Velo Club does some serious road-bike recreating.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Suddenly the right-hand shoulder of Pacific Grove’s Oceanview Boulevard feels less like a road and more like train tracks – for a big, breathing engine powered by pumping legs and covered in fluorescent yellow and blue spandex.
This cardiovascular freight is the Velo Club, a local group of road-bike enthusiasts. They gather regularly to travel in packs, big packs of as many as 40 riders, to cover up to 60 miles in a single ride.
As they chug along, sweat covers their calves and quadriceps. Spinning hubs tick. Hands grip their handlebars to maintain precise spacing – their wheels can be only a couple of inches apart. Their vehicles, high-end fun machines customized to the rider’s comfort, aerodynamic and lightweight preferences, are composed of carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium – and priced from $600 to $5,000.
Though they will cover some serious distance during this regular Saturday morning ride, the atmosphere is relaxed. Cyclists travel up and down the group, initiating small talk as if they were at a party on wheels, speaking more on the latest news in each other’s lives than how many miles they are riding today.
“The rides are very laid back,” Velo Club spokesman Jan Valencia says, “and open to anyone, and the environment is quite informal.”
In 1981 a group of cyclists from Monterey and Salinas came together on their heavy 10-speed bikes to form a club that encourages biking and socializing. The club has remained active for all of its 22 years due to the support of Alexander M. Capelli Inc., Carmel Sea Harvest, Honda Cycle Stop, Bobcat Bicycles, Forest Hill Bike Shop, Joselyn’s Bikes and Winning Wheels Bikes. Today, yearly membership fees run $25 per person, $30 per family and $10 for juniors under 18.
“I’m all about the socialization and riding green,” says Larry Burkett, “enjoying myself without burning fossil fuels.”
While the club centers on recreational rides, it has also developed a new high-performance race team composed of gear-heads of all ages taking on an array of competitive platforms, from track cycling to the off-road endeavors of cyclocross.
The Naval Postgraduate School is in the process of finalizing a co-op program that allows students to be involved with the Velo Club and already has 45 racers on board. “The ultimate goal is to get the postgraduate students active outside of their campus and to see more of the community,” Valencia says.
Individuals need not be members to join Velo Club rides. Recurring rides offer a range of styles and distances, always conclude with a camaraderie-rich meal and/or beer, and include the following (most are illustrated with clear maps on www.vcmonterey.org):THE NO REAL JOB RIDE | 9am Tuesdays
Named and catered to those who do not have a typical 9 to 5, this 35-mile circuit is composed of grueling climbs with plenty of regroups for riders to catch up.
Starting near the Custom House on Old Fisherman’s Wharf, traveling north through the hills of Fort Ord and Barloy Canyon, the ride then swoops around the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and South Boundary Road and concludes with coffee, food and conversation at the East Village Coffee Lounge in Monterey.THURSDAY EVENING RIDE | 5pm Thursdays
Starting from where Casa Verde intersects the Recreation Trail, this run moves to a second meet-up at the Fort Ord Burger King, traveling south of the former military base before rolling around the Laguna Seca Raceway, ending at General Jim Moore Boulevard for a total of 30 miles. High-beam lights are a good idea on this one.SATURDAY MORNING RIDE | 7am Saturdays
This 40-50 mile ride is for the avid cyclist who likes a race pace. Starting from the Monterey Conference Center at the end of Alvarado Street, the group heads along the P.G. coast and into Del Monte Forest and the hilly roads of Pebble Beach’s 17-mile Drive, then forks off onto Stevenson Drive, circles back through Pebble and Pacific Grove, and closes at East Village Coffee Lounge.SATURDAY MORNING SECOND RIDE | 7:30am Saturdays
The route is the same as the 7am ride but proceeds at a more relaxed pace.THE MELLOW VELO RIDE | 7:30am Sundays
Starting at the Conference Center, the tempo slows down on this endurance-focused trek around the Peninsula. The distance and destination is determined on the spot prior to taking off.THE PIE RIDE | 8am President’s Day and Labor Day
Starting at the Conference Center, this 70-mile cruise rolls to Elkhorn Slough, then bends around the farms of north Watsonville, journeying through berry fields to reach Gizdich Farms for a well-deserved slice of scrumptious homemade pie.