Never ride alone

I recently bought a set of clipless pedals and a pair of those stiff-soled cycling shoes that look like something a second-tier superhero might wear. It’s tempting to pass these things off as necessities, but the truth is I don’t ride my bike much, and they’re probably the first dim flickerings of a midlife crisis. God help me if I should ever buy Spandex bib-shorts or a pair of ankle socks with the Campagnolo logo stitched into them. My girlfriend would probably shoot me dead on the spot.

Strength in numbers: Ever since the cycle’s invention, the sport has been more fun when done with friends.

Lucky for closet veloheads like me, there’s the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club. Last week, in a fit of buyer’s remorse over the pedals and shoes, I placed a call to Claudia Nix, who with her husband, Mike, owns Liberty Bikes on Hendersonville Road in south Asheville. In addition to her day job, Nix has for years been a central figure in the bike club and one of the region’s staunchest advocates for cyclists and their right to share the road.

Every Tuesday, Nix leads a casual club ride that starts from her store. I ran across a mention of it on the club’s Web site (www.blueridgebicycleclub.org), and it sounded like just the coming-out I was looking for. The word “casual” didn’t hurt, but most encouraging of all was the blurb’s promise that “no one gets left behind.” It wasn’t a stretch to imagine the pack pulling away from me, poised and laughing at their own jokes, while I fussed with my pedals, sideways in the dry grass, surrounded by Marlboro wrappers and Bojangles’ cups.

“I’m thinking of writing a story called “Never Ride Alone,” I told Nix when I had her on the line.

“Let’s hope that never happens,” she replied. I liked her immediately.

Of course Nix—bigwig though she is—still amounts to only one member of the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club. Who knows? You could meet your soul mate on one of these rides, which at the very least is a strong endorsement for getting one of those “anatomical” seats designed to spare your crotch.

Joining the club is a pretty good deal; at $25, a year’s membership costs only slightly more than a pair of those Campagnolo socks. I haven’t signed up yet, but it’s just matter of time.

There’s at least one club ride every day, and sometimes more than one happens. So if you’re independently wealthy or retired—both of which I eventually hope to be—your whole week could be a patchwork of cycling excursions. By day you could subsist mainly on sports gels and electrolyte-replacement drinks, and by night your loved one(s) could massage your chiseled calves and dust you with Gold Bond powder. Sound good? Thought so. Without further ado, here are the rides, as described on the club’s Web site:

Monday evenings:
• Bikeways Road Ride
Departs 6 p.m. from Bikeways (607 Greenville Highway in Hendersonville). Easy ride; “the route may include hills, but the pace will be easy and no one will be dropped.” Lasts 1-1/2 hours.
For more information, visit www.bikewayswnc.com or call Peter Levasseur at 692-0613.

Tuesday mornings:
• Ben’s Fast 40 Road Ride
Meets at 10 a.m. at Liberty Bicycles.
For more information, call Ben at 274-2453 or visit www.libertybikes.com
• Casual Road Bike Ride
Meets at 10:15 a.m. at Liberty Bikes
Two hours, 20-25 miles, and “no one gets left behind.”
Ride convenes at Liberty Bicycles, except on the first Tuesday of the month, when it sets off from Fletcher Park on Howard Gap Road.
For more information, call Claudia Nix at 274-2453 or visit www.libertybikes.com

Tuesday evenings:
• Etowah Road Ride
Departs around 6 p.m. from the Ingles on Route 64 for a ride along the French Broad River.
“Appropriate for beginner-to-advanced cyclists.”
For more information, call Joe Sanders at 651-0920.
• Biltmore Forest Tour
Meets at 6 p.m. in the front parking lot of TGI Fridays in Biltmore Village (Hendersonville Road).
Full ride is roughly 20 miles; for more information, call Paul King at 274-2131.

Wednesday evenings:
• Haywood Women’s Ride
Departs at 6 p.m. from the Waynesville Bicycle Company in Waynesville. Moderate-pace road ride with climbing, 25-30 miles, “not for beginners.”
For more information, call Ron Hight at 454-9898.
• Night Ride at Bent Creek
Meet 6 p.m. at Youngblood Bicycles, located at 233 Merrimon Avenue, to carpool to Bent Creek.
For more information, call Youngblood at 251-4686 or visit www.youngbloodbikes.com

Thursday evenings:
• Haywood Hammerheads
Departs 6 p.m. from the Waynesville Bicycle Company in Waynesville.
“Stiff, 17-mph-average fast-paced road ride with climbing, 25-30 miles, not for beginners. Will regroup for those lagging behind, but within reason.”
For more information, call Ron Hight at 454-9898.
• Bikeways Road Race
Rides depart 6 p.m. from Bikeways.
“Easy rides to get everyone back out on their bikes before spring … the pace will be easy and no one will be dropped.”
Lasts 1-1/2 hours.
For more information, call Peter Levasseur at 692-0613.

Friday mornings:
• Fletcher Road Ride
Departs 10 a.m. from Fletcher Community Park, located on Howard Gap Road.
Different route each week ranging from 20 to 24 miles. “Casual pace.”
Lunch afterward at Blue Sky Café.
For more information, call John Loia at 696-0877.

Saturday mornings:
• Ledges Park Show and Go Ride
Departs at 9 a.m. from Ledges Park, between Woodfin and Alexander, and continues to Marshall along Highway 251. Short break in Marshall, then back via Ivy Hill Road, continuing on a loop back to Ledges Park.
For more information, e-mail Jones Byrd at jbyrdlaw@charter.net or Gary Arthur at garthur45@hotmail.com

Sunday mornings:
• Road Ride Along the River
Meet 10 a.m. at Youngblood Bicycles (233 Merrimon Ave., www.youngbloodbikes.com), for an easy, 25-mile road ride along the beautiful French Broad River. This is a ride for everyone!
Youngblood at 251-4686 or by e-mail.
• Bent Creek Ride
Meets at 10:45 a.m. at Rice Pinnacle Parking lot in Bent Creek. Rides are fully guided and beginners are enthusiastically encouraged to participate (experienced cyclists will have their own guided group). Rides last from two to five hours, depending on riders’ skill level. Come prepared with a well-maintained bike, water and snacks.
For more information, visit www.pisgahareasorba.org or www.blueridgebicycleclub.org . For directions, call Mike Hiers at 492-0203.

Sunday afternoons:
• Ledges Park Show and Go Ride
Departs at 2 p.m. from Ledges Park, between Woodfin and Alexander, and continues to Marshall along Highway 251. Short break in Marshall, then back via Ivy Hill Road, continuing on a loop back to Ledges Park.
For more information, e-mail Jones Byrd at jbyrdlaw@charter.net or Gary Arthur at garthur45@hotmail.com

Weekends, unspecified:
• Haywood County Rides
Route and distances vary. “Don’t be shy—give us a call and we’ll add you to our ride notice list,” says the Web site.
For more information, call David at 648-7968 or Michele at 648-9336.

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