Bikers spin through Claremont

More than 100 Claremont residents got out their helmets and biking gear Sunday morning to take part in Cycle Claremont’s inaugural bicycle ride, leading locals on a bicycle tour around town.

Sponsored by the city and Sustainable Claremont, Cycle Claremont is an all-age community bike group dedicated to providing a recreational and healthy way for residents to get acquainted with the city.

Though the group is still in its infancy, co-leader Larry Scheetz looks forward to sharing his passion for cycling with the rest of the Claremont community.

“Cycle Claremont can be a significant culture change component for Claremont and nearby communities, combining exercise, social interaction, excitement,” Mr. Scheetz said. “Most of us still have the mistaken notion that bicycles are machines that we put away when we are able to drive cars, because cars are so much “better”.  If we ride bikes it’s for a “serious purpose” like exercise or competition.  My view is that in our town and our area bicycles can take many roles: transportation, recreation, exercise, social connections and, if we want, competition.”

Bikers—ranging from age 5 to 83—decked out in reflective gear to gather with families across the city looking for a family-friendly Sunday activity. The group embarked on a 4-mile tour of the city’s Bike Priority Zone, skimming the perimeters of Claremont.

“It’s a great way for the family to unify. Sometimes at home there are just too many distractions,” said Tamera Wagner accompanied on the ride by her husband Michael and their son Owen, 14. “It’s nice to get a little sunshine and spend quality time together as a family.”

Taking bike rides with his Dad is a favorite weekend activity for 7-year-old Blake Suttner.

“It’s fun because we bike really far,” Blake said proudly before embarking on his latest bicycle adventure.

“It’s a healthy and fun family activity,” added Blake’s mother Kirsten Suttner, participating alongside her son and other friends and family members.

Cycle Claremont was first formed in October inspired by environmentalist Bill McKibben’s Moving Planet Day. Organizations from 153 countries across the globe, including Claremont, rode their bikes, marched and jogged for a “cleaner planet.”

“Several families there asked to have regular rides and we agreed it would be worthwhile,” Mr. Scheetz said. “We see in many towns in the United States that bicycling adds wonderful dimensions to the nature of the town in many ways.  Claremont already has many key elements to be even better than these. We are only lacking in community motivation and education.”

Members of the group have spent the past several months working to change that. Cycle Claremont has dedicated itself to teaching bike safety and promoting community rides for all ages and abilities. Since its fall start-up, the group has become a recognized member of the League of American Bicyclists, a group promoting bicycle advocacy and education throughout the country, and popularity has spread through the group’s Facebook page.

Beyond educating about the physical and environmental benefits of bicycle riding, Mr. Scheetz says one of his favorite aspects of biking is the social interaction or, as he refers to it, “seeing people forming cycling ‘clans’.”

“There was a lot of excitement before the ride and quite a few riders stayed afterward to talk and share their good feelings.  People get all stimulated – just like parties,” Mr. Scheetz said. “It’s very diverse in athletic levels, personalities, religions, politics, but we all share an excitement about cycling.”

First-time biker Emma Travis was surprised at how quickly the 4-mile ride passed her by.

“It went by so fast because we were in a group and chatting the entire time,” Ms. Travis said. “I didn’t expect to cover so many miles in such a short amount of time. It was a unique way to pass time and meet new people.”

Cycle Claremont’s next community ride is scheduled for Sunday, February 19. All ages and levels are welcome.

“Bicycling, in many ways, is the best of hobbies/sports.  It takes many forms and we all adapt the machines, and our skills, to suit our preferences,” he said. “I would like to see a diverse set of community members get involved to make decisions regarding the activities and priorities of Cycle Claremont.”

Those interested in getting involved with Cycle Claremont, either as a rider or volunteer, can visit www.cycleclaremont.com or e-mail Larry Scheetz at lscheetz22@ca.rr.com.

—Beth Hartnett

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