Our Focus this month is on our current Ride Captain, Member Ken Leon.
Bike riding was an infrequent exercise while raising young children & holding a demanding job on Wall Street. Weekends were never ending with little time for me, & days of playing tennis, which I did competitively in high school & somewhat in my twenties, were also becoming less frequent on the weekends. I guess the pressure of everyone keeping score & having boundaries made life quite confining with no room to breathe. Of course, this all changed when I joined the club in ’95 after I got hit by a car riding my bike.
Still mentally & physically tired from work, the joy of riding a road bike became something very special in my life. Most times, I did rides led by Norm Batho. They usually went east to Monmouth Co or south to Burlington Co., were epic at 50 to 65 mi, & most times I had to pull off or lag the group. There were always fellow riders to point out basics of riding, politics or mechanical engineering. I think Chris Cook & Al Lowich were my steady riding mentors, & in the early days, Don Sprague led some rides that were shorter than Norman’s.
By 2000, I began to ride 2 week nights (or weekends in the winter) on my bike trainer for up to an hour watching DVDs on training or pro bike races. Still tired, but I was really enjoying the experience & beginning to build a strong core. So, this routine of flat group rides from Cranbury continued for almost a decade, a lot of them led by Ira Saltiel & Larry Goldsmith from 2000 to ’05. Both had favorite routes & top ten roads. Ira’d sometimes go along the Delaware/Raritan Canal & Larry’d bring us close to the Sourlands, but never up them. Every once awhile, I’d try a B+ ride & last only an hour when I couldn’t keep up on the first roller.
And then, the beauty & soul of riding really came alive for me when I started going on some hill rides. Laura Lynch & Cheryl McDonald were my mentors in trying to get up a steep hill & how to safely get down one. Nature’s beauty was magnificent in journeys from Pennington to Lambertville or Frenchtown to Clinton or Round Valley Reservoir. Riding hills was not about speed, but good conversation & some suffering climbing the more difficult grade roads. It was then that Laura came up with the Hill Slugs brand that still exists. Again, Chris Cook & Mike Moorman became fellow riders I often rode with.
Hill rides continued through the winter as well. Temperature cut offs were like 32 degrees, & one time I rode just with Cheryl when the temps went lower during the ride, not higher. In the 2000 to ’05 period, I’d also go on Norman’s rides in Hunterdon Co where there were covered bridges, all kinds of wildlife & special times with a special person. I think many of us still miss Norman a lot.
Heading further into NW Hunterdon Co or crossing the Delaware River became the specialty for Mike Heffler. Even tho his rides were always a 1 hr drive, I journeyed there to spend time with a wonderful person. Pace was never pressured, & Mike would smile & kill you with continuous hill climbing. Rest stops were always different & he took us past cactus along the river or windmills & other neat stuff like a prototype of the Brooklyn Bridge at Riegelsville, PA.
It was about ’07 that Larry Goldsmith, PFW Ride Captain, began to motivate some of the regular club riders to try to lead a ride. So began my education in becoming a ride leader. There were all kinds of things to know like how to figure out where you were going & make sure the ride group followed bike safety guidelines. Larry & Ira were very helpful & so was Don. Of course, if you really were too shy to ask, don’t worry, because Chris or Al always came thru in pointing out the right way to do things. Often, Chris or Al would correct my route or make sure to be careful on some danger ahead on the roads.
From ’08 to ’10, I became a B+/B group leader, the club’s Ride Captain & a Board Member. Most of all, I like to ride, & I’m proud to have become knowledgeable & experienced about the roads in the Sourlands, Neshanic, or further north in the Tewksbury-Califon-Clinton areas. I’m also beginning to try routes in Morris Co as well. Each year, I lead a traditional autumn ride to Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck or the summer ride to Sandy Hook.
There is no doubt that bike riding in the PFW club has made my life more wonderful and made me a better person. I have truly made some friendships that will last a lifetime. Thank you for letting me share my story.