The Suburbanite
  • Folks on Spokes finds friendship on the road

  • Camaraderie is the goal and bicycles are the vehicle to get there for Folks on Spokes, a non-profit bicycling club based in Jackson.

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  • Camaraderie is the goal and bicycles are the vehicle to get there for Folks on Spokes, a non-profit bicycling club based in Jackson.
    The club, which has adopted the motto, "It's not the miles per hour, but the smiles per hour," meets for moderately paced rides three times a week and the focus is enjoying the ride, according to the group's road captain, Jerry LaRocca.
    "The whole club was began by Doug Bower for people just to ride for the pleasure of riding and I was the first guy to call him," LaRocca said. "We started with the idea to ride at moderate pace and it grew from a few short meetings.”
    LaRocca rides with his wife Mary Ann and the couple have built many connections with fellow club members over the past 16 years.
    “We're so close now that I sometimes even worry that if someone new shows up, they'll see all of the friendship and figure, 'I can't crack this group,' but it's not like that at all,” LaRocca said.
    Bower, the group's president, founded Folks on Spokes in 1997 because he had a "different philosophy on bicycling" that he wanted to promote. He and LaRocca recalled experienced cyclists who had helped them when they were first starting to ride and wanted to be the same sort of resource for others getting started in the sport. Since its inception, Folks on Spokes has grown to include 43 members.
    The group has an open-door policy, allowing non-members and inexperienced riders to take part. All rides take place at a moderate pace – 10 to 12 mph – to ensure that no one is left behind. To make rides more inclusive and the group often schedules activities in conjunction with its rides, adding a fun diversion for the day.
    The group typically does not ride if the temperature is below 40 degrees or if it is raining. Regardless of the weather, the atmosphere is always casual and informal.
    "We don't even supply maps because you always have a road captain there to keep you on track and we try to stay off of really busy streets and off the beaten path," LaRocca added.
    Food is often part of the agenda for the group and members have a running joke that they should change their name to Forks on Spokes because eating is such a large part of their gatherings. Even when the weather is too cold to ride in the winter months, members still get together at one another's homes for meals on Tuesday nights.
    Folks on Spokes meets on Tuesday evenings, Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons, with distances varying from as short as 12 miles on the Sunday afternoon family ride to longer rides of 40-60 miles on Saturday mornings. Their Saturday rides also include a lunch stop along the route and a secondary pick-up point for riders who only want to ride 25-35 miles.
    Page 2 of 2 - Past rides have included a tour of the Schantz Pipe Organ Company in Orrville and day trips to South Bass Island and various islands along the shores of Lake Erie. On one recent ride, members pedaled to Wadsworth and back on a 62-mile round trip.
    The Folks on Spokes philosophy has paid dividends for its members, some of whom have taken part in week-long or weekend tours, including the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure, the Tour of the Scioto River Valley and other regional rides. Folks on Spokes has also crossed borders, riding two-week self-contained tours in the Canadian Rockies and the Loire River Valley in France.
    Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
    On Twitter: @aharrisBURB

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