Not everyone is willing to trade in their slow Saturday morning spent sipping coffee in pajamas for a helmet, matching spandex and a 40km bike ride. These are people driven by the camaraderie of a shared passion and a burning sensation in their quad muscles.
Cycling clubs present an opportunity for athletes and weekend warriors of all ages and skill levels to bond over the act of riding. “It’s great to go out with friends or make new friends who share your passions,” says Myles Cullen, club president of Spoke O’Motion Cycling Club in Newmarket. “If you want to be motivated to ride your bike more, go out with a buddy who’s laying the boots to you every time you find a hill.”
Spoke O’Motion is a grassroots cycling club founded out of the retail store with the same name. The mission of the club is to create a low-stress, non-competitive and welcoming environment that supports men, women and children who love riding – whether it be for fun, fitness, utility or competition.
The club offers beginner rides on Tuesday evenings, presenting an opportunity for non-competitive riders to learn the basics of shifting, etiquette and the rules of group riding. It’s a less intimidating ride, featuring distances of 25 to 40km, depending on the pace of the riders. “The herd moves as fast as the slowest buffalo,” says Cullen. “If we have a snappy group, we can cover 40km.”
Thursday evenings are for intermediate and advanced riders, and all club members are invited to join the Saturday and Sunday morning rides. “If you want to learn to ride faster, to have more control, to know the proper rules of the road, really the best way to do that is to ride with people more skilled than yourself,” says Cullen. “And that’s where the clubs fill the gap.”
Newmarket Eagles Cycling Club also fills that gap. Operating since 1985, it still boasts some of its original riders – including one 83-year-old cyclist who members say has “still got it.” The club’s membership stands at 240 cyclists today, of which only 24% are women. “We’ve been working very hard to increase that number because it’s such a male-dominated sport,” says club president Dean Robertson. They now have a club within the club for women called the Newmarket eGALS – members can ride with the rest of the club, but they also have the option of joining weekly all-female rides.
The Newmarket Eagles hold group rides on Saturday and Sunday mornings, as well as Wednesday and Thursday evenings. They also offer Tuesday Time Trials and a Thursday Night Hammer Ride, where members may practice hill sprints, pacelines and not going to the front. “After a ride we’ll get together and go for coffee, which some people may think is weird,” Roberston says. “But it’s a traditional thing with cycling.”
The club also offers featured rides a few times a year. Last Canada Day, they planned a 150km ride that took members from Kettleby to Belfountain, then over to Hockley Valley before cycling back to Kettleby. This year they’re hosting a 40km Women’s Day ride on May 20th.
“We’re a road cycling club; that’s our core,” says Robertson. “We call ourselves grass roots racing, because we offer our members an outlet to go racing.” The club races are held six times a year on an 8km course that riders will repeat five to six times, for a total distance of 60km. “We have time trials where you ride by yourself and try to beat your previous times, or you could have a rivalry with another rider,” he says.
The fitness aspect is certainly a big draw for most cyclists. “I have a fairly sedentary job so this gets me up and active, and it gets me out of the house,” he says. Robertson cycled 4500km last year, and a total of 7500km the year before that.
But all cyclists have to start somewhere. “Don’t be afraid to come out and give it a try,” Robertson says. “You’ll find people of your riding ability or people who were of your ability not long ago. We’ll encourage you to challenge yourself, but we’ll help you recognize your limits because no one wants to see you become discouraged.”
Spoke O’Motion Cycling Club
Newmarket Eagles Cycling Club
by CHARLOTTE OTTAWAY