Debbie Croft: Bicycling groups are just along for the ride

July 13, 2013 

DEBBIE CROFT

If you see a jersey on a bicyclist with the slogan, "Friends don't let friends ride junk," he's probably with the Kevin's Club race team of Kevin's Bikes in Merced.

"We're a group of mostly retired and semiretired bike racers," Larry Ingram said.

The group meets three times a week for rides: Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings. Although they call them group rides, members admit they're actually training races.

Ingram comes from an athletic family. When his brother introduced him to cycling, he loved it — even after falling to the ground in heat exhaustion at the end of his first 10-mile ride. Since then he's traveled on two wheels all across the western United States.

Before getting into racing, he conquered century rides: 100 miles within 12 hours.

"I even have a few trophies, some in the form of road rash scars," he said.

His longest ride, 150 miles, took him along the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains. Riding with the Competitive Edge Racing Team, he says the team's name fits them well. None of the riders ever admit to being tired.

For Central Valley residents some of the most enjoyable cycling is done in Mariposa County, for a number of reasons.

"No smog, no cars, great views, country smells, wildlife and rolling hills," he continues. "The hills and mountains make very challenging climbs with great descents. Like the route to the Merced River, down the Bagby grade — 55 miles on two wheels is a thrill."

Ingram's most memorable trip was on Highway 395 from June Lake to the top of Tioga Pass and into Yosemite Valley. He rode through three climate zones in one day.

"Biking is for adrenalin junkies," he finished. "Just ask any cyclist."

A less challenging but interesting route takes bicyclists from Mariposa through Catheys Valley and Hornitos, up Bear Valley Road and along Highway 49 back to Mariposa. It's a 50-mile loop that takes four to five hours.

The Merced Bicycle Coalition believes bicycling is a normal means of everyday transportation and recreation, keeping roadways safer, air cleaner and citizens healthier.

This group drives to Yosemite National Park once a year to cycle around the valley floor. For the Saturday Family Fun Ride, coalition members meet at the farmers market at 19th and N Streets at 10 a.m. The route takes them along streets and bike paths in the city; then they stop for lunch at a local restaurant.

Earlier this year they joined a cycling group from Fresno for a leisure ride through Fresno's bikeways. It's not something they do often, but something the group hopes to do again.

Bicyclists take up the sport for various reasons, yet all agree: It's an excellent and inexpensive way to stay fit.

Anyone interested in joining one of these groups can stop in at Kevin's Bikes, call (209) 722-2228 or go to www. mercedbicyclecoalition.org to get more information.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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