Metro DetroitAugust 22, 2012
Group raises money for biking cause
By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer
WARREN — Minus a 20-year stint between 1980 and 2000, Tom Graham, 71, has bicycled his entire life, beginning as a paper-delivery boy.
On average, Graham said he rides 5,000 miles each year. One year, he rode across the United States from Oregon to Virginia.
A third of the way through the cross-country trek, while in Kentucky, Graham said he almost quit, partly because of the Smoky Mountains he still had to cross and because of monotony of bike riding.
“It gets kind of boring after awhile,” he said.
When he and the colleague with whom he made the journey came across Interstate 75, Graham was tempted to call for a ride.
“And I’m thinking, ‘Well I could call my wife and she could come get me and I could be home in five hours,’” Graham said, laughing. “But I said ‘Well how bad can Virginia be?’”
Virginia’s mountains were bad, but Graham made it, never once sleeping in a hotel along the 11-week trip.
“Hotels are a dirty word to us people,” Graham said, referring to bicycling aficionados like him in the Slow Spokes Bicycle Club. They’re a group of biking enthusiasts united by their love for biking, socializing and raising money for bicycle charities.
Graham, who has been a member of the club for the past decade, and fellow club member Clara Herndon explained that once a year, for 42 consecutive years, the club has organized the “A Peach of a Ride” biking fundraiser in northern Macomb County.
This year’s event, on Aug. 26, will consists of four different lengths: a 22-mile path, a 32-mile path, a 60-mile path and a 100-mile path that will take riders from Memphis Township to North Branch Village in Lapeer County.
The club’s mission, besides promoting good health and socialization, is to promote bicycling.
The money raised from the annual fundraiser is donated to various biking charities that push for more bike trails in both rural and urban areas across Michigan.
Although the club has only the one annual fundraiser, the group bikes year-round, Graham said. When the weather does not permit a bike ride, the group meets for a game of euchre or meets as a book club.
Herndon explained that the club began in 1971 with 12 members and with the name Macomb Slow Spokes Bike Club.
She said it was originally just five or six young couples that coalesced around biking.
“We still have one couple that are original members,” Herndon said.
While its membership grew to include to the entire metro Detroit area, the club’s title shrunk to reflect the change to just Slow Spokes Bicycle Club.
Today the club has more than 100 members and still draws young, new membership.
“We have all sorts of age groups in our club,” Graham said. “But we’re mostly 50 on up.”
Herndon, 64, is in her fourth year with the club. She was hesitant to join at first because she was intimated by the distances the club members logged on each bike trip. But she eventually joined.
“When I first started, I wasn’t riding that far,” Herndon said. “The first thing the (club president Paul Wilhelm) said to me ‘Once you get a new bike, you’ll do fine,’” Herndon recollected. “And I thought, ‘But I love my bike.’”
Within six months, Herndon had a new bike, and every year since she has worked her way up the mileage ladder.
Her first year in the club, 2009, Herndon biked a total of 250 miles. She eclipsed that number by biking 2,500 miles in 2010 and 5,800 last year.
She’s biked with the club in orchards, in rural areas and along the new Dequindre Cut Greenway just east of downtown Detroit.
The club has biked all over Michigan, planning their trips with Michigan Bicentennial Maps, which show every camping ground along the way.
Earlier in the summer, they biked to just outside Columbus as part of the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure, a route that took the members through some pretty isolated parts of the Buckeye State.
“I think what’s amazing to me is that you stop and ask people if you could eat on their front lawn, and they say, ‘No problem,’ and bend over backward for you,” Herndon said of the trip through rural Ohio.
“And they’re much friendlier when you are on a bike,” Graham said. “I don’t know why, because after a couple days of riding you look pretty spotty.”
At the end of every trip there is a feast awaiting them.
“We ride to eat,” Herndon said. “There’s not a Slow Spokes ride that doesn’t have some food attached to it in some way.”
As much fun the group has riding and socializing, Graham and Herndon say their third priority is the fundraising the organization does to promote more bike trails.
Even with the addition of paved trails in the suburbs and the city, there are still many more miles of bike paths and lanes that can be added.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Graham said of the club’s future endeavors. “I’d like to see the group grow. I’d like to see more trails, too. You don’t have to worry about the cars.”
“I’d like to get on my bike and get on a trail within a mile or two,” Herndon added. “Right now, that isn’t possible.”
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