Health: Easy Riders

My thighs burned as I pushed the pedals up another asphalt-covered hill. Each climb was harder than the last and a personal battle, which was to be followed by a spectacular view of snow-patched cornfields as far as the eye could see–-and a nice long coast.

These rolling hills of Iowa guide the joyrides for the 322 members of Bicyclists of Iowa City or BIC. This 33-year-old club was started with the intention of promoting bicycling and the interests of bicyclists.

I have a less than significant history on a bike. I go on one or two substantial rides a year at best, usually as big family trip in the summertime. The rides are easy and relatively flat, but even as my parents follow me on those routes, they’re a bit leery of my shaky balance. (They are glad that I just purchased my first helmet since the hot pink one I used when learning how to ride.)

Biking with BICMy recent two-wheeled jaunt was led by BIC’s president of five years, Steve Rudin. Rudin, a bicyclist and member of BIC for the past 11 years, met me on north Dodge Street and led me all the way out to the Coralville Reservoir and back. The route of about nine miles was no stretch for the seasoned president, but left my more inexperienced legs working overtime.

A nine-mile trip is a pretty short ride for BIC members, who usually travel anywhere from 15 to 50 miles, or even more. The trip Rudin led me on was one of BIC’s year-round weekend tours. Rides are more popular and frequent in the warmer months, which was no surprise to me when I pedaled along on a 40 degree day in February. That icy wind-chill made a hot day in August sound like heaven.

Most rides typically occur between April and October, including several different weekly rides. More experienced bicyclists or those looking for a challenge can attend 2sday 2wheelers (on Tuesday mornings) or Wednesday Evening Escapes. These are longer rides, but they make for great opportunities to be with fellow bicyclists and have some fun.

The Thursday Evening Leisure Ride travels fewer miles than most BIC rides and stays on more metropolitan trails. This is a great ride for newer or more casual rider. The trip Rudin took me on probably more closely resembled these Thursday rides; although we traversed outside the hustle and bustle of Iowa City, it was slower-paced. Rudin stayed with me the whole time even though he was much more capable than me to take on the terrain. Rudin explained that when newer bicyclists attend the rides, the ride leaders make sure they aren’t in the back of the pack riding alone. It was comforting to have him there to give me a few tips as we pedaled along discussing biking.

Rudin began riding to improve his health, which in my limited opinion seems to be working out well for him. He appears to be doing pretty well while I’m struggling up The road. (I’m willing to argue with anyone who says Iowa doesn’t have mountains.) The scenic roads we traveled on our ride is a pretty good training for RAGBRAI. Rudin has already made the long-haul across the state 11 times as a member of BIC. It is one of the special rides the group participates in each year.  He is one of 150 BIC members, some from across the country, who will be banding together this July for Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, from river to shining river.

BIC also hosts a few other special rides throughout the year. Bigger trips are taking place on Memorial Weekend and Independence Day. In September, they will continue a new trend in the group of reaching out to the community. BIC will be hosting their annual Courage Ride. This special event, also known as the Amish Harvest Tour to Cure Cancer, puts bicycling together with food, music and other festivities in an effort to raise money for cancer research at the UIHC Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The members of BIC help support this cause, but their membership also helps the club promote the rights of bicyclists and bicycle issues, maintain rides, and provide information and education on biking. The members of the club, like Rudin, are passionate about biking, which is an exciting for someone like me who is interested in moving around a bit more on two wheels. And as I learned from my Sunday adventure, there’s something a little inspiring about a man 40 years my senior flying past me as I trudge up another hill.