Biking for everybody

By Craig Hill, Tacoma News Tribune May 3, 2012 

OLYMPIA -- When it comes to joining a bike club, the biggest challenge is showing up for the first ride.

Carole Bernhardt, promotions director for the Capital Bicycling Club of Olympia, says "people can be shy about joining a new group."

Apparently, she says, some people aren't sure they'll fit in with a bike club.

To test this out, I did a little research to find out exactly who these clubs want.

I found these clubs only offer rides for those who fit into the following categories: fast riders, slow riders, veteran riders, beginners, people who look good in spandex, people who don't (most of us), racers and recreational riders, men and women.

In other words, "There's something for everybody," Bernhardt said.

Every Tuesday night at 6, the Capital Bicycling Club offers two rides. One starts is for riders who want a casual pace. The other is for those wanting to go fast. The Tacoma Wheelmen offer various options every week too.

Worried about getting left behind as the group disappears over the horizon? Don't. "No drop" policies are standard for these clubs.

Both Capital and the Wheelmen let people test their clubs for free before they join.

A one-year membership in the Olympia group is $15. The Tacoma group is $20 per year.

By comparison, most one-day organized rides are $20 or more.

One of the most popular social rides currently is staged by Tacoma Bike on Saturday mornings.

When the weather is good, as many as 40 cyclists shove off from the Puyallup Avenue store for a 35- to 40-mile no-drop ride led by former U.S. Cycling Federation official Jim Ahrens.

Spokie Cycling Club ride leader Robert Deehan says rides cover 50-70 miles and speeds sometimes exceed 25 mph.

Want to go even faster? Try riding with Narrows Velo, better known as the Old Town Bicycle Racing Team.

These guys are fast and members enter at least 10 races per season. You ought to average 17-18 mph for a two-hour ride (including traffic stops) to be able to hang with this group.

The team is closed to new members because the racing season is under way.

But, the club will hold open social rides starting in September.

While all are welcome to ride with the team, coach Steve Matson, owner of Matson Cycling Coaching, says they request people at least come with an open mind about racing for the team.

Bernhardt says joining a cycling club also is a good way to find other niche cycling groups. She leads a women's only ride that isn't officially part of her club's schedule.

Just show up, she said, and you might get hooked.

That's what happened with a friend of Bernhardt, who wanted to join the Capital Bicycle Club, but never had the nerve to show up for the social rides.

Finally, Bernhardt went to the woman's house and escorted her to the ride.

"And she was great," Bernhardt said. "She just needed a little boost. ... (Ride leaders) are good about recognizing new people and going out of their way to make them feel comfortable."

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