Women build community through bicycle club
BLOOMINGTON — They come in different shapes, styles and ages.
The description applies to the women who take part in weekly Friday evening bike rides in Bloomington-Normal and to the bicycles they use.
Teacher. Attorney. Accountant. Carbon-fiber racing bike. Hybrid. Basic "cruiser" bike.
"They're all different. They never would have found each other without this," said Suzy Dees of Normal.
Said Jennifer Poncin of Normal, "It's not intimidating because we're all learning together."
Caryn Davis, co-owner of Bloomington Cycle & Fitness started the group after buying the store with her husband, Scott, in 2009.
As a bike shop owner and mother of teenagers who also works another job, "I knew I'd never ride my bike again if I didn't put something on my calendar."
In three years, the group has grown from a handful or riders to an average of 30 to 35 in summer, although there are more than 100 members. They started calling themselves the Spokeswomen — "as a joke," Davis said — and the name stuck.
In addition to the Friday rides, the Spokeswomen stay connected through a Facebook page on which impromptu rides are scheduled.
Kim Kilcullen drives from Fairbury for the rides and camaraderie. "They don't put any pressure on you to be a fast rider. You go at your own speed. It doesn't matter what kind of bike you have," she said.
The inclusive nature has special meaning for Dees because her two daughters, 14-year-old Kira and 12-year-old Haley, ride with her, and Kira has autism.
"This is some place all of us are accepted," Dees said.
The women meet at Bloomington Cycle & Fitness, where Constitution Trail crosses Empire Street, at 5:30 p.m. Organizers decide a route based on the weather, mostly the wind direction.
Generally, one group rides a faster, longer route that leads to rural roads and another group rides at a slower pace and sticks to Constitution Trail. No one is left behind.
When Ellen Main of Bloomington joined the group last spring, she hadn't ridden a bike since she was 10.
By fall, she completed her first "century," pedaling more than 100 miles in one day.
She credited the group with enabling her to progress from a relatively inactive elementary school teacher to a cyclist and runner with her eyes on a triathlon.
Ashley Scarborough of Bloomington knew nobody when she moved to town last August and joined the Friday rides. "That was my way of getting connected to the town," she said. "Now I have two running buddies to train with."
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