Pedal Power—Joining Naperville’s growing bike scene for fun and fitness

May 2014 View more

Fitness_NMAG0514_BikeWith the reemergence of warm weather comes the resurgence of an active lifestyle for Napervillians. Biking for exercise is nothing new, but it is seeing an undeniable growth spurt in the area. With more than 175 members this year, no one knows that better than the Naperville Bike Club.

Naperville Bike Club President Kevin Clifford said the group of cycling enthusiasts, which was formed in 1984 and became a nonprofit in 2002, has seen an increase in membership the last few years.

Though labeled as a “club,” Clifford stresses the group is open to anyone with a bike, regardless of experience or speed. Men and women, young and old, nuclear scientists and graphic artists, the Naperville Bike Club isn’t trying to keep the club exclusive. As long as you’re at least 18 years old and pay the $20 annual fee, the rides are unlimited.

While the club has a number of competitive cyclists who enjoy fast rides known as “blur rides,” members can choose their own adventure based on the club’s online ride calendar. Most of the ride paces are labeled as moderate, with easy and difficult rides peppered throughout. Rides can be for socialization, fitness, or both.
“Normally, we migrate to people that do the same things we do,” said Clifford. “When you get into a group like this one, it’s about diversity. We’re not some group you’d go out and handpick. It’s a wonderful, fun group and the commonality is the bike.”

The increasing popularity of cycling in Naperville is also apparent to Trek Bicycle Store’s Service Manager Chris Wilson. Wilson, who’s been into cycling for nearly 40 years, said the shop has seen recent growth in both casual and competitive cycling. In particular, an increased interest from women and new triathletes.

“On any given Saturday, I’m not exaggerating, you’ll see a couple hundred riders in groups riding west of Route 30,” said Wilson. “The road cycling scene in this area has grown a lot over the past few years.”

One reason may be longevity of the low-impact sport. In other physical activities, injuries can keep a person from enjoying the activity for a greater period of time throughout their life. Biking is different.

“The reality is it’s something you can do for a long time at different levels,” said Wilson. “Whether you’re just riding around your neighborhood with your kids, racing, or competing in triathlons, no one is ever looked down on. Cycling is a big community—and it’s great.”

The Naperville Bike Club is all about community. Any member can post a riding event on the club’s calendar regardless of location, distance, or speed levels. Club members can join any posted ride.

One perk to riding with a club is safety. Rides are led by a ride leader who is ultimately responsible for guiding the group through traffic and intersections, and making sure everyone returns home safely. Cell phone numbers are often exchanged at the beginning of rides in case a cyclist needs longer to finish a ride or has to head home.

“Whenever you’re out on a bike, you’re much better off if you’re with a group because of visibility,” said Clifford. “If you happen to get a flat, there’s no doubt there are people on your ride that can help you. It gives you confidence.”

The Naperville Bike Club often rides on less-traveled roads, but also gathers groups for longer rides in Wisconsin and Kentucky. The camaraderie of the club is apparent. In fact, members often gather after rides to socialize with each other and their family members.

“There are athletes in the club who go out and do extraordinary things, but as a whole, we’re comfortable, not competitive,” Clifford said. “We encourage people to come out and try cycling.”