The number, and variety, of cyclists seen riding along the sides of roads has increased dramatically over the last decade, and whether you want to get on a bike for the first time in years, get out of the spin class and onto the road, engage in new challenges or make some new friends who also enjoy the sport, there is a place for you in the Sound Cyclists Bicycling Club.
Established in 1977 and currently standing at about 1,800 members, SCBC schedules a variety of rides and activities year-round, posted on its website; only snow and severe weather keep some of its members off the road. And as the weather gets warmer and the days longer, the number of ride opportunities rises, with offerings seven days a week.
“We are an exercise and social club that offers organized rides at various levels, for those just getting back on a bike to those solo riders who do 30-40 miles at a clip,” Club President Geoff Preu said. “We can accommodate most anyone who comes and our membership spans from teens to people in their 80s, with the bulk of our membership people in their forties through sixties.”
The club’s recently revamped website, soundcyclists.com, displays the group’s mission statement: “Sound Cyclist Bicycle Club provides organized rides and other cycling-related activities for our members and the community, which stress safety, fun and fitness for all levels of riders. We host social activities and the Bloomin’ Metric, one of the Northeast’s premier cycling events. The club also provides the opportunity for cyclists to improve their riding skills. The club is an advocate of safe cycling in Fairfield County and the State of Connecticut.”
All cyclists are required to wear ANSI-, SNELL- or CPSC-approved helmets during any club ride.
Rides are segregated by pace, distance and terrain. Riders place themselves, depending on their experience and skill, and what they may want to accomplish on a given day. The club regularly offers skill clinics, either as part of a larger ride or standalone, covering such topics as shifting and bike handling for newbies, riding in a group, hill climbing and pace-lining or riding tightly single file, drafting off each other, which can increase a rider’s efficiency up to 30 percent.
Each ride has a leader and at the lower levels, each has a sweep, or a person designated to ensure no rider gets separated from the group. SCBC also offers training for ride leaders, some of who are very active, others who lead occasional or specific rides, and maintains a library of some 300 rides that can be printed out as cue sheets detailing the route or downloaded to GPS.
While most rides take place in Fairfield County and start along the coastal towns, there are also annual destination rides on Block Island to West Point, in Litchfield County, around Tanglewood and other locations, as well as picnics in May and July preceded by all-club rides. And for those who want to start more up-county, Ridgefield Bicycle Company, recently relocated to 88 Danbury Road, has a couple of rides a week, in cooperation with Sound Cyclists, as well as sponsors its own Bicycle Sport Club.
Mountain bike trail rides and touring rides are also on the schedule.
Membership to the Sound Cyclists costs $20 annually, with a $5 surcharge if made by snail mail rather than online, and people can try a couple of rides before deciding to join. A typical ride may have from six to 20 participants.
The Bloomin’ Metric
Sound Cyclists premiere event and major fundraiser is the Bloomin’ Metric, an annual outing that is held when the azalea and dogwoods are in bloom. The Metric offers riders a choice of three distances — 25 miles, 75 kilometers (47.6 miles) or 100 kilometers (62.1 miles) — with food and rest stops and support and gear wagons along the way. This year’s event will be held the first Sunday in June.
While the 25-mile distance may sound intimidating to someone contemplating the ride for the first time, it can be an excellent opportunity to challenge yourself in a safe and supportive environment, riding at your own pace and resting when needed, according to the club. The ride also has a rolling start time between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m., so participants can begin on their own schedule, although those going the longer distances are encouraged to choose the earlier side.
After years of pedaling off from Calf Pasture in Norwalk, the Bloomin’ Metric relocated its starting point to Sherwood Island in Westport last year, a move that was well received by both the riders and sponsors, said Geoff Preu.
“We now have paved parking instead of parking on a field, and the registration area can take place under the pavilion, which is high and dry and provides large banks of restrooms,” he said. “The sponsors can spread out and bring larger displays and talk for themselves, which gives the event more of a festival flavor.
“No one is allowed to sell anything, but there is plenty of information available as well as samples and giveaways,” Geoff said. “There are also plenty of picnic tables, which makes eating after the event much easier.”
Lunch is provided as part of the $48 nonrefundable entry fee.
Other fairly new changes, due to steady growth — and “at the request of some of the towns we ride through,” Geoff notes — the Bloomin’ Metric has been capped at 2,500 riders. Same day registration is no longer available.
“The weather could affect our numbers by several hundred people,” he said, “which made the coordination more difficult — how much food should be buy, how many marshals are needed…Now we can plan better, and for the past couple of years, the ride has sold out.”
Registration for the 2013 Bloomin’ Metric on June 2 is now open on the website.
Bill Meredith coordinates the 250 or so club volunteers who make the event run smoothly.
SCBC members volunteer in a number of ways all around, serving as marshals and in other capacities for other fundraisers, such as the Connecticut Challenge and Spin Odyssey, serving on local committees and commissions that encourage bike safety for recreational riders and bike commuters, fitness, and the expansion and maintenance of trails. Some members testify on local or state legislation that affects cyclists.
Sound Cyclists also participates in Northeast Community Cycles, which rehabs bikes to give to Boys & Girls Clubs for distribution. The organization has given away more than a thousand bikes to date and teaches bike safety clinics to youth.
Last year, Sound Cyclists donated about $17,500 to a variety of community groups.
“We especially support the EMS squads of the towns we ride through because they are so good to us when someone falls off a bike,” Geoff said. “This year, we are working with various towns to donate bike racks that looks like pieces of art. We want to put them in prominent places where they will be seen, used and hopefully raise queries that get more kids and adults interested in riding bikes.”
In December, the club made a donation to Norwalk River Valley Trail, an organization that is working to develop a 38-mile hiking/biking/equestrian trail from the Long Island Sound to the rolling hills of Danbury, passing through Wilton, Ridgefield and Redding along the way.
For additional information about Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club or to register for the June 2 Bloomin’ Metric, visit soundcyclists.com.