116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It’s hard to use the word “positive” when writing about a pandemic, but last year’s massive shutdown did have some benefits.
More people got outside, walking with family and friends, maybe even picking up the pace to jog or run.
Outdoors turned out to be a safe place to hide, as long as you kept your distance from others.
Another activity that picked up steam in the last year was bicycling. People pulled old bikes out of storage, keeping area shops hopping with repairs. Many bought new bikes, draining local shops of their supply.
The Hawkeye Bicycle Association is hoping to see a boost, too — and it couldn’t come at a better time.
The HBA is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer.
“In 1971 a handful of bike enthusiasts established a bicycling organization in the Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Area,” the HBA website notes. “That organization still is going strong 50 years later as the Hawkeye Bicycle Association and we are planning many activities this year related to this milestone.”
The first official activity is Saturday when the HBA hosts its first group ride since 2019, a 40-plus mile trek starting at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School. The group will meet at 7:45 a.m., go over some safety tips before “wheels turn” at 8.
Generally open to members only, the HBA is encouraging guests for this ride and any other.
“We are more than happy to have them,” said Jim Bernstein, a 25-year (or so) member who is vice president of HBA.
The hope is to gain a few new members with each group rides.
“We’d like to get a 50-percent increase or so” this year, Bernstein said, noting the club has 175 members.
Group rides are a big part of this “social club” on wheels. Bernstein, 70, said many rides attract 30 or so members. They are regularly held on Saturdays and Sundays, and some members get together on Wednesdays, too.
“We’re a social club, by and large,” Bernstein said. “It’s nice to have the camaraderie on those group rides, with people of similar interests.”
There’s another benefit, too. HBA generally has a “team” participate in RAGBRAI and benefits come with membership. Sort of.
“We have relatively luxurious accommodations,” Bernstein said, meaning HBA members don’t have to sleep outside in tents because the club makes arrangements in host cities. “And we have a truck driver who takes care of our gear.”
Bernstein stressed the new cyclists shouldn’t feel intimidated about testing the group rides. While the distance may be challenging, the pace can vary.
HBA is “experimenting” with separating the rides into three groups — A for the faster riders, B for moderate and C for slower riders.
“ABC group rides are non-competitive, departing and returning at the same location,” the website notes. “Keeping each group together will be the focus.
“ABC rides are not a race or an individual's training ride. There will be sections on the course where riders can stretch their legs ...”
In the past, faster cyclists would split from the group and have to wait at predetermined stops to regroup.
“The slower riders would feel bad because they were holding the others back,” Bernstein said. With three different speed levels, “we want more people to ride and encourage them to join HBA.
“We hope we can appeal to a broad range of skill levels.”
Bernstein encourages anyone interested to sign up at the club’s website, but said it’s not required. Helmets, however, are required, as is practicing safe riding rules.
Most of the rides will be on roads with car traffic.
“We try to stay off roads that have heavy traffic,” he said. “We really focus on riding safely ... most of the time we’re riding single-file.”
But, mostly, Bernstein said these rides are about having fun and maybe meeting a few new friends.
“We know there are a lot of bicycle riders out there,” he said.
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