone, the application offers detailed navigation. Maps are downloadable to phones, so passengers don’t need to use data and information remains available in areas where cell service may be spotty.
Seems like the perfect way to explore Happy Valley, so on a beautiful fall day at the end of September, CentreBike Treasurer Paul Rito met me to take a tour and show me the ropes. job. During the pandemic, Paul spent a lot of time putting together Happy Valley Ride with GPS.
We were joined by CentreBike President Matthew Cox and volunteer Dana Miller to hike the Little Trail Loop around State College and Penn State Campus. Before meeting us in the old Visitor Center building near Beaver Stadium (beware, parking at the center is now regulated by Penn State), I downloaded the Ride with GPS app, which was pretty straightforward.
Then on the website I found the Little Trail Loop, clicked to get the route, and it opened in the app. Even before leaving, the map was already cool to look at. It showed our route with an altitude profile and the number of kilometers traveled. Our 8 mile lollipop trip was going to take us to 371 feet and through the arboretum, golf course and campus. A small fork and knife icon on the map indicated that we were passing right past the Penn State Berkey Creamery. When I clicked on it it provided a brief history of the creamery, with a link to the website. Costs. A cone would be the perfect way to end a nice ride.
Paul had an extra mount for my phone and attached it to my handlebars before leaving. I hit Navigate and off we went. True to form, the app provided detailed navigation for our route.
Dana says that while developing the routes, they made sure to provide specific instructions to help people like her who might be in a bit of trouble.
âIt will be a very good tool for people who don’t have a sense of direction. It gives me a lot more confidence in going for a bike ride knowing that I’m not going to get lost, âshe says.
After leaving the old visitor’s center, we walked up Porter Road, then Curtin Road. We then turned right onto University Drive and headed towards Big Hollow Road and down the hill to the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail, which runs through the lower part of the Penn State Arboretum grounds. It was wonderful to enjoy nature and chat with my fellow travelers.
From there Paul told me to drop the bike at low speed as we walked up the hill to Sunset Park. Phew, this is a good workout. The app then drove us through a few side streets in College Heights, dropping us down to Cherry Lane, where we crossed North Atherton Street and past Radio Park Elementary School to the Circleville bike path in Penn State. .
From there we took the bike path that crosses the golf course, before returning to West Campus, through Atherton, back to Curtin and back to base. It was a beautiful, scenic ride that mostly took place on trails, bike paths, and low traffic roads, and the app was easy to follow. The app alerts you before every turn, and if you stray off course, it lets you quickly know how to get back on track. Create a route from home and it will show you directions to the starting point.
Paul says CentreBike is working on adding more routes to the website, but there are already a lot of options to explore. Community feedback is appreciated, he says.
Riders should practice safe riding techniques, he says, and CentreBike offers lessons and other resources to help people learn the rules of riding. I learned a few things just while I was with Paul; he pointed out any potential obstacles as I rode behind him to make sure I saw them.
Now that I have a direction, I plan to go there and explore Center County more. All I need now is a holder for my phone and some good weather.
This story appears in the November 2021 issue of Town & Gown.