It's the Journey
“Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride” – Eddy Merckx
I love that quote for a couple of reasons, it perfectly sums up why I encourage everyone to ride a bike. Besides the in-your-face "go ride your bike" message. The context of who it is coming from is also a part of the value of such a simple request. It came from Eddy Merckx at the peak of his cycling career, at that time he was simply the best by far and away. To say he was dominate is a gross understatement. When he would show up to race against the best in the world, it was more or less up to the commentators to talk about who might get second. This guy also had a legendary ego, well earned, but still he loved tormenting his competition. So the simple and sweet message of encouraging anyone and everyone to ride, no matter how good, strong or how far you can go. Just go ride your bike. It's like a promise from Eddy that you'll be happy you did.
Now, for the record I'm no Eddy, I'm just a banker that likes riding his bike and has a passion for the sport. It's taken me all over the country and occasionally internationally. I can also say it brought me the best friends anyone could ever ask for, some I never ever would have crossed paths with unless we were on bikes. The best people in the world ride bikes, I truly mean it. I have never seen any other group of people that you can meet a perfect stranger and already be friends and willing to help each other. There is such joy in that connection that you can't get anywhere else. I look through my life and the things that have brought me joy have changed from time to time, but cycling has always been there.
So when I could get involved in supporting a group in my neighborhood to get people out for a casual ride, I had to jump in. I wasn't the founder of Grosse Pointe Pedalers. That title belongs to Carlos Borrego, Katie Synkowski and Andrew Casazza. I went on the first ride with about 20 other people, it was 30 degrees, it was windy, raining and snowing. I don't remember how far we rode, but I remember it was beautiful. This was a small group of people that just wanted to go ride their bike. To get out of the house on a Wednesday evening and make the best of it. It also was not like your typical cycling groups, clad in lycra, pace lining and flying down the street at 20+ mph for forty to a hundred miles on a given day. Which sadly, in cycling is how the vast majority of organized cycling groups once operated. For a lot of first time riders want to ride in a group for the sake of safety, but it's just not possible for folks to make that jump sometimes. Even though I previously rode with groups like that, cranking down the street with my heart pounding at 170 bpm, I knew in my "over working" heart this was an exclusionary style of riding. One simply cannot hop on their old trusty cruiser and join in on that paceline. Good luck, it is not happening. First you got to go the local bike shop, drop a thousand dollars on a road bike and then another thousand on clothing and gear, then train up for 6 months and then you might be able to join us next spring. Who the heck would want to do that to just get out of the house?
That's why G.P. Pedalers is so great, like all the other no nonsense casual ride groups that have cropped up over the last 5-7 years. Cycling is now more inclusive than ever. Just about every day of the week you can find a local ride group ride that is going to be more on the casual side.
Which is why I'm also loving E-bikes these days, it helps close the gap for many people to ride and that may have had to stop before. E- Bikes give the rider some additional power to keep up with friends if they need it. Some E-Bikes can take someone who would normally ride comfortably at 7 mph and be able to keep up the fastest groups out there. It can get some people who have medical conditions or physical challenges to get out there a means to ride again or maybe for the first time. The E-Bike market and manufacturers are really creating opportunity for people. It matches up with why I love supporting the Grosse Pointe Pedalers.
2020 riding season was certainly a doozy. The pandemic canceled almost all races, events and rides across the state. We were impacted too. Our season typically starts the first Wednesday of April and ends the last Wednesday of October. Unfortunately, this year, the beginning of the season was mired in the peak of the pandemic. In April of 2020 so many things were still uncertain about the virus and gatherings larger than 10 people were under restriction by a state order. Unfortunately for the Grosse Pointe Pedalers, this meant no rides as our events typically had well over forty people, occasionally even over a hundred. So we followed the state order. We held off on everything and waited.
Then on Monday June 1st, the hospitals were handling the flow of patients and the spread of the virus had settled to the point Governor Whitmer lifted the restrictions from the gathering limits from ten to one hundred. I think it took Sedone Ledesma and myself about 3 text messages, and 20 seconds to get the first ride of the season organized and posted online before the Governor could finish her announcement. Suddenly we were going to have our first organized ride of the season in less than 48 hours. There was touch of joy in just getting that posted. I think every single person that follows the Grosse Pointe Pedalers on Facebook liked that post. Sedone and I were concerned that people would be uncomfortable asking others to give them space, some would not be wearing masks, some would adamantly be wearing masks. We asked participants to please feel free to come ride, keep their distance from each other and respectfully understand and oblige if some asks for space. It was never a problem throughout the season. We took other precautions like changing our meeting places from local restaurants and watering holes to school parking lots where there was plenty of parking and space for us to assemble with room for social distancing. I'm happy to say we did not hear of a single instance of the someone contracting the virus at our rides.
Getting back to that first ride this year. I was very concerned that because of the excessive cabin fever we would be overwhelmed and over 100 people. Thankfully we were low enough on numbers we could gather as we had 47 riders. That day the temperature was seventy five degrees with scattered clouds and sunny. This ride, just like the very first ride 6 years ago, was beautiful too. People out of the house, talking, sharing their "stay at home" stories and getting back to something we all missed, a little bit of normal. It amazes me that a simple bike ride was giving so much joy to so many people. So many smiles and laughs in the sun with a breeze rolling in off lake St. Clair. It was truly a joyous ride.
Despite starting in June, we still managed to have a half a season, including a couple of charitable rides as well. We had one ride with Neighborhood Club Thrift store where riders came with items the store needed. We also supported the Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society by making donations to help them with their mission. Lastly we did another drive to help a local family continue their sons legacy caring for the homeless with the Frankie's Sock and Snack drive in October. It always seems that when we host these charitable rides, our numbers of participants take a jump that ride. I think all the difficulties everyone experienced this year helped people find the simple joys more rewarding than usual. Sure riding a bike is one of them, but helping others is tried and true simple joy that gives back.
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