Have bike, will ride

By Stacey Hewitt Orobona | | No Comments »

Joining a bicycle club is not just a chance to enjoy beautiful scenery and get fit — it’s a new form of social networking.

“It’s a way to branch out and meet people beyond your normal circle of associates,” said Mike Pulte, a member of the Hudson Velo Club.

Pulte, along with fellow member Michael Coburn, has been instrumental in increasing the club’s membership, which now hovers around 120 according to their email list.

Coburn enjoyed weekly group bike rides while living in California, so when he moved to Hudson and discovered that the town didn’t have a bike club, he decided to help start one with the main criterion being “the more the merrier.”

“I wanted the ability to meet and ‘roll out’ which is what it’s called when we head out as a group,” said Coburn.

On average 15 to 18 riders show up at Caribou Coffee in Hudson, the start location for the 7 a.m. rides on Sundays (and some Saturdays). The riding season for the club normally runs from Memorial Day until Labor Day, although good weather may extend that to Thanksgiving.

While some might not be thrilled with the early start time, Coburn points out that it’s the quietest time of the day on the roads. Plus, it’s a way to balance family time since most riders are back by 11 a.m. Of course return times vary, depending on the swiftness of the rider. An average ride is between 25 and 50 miles. According to Coburn, the group averages a fairly brisk 16 miles per hour. However, he doesn’t want that to deter anyone.

“We will try to wait and regroup when possible. We will only go on if we have someone’s permission or if we lose someone accidentally,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “We’ve never lost anyone permanently.”

For longer rides, cue sheets containing information about the route are handed out. According to Coburn, 70 percent of the rides go in and out of the Cuyahoga Valley and at least once a year, the club does a 25-mile guided tour lap of Hudson. That ride usually has a good turnout. Members are also welcome to suggest new routes.

Coburn said introductions are always made at the start of each ride and the only major requirements are helmets, water and no iPods. Membership is free and wearing the club’s “kit” (jersey and shorts) is optional, although spandex shorts are strongly recommended for comfort. Clothing items can be viewed and purchased at the club’s website: www.hudsonveloclub.com.

Designed by members, the jersey depicts the Hudson clock tower with its hands pointing to 7:05 a.m., the roll out time for the group. It also has the names of the club’s sponsors, among them Caribou Coffee, Vertical Runner and Eddy’s Bike Shop.

Stow resident, Matt Knott started riding with Hudson Velo Club last fall and said he enjoys not only the scenery but also the friendly people and the relaxed feel. His favorite ride took place a few weeks ago.

“We started in Hudson and rode through the Valley … until we reached the Bedford Reservation. We stopped for a break at the scenic Tinker’s Creek Gorge Overlook.”

Knott also rides with the Akron Bike Club, known as ABC. A much bigger club, ABC offers rides almost every day of the week. Indeed the ride calendar on the club’s website (akronbike.org) is literally packed with events for cyclists of all levels and abilities.

Novice bike riders might want to check out the Monday night mystery rides led by Bill Greathouse, the mystery being where the group will eat afterward.

A member of ABC for 15 years, Greathouse originally started cycling as a way to occupy his time and get in better health. After riding on Monday nights for a number of years, he decided to lead the group, which departs from the Akron General Wellness Center.

“I try to treat it like an introductory ride,” said Greathouse. “We invite anyone to come. Just show up with your bike, a helmet and a good attitude.”

For more advanced cyclists, Greathouse mentioned plenty of other ride opportunities, such as the 6 p.m. “fast group” on Thursday nights, so called for their quick pace and longer route. That ride departs from Deep Lock Quarry Trailhead in Peninsula.

The 6:30 p.m. ride on Tuesday nights from Botzum Trailhead in Akron splits off into two groups, categorized by Greathouse as the “social comfortable group” and the “hard-riding group.” Tuesday night rides occur year round, weather permitting.

No matter the pace, ABC riders do take time to stop and enjoy the view, and rides usually include a social aspect, such as dinner. According to Greathouse, Thursday night rides tend to be the most popular, followed by those on Saturdays.

There are two rides on Saturdays during the cycling season, a faster road group and a more social trail group. Both groups meet up for lunch halfway along the route, which departs from the Route 303 Bike-N-Hike parking lot in Peninsula.

At ABC, Sundays are not a day of rest.

“Sundays are for the longer, touring type rides. They ride anywhere from 50 to 70 miles,” said Greathouse.

And if that’s not enough for cycling enthusiasts, the club also offers three signature rides throughout the year: Think Spring in April, a family fun ride in July, and Greathouse’s personal favorite, the Roscoe Ramble (which is Aug. 13 to 14 this year).

“We ride down to Coshocton. It’s an absolutely gorgeous ride,” he said. “We have lunch at an Amish farm. We camp overnight and then ride back on the Sunday.”

For longer trips, it’s important to be well-conditioned and have the right equipment. Greathouse said that ABC members ride everything from mountain to road bikes, although social riders most often ride hybrids. He strongly recommends going to a bike shop since the staff can help in selecting the correct bicycle.

Josh Hayden, a Pro Staff member, at Eddy’s Bike Shop in Stow always tries to ascertain what type of riding his customers prefer in order to best suit their needs.

“I’ll steer them towards a certain style based on their interests and goals in riding and their budget,” he said.

For those wishing to spend under $600, Hayden recommends fitness or comfort hybrids whereas those with a higher budget should consider road bikes, especially if they plan on riding long distances.

Before each ride, Hayden said it’s important to check tire pressure and to make sure that gears are shifting well in order to avoid damage. He also recommends giving a bike the “bounce test.”

“You drop it from a couple of inches, making sure it doesn’t fall over and listen for any odd noises, such as clanking,” said Hayden. “If you hear something odd, then something is loose.”

Along with a helmet and enough water to stay hydrated, Hayden advises taking some form of ID in case of an emergency. Tools, such as a tire lever, patch kit, spare tube, and a pump for fixing flats, are also essential. A benefit of riding with a group is that people are usually willing and able to assist in those situations, but they might not have the necessary equipment, so it’s best to be prepared.

Hayden also recommends a flashing rear tail light and a bright headlight to help with visibility for dawn to dusk rides.

For those wanting a nocturnal outing, Century Cycles in Peninsula organizes night rides on the Towpath Trail.

According to Kevin Madzia, webmaster at Century Cycles, the rides began 17 years ago as an impromptu event among staff members after work. They started inviting customers, and it snowballed from there. The rides, which depart from the bike shop parking lot, begin in April and are held every few weeks on a Saturday until mid-October (further information is available at www.centurycycles.com).

“Riding at night, you get a different experience of the Towpath than you do through the day,” said Madzia. “You see the sunset and hear lots of wildlife. Occasionally you see deer and even coyotes.”

While there is no cost to participate, cyclists must bring their own equipment (helmets and bike lights are mandatory) and are required to sign a waiver. Over 100 people on average show up for rides, and Madzia said they’ve had as many 200 during the summer. Children are welcome to participate but must be accompanied by an adult.

This year the rides will culminate on Oct. 15 with a more adult affair, namely “All Hail the Ale! Night Ride for Cleveland Beer Week.” Participants can venture over to the Winking Lizard Tavern afterward to purchase refreshments from exclusive kegs. The event was brought back this year due to popular demand.

Those wishing to explore the Towpath Trail during the day also have the option of renting bikes by the hour from Century Cycles. Occasional riders might even like the advantage of the bike shop’s proximity to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad depot.

Clearly the possibilities for bike riding in northeastern Ohio are endless and can be enjoyed throughout much of the year. There are the diehards who will ride even during winter, but most will be content with looking back on a summer of memories filled with beautiful scenery, good exercise, and above all else, camaraderie.

“The best part about riding with a club is that there’s always someone to ride with,” said Greathouse, summarizing the rationale behind many bike clubs. “We’re a social group that happens to enjoy getting together and riding bikes.”

Tags: , , ,

This entry was posted on Monday, July 25th, 2011 at 11:54 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.