CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Matt Parsons said he feels like Lance Armstrong when he glides on his bike down Metropolitan Parkway.
Parsons, 26, is one of 17 people on the roster for Clinton Township’s adaptive bike club, a program for those with special needs that is sponsored by the township’s Parks and Recreation Department. There is one coordinator and a couple volunteers, while the rest of the group is there to ride and have fun.
The bike club had its first ride of the season in mid-August and does six riding sessions per season. The group of riders meets in the parking lot of the McLaren office building at 16 Mile Road and Gratiot Avenue, where they socialize and make pre-ride adjustments to their bikes. Then, they travel down Metropolitan Parkway all the way to Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township.
All riders must be registered through the township in order to ride with the others. The club’s last ride of the season was on Sept. 19.
“It’s a great way for special needs folks to get exercise, socialize and enjoy some independence,” said Linda Walter, director of Clinton Township’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Alexis Demchyna is the coordinator of the adaptive bike club. An employee of the parks and recreation department for five years, this was her first year staffing the bike club and making sure things ran smoothly. The group even has police escorts to solidify a safe riding environment.
“We have an average of two or three (police escorts) every time, which is very nice because they stop traffic for us and make sure we all cross,” Demchyna said. “Everyone is pretty accommodating. We have so many people that they know that they’re a little different so they don’t mind being a little nicer about it.”
She said that the program has existed for at least 10 years and was one of the first programs offered by the Parks and Recreation Department. Some bikes are brought in the township’s truck, although most riders usually bring their own rides.
The weekly gathering on Thursdays means a lot to the people who show up, mainly because they get to have a good time with others and share the experience.
“This is the second year we’ve done it,” said James Young, whose 14-year-old son, Nathan, rode every week this session. “We were on the waiting list the first year, so we were very happy to participate, and (Nathan) looks forward to it every week.”
Nicholas Sobek, 19, is one of the team leaders who makes sure everyone is in sync and that nothing goes wrong. He has been a bike club member since 2011 and is among one or two leaders who aid Demchyna in keeping the group on course.
“Basically, (the team leaders) know where we’re going and which way we’re going,” Sobek said. “It feels like I’m in charge because I’m responsible for everything. I’m one of the top guys.”
Parsons has been a member since the early 2000s and still enjoys the club as much as when he first started.
“I found out about this organization and wanted to give it a shot, and I love every minute of it,” he said.