'Social club on wheels' celebrates another year

Corvair Biking Society does more than bike around the Cedar Rapids area

Members of the Corvair Bicycling Society roll through Czech Village in Cedar Rapids Oct. 9 as they head out on the Cedar
Members of the Corvair Bicycling Society roll through Czech Village in Cedar Rapids Oct. 9 as they head out on the Cedar River Trail to Ely. The club, which has 52 members, has rides twice a week. (James Q. Lynch/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — It started out as a couple of guys getting together to ride their bikes for exercise.

Now, 17 years later, 52 guys — and women — get together a couple of times a week to bike around the Cedar Rapids area.

So over time the Corvair Biking Society has become about more than riding. A typical ride may start with riders meeting at the Chrome Horse Saloon in NewBo before heading out to Ely, Shueyville, Alburnett or another neighboring town. Many rides include a tour of business.

“We started out saying we were going to look for the worst restaurant, but we couldn’t find any,” says Duffy Schamberger, who, along with John Purdie, is an original member of the Corvairs. “They were all good.”

The original idea of riding for exercise continues today, but Schamberger says the club’s activities have become much more than a workout.

“We’re a social club on wheels,” he says, explaining that members typically stop for refreshments on their rides and have social activities.

Exercise and health as well as bicycling safety are priorities for the club members, he says. Duffy, who had a car dealership for 35 years and was best known for Duffy’s Collectible Cars, started riding when he was diagnosed with diabetes. Members, who are retired or mostly retired, also want to stay active — physically and socially.


He attributes the growth of the club to “a case of somebody knew somebody and invited them to ride.” Membership isn’t automatic. New members need sponsors who can speak to their ability to ride and get along with others.

“And they have to be able to ride at least 10 mph,” he adds. As the members have aged — they range from 65 to 84 — some are riding e-bikes.

The Corvairs have become a support group, too. After members died, their spouses continued to ride.

“They said it helped them get out of the house and that if they were riding people would wonder where they were,” Schamberger said.

On Thursday the Corvairs will celebrate another year of riding with a dinner and program at the Coe College Alumni House. Awards will be presented, the year will be reviewed and members will make plans for next year. The club rides RAGBRAI together and takes on an overnight trip a year.

Schamberger is surprised, but pleased, by the way the club has grown over the years.

“I never thought it would develop like this,” Schamberger says. “The mental health aspect has become as important as the physical.”

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