GANDER, N.L. — After a long lull, cycling has been experiencing a resurgence in the past few years in this province.
That is due, in no small part, to groups like Gander’s Lakeside Cycling Club where people can learn from more experienced riders, build cycling skills, and receive encouragement and sometimes coaching for competitive events.
The Lakeside Cycling Club’s Monday group rides welcome anyone from brand new riders to experienced athletes to join them for a fun cycling experience.
The club was founded by Paul Collett, a teacher who has been cycling for about 12 years.
“When I first moved to Gander, I didn’t know many cyclists, I just saw a few here and there around town,” Collett said. “I decided to start a small club — I started by convincing some of my students to join.”
The group meets on Monday nights for group rides, and they do regular time-trial events, but the club is about company, not competition.
“Cycling can be competitive, but it’s not always for competition. Anybody with a road bike can join,” Collett said. “It’s useful to have a group because it's more comfortable and puts everyone at ease.”
There are about 40 members of the club overall, but Collett says people’s availability varies so they see a small group of regulars on Monday nights.
“We get between five to 12 people depending on weather and schedules, etcetera,” Collett said.
One of those regulars is Collett’s partner, Ashton White, a self-described cycling enthusiast, who started cycling as a kid but got back into it about three years ago primarily for fitness and recreation.
She enjoys the weekly rides but White recognizes that people who are considering joining a cycling club have a variety of concerns. One of the most common is the fear of impeding the group, but she advises new riders not to worry about that.
‘Mellow as they need to be’
“People believe that if you are slower you might be hindering someone else's progress, but these rides are about building community,” White said. “Mondays are as mellow as they need to be. You go at the pace of the slowest person.
“To get down to basics, you want to be able to ride and have fun and that's what we strive for at those once-a-week rides. If someone wants a workout, they can do it on their own time.”
White noted, “There can be a level of intimidation, and nervousness about vehicles, and about riding with a bunch of men, but riding with a group helps to build confidence. You can give yourself a chance to get better.”
According to White, the benefits of group riding make it worth getting past those concerns and giving yourself a chance to get used to the experience of cycling. Riding with more experienced people helps individuals improve their cycling abilities because they can get tips and assistance in the moment.
Collett and White have very recently moved to Vancouver where White was relocated for work. They are enjoying the multiple cycling opportunities in their new city, and while they will be missed by the Lakeside Club, the group will continue to meet regularly.
Ian Coxon, club member and recent recipient of a Premier’s Athletic Award, says the group’s mission to bring cyclists together is still going strong.
“I was out riding with six other guys from the club yesterday evening — we're still riding,” Coxon said.
He advises any new members can meet up with the group at their usual starting point.
“We almost always meet at the local park, Cobbs Pond, on Monday nights. It's a nice area that the town keeps in good shape, we meet up in the parking lot,” Coxon said. “It's more or less in the middle of town so everyone can get there easily.”
‘You get used to it’
Another member, Chuck Pardy, has recently started a Facebook group for the Lakeside Cycling Club, and says that will be the best way to get information about the club. He hopes to see a lot more members in the near future.
Pardy, who started cycling in June of 2017 and describes himself as a ‘newbie’ understands why people might feel reluctant to join a cycling group, but he says the nervousness passes quickly.
“I understand the nerves. The cars, keeping up with other riders... the tight clothes we wear. You get used to it. All of it!” Pardy said. “After a couple of group rides, you’ll feel confident.
“We all want to grow the sport and encourage new riders. Group rides are friendly, conversational, and a good workout. You’ll feel the burn, but also the thrill of being pulled along as you draft behind the riders in front.”
According to Pardy, traffic is far less a concern than most people think.
“Believe it or not, I find drivers to be mostly cycling friendly here in Gander,” Pardy said. “Just be respectful, and obey the rules of the road.”
Freedom on two wheels
Coxon, who has been cycling for about four years, says the sport is about freedom and he would love for more people to experience that feeling.
“If I could narrow it down to one thing I love about cycling, it would be the freedom you get when you’re out spinning the wheels,” Coxon said. “You can leave home and just ride for two-three hours, whether its solo or with friends, you’ll clear your mind and keep yourself in good shape.
“On a bike you can ride virtually anywhere there’s a road or trail. I like the freedom to choose a different route every day.”
Coxon has a message for anyone who feels intimidated about getting started.
“You don’t have to be out racing on a bike to be a part of the sport,” he said. “As long as you’re out enjoying that’s all that matters.”
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Sharing the road: How drivers can help keep cyclists safe
In general, drivers should treat cyclists as they treat other cars, respecting the space they require, and yielding to them as they would any other vehicle during turns. Cyclists are expected to follow the rules of the road and use hand signals to communicate their intentions to other drivers.
In addition to those general guidelines, drivers should incorporate the following into their driving habits.
• Give cyclists at least one metre of space — especially when passing.
• Always check your blind spots for cyclists.
• Check for cyclists when opening car doors on the street.
• Double check for cyclists when making turns.
• Refrain from using the horn unless it is absolutely necessary — horns are extremely loud and will startle the cyclist.
• Do not pass a cyclist when going downhill, gravity will cause a bike rider to increase speed and it will be hard for you to predict.
• Watch for the cyclist’s hand signals
Lakeside Cycling Club founder Paul Collett advises drivers to be observant and not to make assumptions about a cyclist’s speed.
“When you see a bike rider coming from the opposite direction, yield to them the same as you would a motor vehicle,” he said. “Give them time to see you and signal their intentions. They are often going faster than you think.”
Compiled with information from Paul Collett and from http://www.bikestjohns.ca/assets/Uploads/adult-handbook-feb21.pdf