Members of the Clinton River Riders Bicycle Club ride into Marine City during their Memorial Day 2021 holiday ride and picnic.

Members of the Clinton River Riders Bicycle Club ride into Marine City during their Memorial Day 2021 holiday ride and picnic.

Photo provided by Craig Plesco


Sterling Heights cycling clubs offer advice for new riders

‘With COVID-19, it seems that everyone has started or rediscovered cycling’

By: Andy Kozlowski | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 14, 2021

STERLING HEIGHTS — Hopping on your bike and hitting a trail can be a reliable way to get some exercise and clear your head, but it can also be a social experience shared with others.    

Some of the most passionate cyclists in the Sterling Heights area include members of the Clinton River Riders Bicycle Club and the Clinton River Area Mountain Bike Association. In a series of emails, they shared their love for their favorite hobby — and some advice for new riders, as well.

The Clinton River Riders Bicycle Club, or CRR, was founded in 1981 and is still going strong. It currently has about 105 members, most from Macomb County. They span all ages and include both casual riders and hardcore cyclists. Many enjoy randonneuring, a form of long-distance endurance cycling, but the group also makes a point to be inviting to complete novices.

“The Clinton River Riders have a mission to promote cycling, and our place in local clubs is mainly intermediate-level riding,” said Craig Plesco, the CRR’s president. “We strongly encourage new riders, and most of our rides are ‘no drop,’ meaning that we stay together for all, and make sure our calendar rides detail the distance and pace of each ride.”

The group has monthly meetings at the Mount Clemens Public Library, starting at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month except holidays. The meetings are optional and discuss the ride schedule and other activities for the month. Anyone 18 or older can become a member for $20 per year, and families can join for $30 per year. Membership benefits also include discounts at sponsor bike shops.

The CRR is also about giving back. One of their big charitable events is an organized ride called the Blue Water Ramble. It’s typically in June and attracts more than 1,000 riders, although it wasn’t held this year or last due to the pandemic. The CRR is currently in the process of planning where and when the 2022 event will take place. To date, the club has given more than $150,000 in donations to cycling-related charities.

Rick Moorman, one of the club’s founding members, said the event once took place in the fall.

“Prior to (the terrorist attacks of) Sept. 11, the ride crossed the St. Clair River into Canada for lunch and returned to the U.S. at Marine City,” Moorman recalled. “It was during this time period that the ride attendance peaked at 1,500.”    

In the meantime, the group continues to plan group rides. Jeri Grigg, a ride leader for the CRR, said one popular event is “Coastbusters,” a ride on Thursdays that starts in St. Clair Shores and goes through all of the Grosse Pointes and Detroit. Another ride takes place on Tuesday mornings and follows the Macomb Orchard Trail. More details are available at www.clintonriverriders.org, and club members are also notified when a ride gets posted.

Helping to support the trails that many cyclists enjoy is a group called the Clinton River Area Mountain Bike Association, or CRAMBA, which is a local chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

CRAMBA is focused on developing access to mountain biking trails and promoting responsible mountain biking in southeast Michigan. As part of this, the group collaborates with land managers on whose property the trails are located. In Sterling Heights, trail coordinators Aaron Burgess, Phil Blake, Mike Smith and Paul McAllister oversee a 3-mile-long trail that follows the scenic Clinton River, running through several parks.

That trail starts at 40000 Edison Court in Clinton River Park South and meanders north past Dodge Park and Farmstead Park before ending at the asphalt path alongside M-53 at JC Park, from which riders can then continue north through Utica and connect to trails at River Bends Park.

And that’s just one example. CRAMBA maintains 15 trails across southeast Michigan. Burgess, a trail coordinator who previously ran the Sterling Heights Police Department’s bike patrol, said that maintaining the trails is a community effort, with help from groups such as the Boy Scouts.

He observed that recent events have led to more people riding.

“With COVID-19, it seems that everyone has started or rediscovered cycling. The roads and trails are full of cyclists,” Burgess said. “With all the new riders, it’s important that they learn some cycling etiquette for everyone’s safety. Don’t block the trail when stopped, and if on the road, they can’t be more than two abreast and must be to the right side of the road. Be courteous to cars, and go single file if necessary so you don’t back up traffic. A cyclist never wins to (be) an aggressive driver.”

He said mountain biking offers its own unique experience. 

“Unlike road or trail cyclists that are generally locked into a stationary position, mountain bikers have to anticipate sudden terrain changes and move around their bikes. I would recommend mountain biking to anyone physically fit enough to try it,” Burgess said. “Beyond the fitness benefits, many trails offer spectacular views and scenery.”

The Clinton River Riders had their own advice to share.

“Get a bike that fits you properly,” Grigg said. “The right fit will lead to a more comfortable and enjoyable ride. And if you are new to cycling, stick to paved trails to build confidence and skills. If you are riding the roads, I recommend getting out early in the morning when there is less traffic.

“Other tips: Learn how to change a flat, and carry an extra tube, cash, a snack and phone on every ride. And of course, wear a helmet and make sure it fits properly,” she added. “I have definitely seen an increase in bike traffic in the metro Detroit area. Bike lanes are being installed in many communities, and the availability of rental bikes has increased. Unfortunately, aggressive and distracted drivers seem to be on the rise, as well.”

But it’s worth the precautions and preparation, she said.

“Cycling is my passion,” Grigg said. “I love getting up at the crack of dawn, jumping on the bike and just exploring. You see so much on a bike. And joining the Clinton River Riders was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have met so many wonderful people and learned all kinds of new bicycle routes, and have had a ton of fun! This group has rides for all levels of cyclists, and any time a ride is posted, you get an email, which is highly convenient.”

Added Moorman: “The social aspect of cycling is very important to my wife and I. We have met many wonderful people who have become our lifelong friends.”

Plesco said there’s a real sense of togetherness in the group.

“Cycling is freedom, fun, family and friends,” he said. “Being in the Clinton River Riders give you a wide variety of options for all four of these. Check out our calendar, come to a ride or a meeting — I think you will realize the awesomeness of being a part of the club.”


Reminders for the road
Generally speaking, riding a bike is allowed on both roadways and sidewalks, but cyclists have their own rights and rules they should know in order to keep everyone safe.

When riding a bike on a highway or street, cyclists will usually be riding at a slower speed than motor vehicles. State guidelines instruct cyclists to stay as close as possible to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except for when overtaking and passing, preparing to turn left, or when traffic is turning right but the cyclist intends to go straight through the intersection. There are also exceptions for when conditions make the right-hand edge of the roadway unsafe or unusable for cyclists.

Cyclists are not allowed to carry more people than the number for which the bike is designed, so in the case of most bicycles, the limit is one person each. The state instructs cyclists to not ride more than two abreast, except for on designated bike lanes that specifically allow it.

When riding on a sidewalk, cyclists still must yield the right of way to pedestrians and give audible signals before overtaking and passing them.

Always signal when riding a bike in traffic to telegraph your intent, according to the Michigan Vehicle Code:

• For a left turn, extend your left hand and arm horizontally.

• For a right turn, extend your left hand and arm upward or extend your right hand and arm horizontally.

• To stop or decrease speed, extend your left hand and arm downward.

Cyclists must also remember to equip their bikes with a white lamp on the front and a red reflector on the back when operating their bicycle during the time starting a half-hour after sunset and ending a half-hour before sunrise. Bikes must also be equipped with brakes that will allow the braked wheels to skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

Cyclists are not allowed to carry any package, bundle or article that prevents both hands from staying on the handlebars. There are penalties for failing to yield to the right of way, failing to yield left at an intersection, disobeying signs to stop and yield, disobeying traffic signals, and more.

For more information, visit michigan.gov.