It's a dog's world out on rural Ohio roads, especially to the grizzled members of the Lorain Wheelmen bicycling club.
"You get to know just about every dog in southern Lorain county," Clyde Hohn, ride captain, said. "You know what color and what tree they're going to leap out from behind."
The Lorain Wheelmen have been around for over 22 years. In this time they've put on a few annual events, made a few friends and ridden at least every Sunday season round.
"I rode with a guy who said that the club was founded in 1975 at Bicycle Bill's in Vermillion," Hohn said.
Last year the group had about 35 members hailing from all walks of life. "We've got your Ph.D.'s and your academics, and then your blue collar types," Hohn said. "There's a guy who works for the bank, a grade school principal, engineers and our president is a bike mechanic."
The group also represents a wide age range, though the Wheelmen would be the first to say that basically they're more on the elderly side. "We're a bunch of old guys," Hohn said. "Riding bikes isn't regarded as cool with the younger generation. Especially not with my daughter. She does not like my spandex, bright colors, flashy helmet and little mirrors."
The youngest person to ride with the Wheelmen, aside from the occasional student, is about 35. "We cluster around 45 to 50," Hohn said. "We're a little old for an athletic group. There's one guy who is about 75." Hohn attributes the interest in older riders to the therapeutic benefits of riding on knees. "A half plus of our riders are worn-out runners," he said. "Students have not typically faced that decline yet."
The Lorain Wheelmen help sponsor two paid events over the year, along with the occasional unpaid one. The "Red Flannel" ride takes place on the last Sunday in November and serves as a sort of wrap-up to the season. The ride is a metric century (100 km or about 62 miles) out to Milan, Ohio, the birthplace of Thomas Edison. Evidently one year the event was ridden by four men in red long underwear.
"We get about 100 people if the weather isn't too grizzly," Hohn said. "Usually it's nasty. It's fun if you like miserable weather. Generally the worse the weather the older the age profile of participants. There's one guy who's ridden every year we've put the event on and he's older than dirt."
The group also coordinates the annual "Roast Your Buns" ride in August. "Bike event names are usually pretty corny and there's no such thing as too corny," Hohn said. "A lot of the times the event name is decided by what clip art is at hand."
"Roast Your Buns" consists of four 25 mile rides that all start at Philips Gym. "We usually have about 100 to 150 paid participants," Hohn said. The riders head north and come back, then east and back, and so on.
Along with the sponsored events and weekly rides, the group put together occasional kid and wife rides on Wednesdays during the summer, as well as Tuesday and Thursday night rides during daylight savings time.
One summer tradition is the Great Ohio Bicycling Adventure which about ten or so of the Wheelmen partake in. "It's not very serious," Hohn said. "You ride all day and then camp and drink beer- not that people shouldn't camp and drink beer. It's just a fun week for cheap."
Now that the group has begun its Tuesday and Thursday night rides, they would love to have students join them at this more convenient time than Sunday at 8 a.m. "If there are any kids hiding in the bushes out there who would want to ride, then we'd love to have them come out," Hohn said. "Not too many of them have operable machinery though."
The Wheelmen have thought about running more events that students might be interested in besides the weekly rides. "It would be big fun to get students going out for ten or so miles on their ramshackle equipment," he said. The group was instrumental in helping to arrange the Oberlin Biking Experience which took place fall of two years ago.
Oberlin and the surrounding environs are ideal for this sort of road riding. Hohn said that many bikers yearn for the type of rural riding that Ohio can provide. Except for the dogs, it's amazingly safe as well. "I can think of three people who have gone down by dog," Hohn said. "I can only think of one person who got hit by a car. He just got up and was fine, and he still managed to turn it into a pretty profitable accident."
Drivers in general are very considerate. "The drivers are overwhelmingly courteous," Hohn said. "It's very safe as long as you're not arrogant. Around here your average redneck is going to move over to the other ditch to get by you."
The Lorain Wheelmen leave from the Oberlin Inn at 5:30 and 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They'll do about seven miles before 6 p.m. and then about 20 to 25 miles over the rest of the evening. In May, the Sunday rides start at 8 a.m., also from the Inn. "If it's over 60 degrees then we'll divide into a long and a short group," Hohn said. The shorter group will go 25 to 30 miles down to Lagrange or Wakemen while the longer group might go 50 or 60 miles to New London.
Anyone can go along but there's one restriction. "Everyone must wear a helmet," Hohn said. "If you show up without a helmet I have the ugliest thing you ever saw in my basement that you'll have to wear as penance."
Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 23, May 1, 1998
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