Band of bicyclists: There are so many reasons to join the herd

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A different and colorful breed, bicyclists like to move under their own power, preferring to burn calories than petrol, and they choose their mode of transport for any number of reasons. A group of them at Fort Knox meet up regularly to share the passion. They call themselves a club.

“The club started to enhance training discipline because people are more likely to remain disciplined with a training routine if they know someone is depending on them,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael Runk, Sergeants Major Branch manager for Human Resources Command. “If someone is waiting on you, you’re going to show up versus rolling over and sleeping in.”

But since then the Fort Knox Cycling Club has come to take on an existence all its own and its members ride for different reasons.

“You get to embrace the suck with other people rather than to go out and pound pavement alone when you’re running” said Sgt. 1st Class Lucas Velmer of Human Resources Command. “You can get off your feet. It’s a lot better on your joints than running every day.”

“[It’s] become a social outlet and a networking opportunity for cyclists who are stationed here,” Runk said. “There are times, we really push each other to perform at our peak, and there are other days that we just ride to socialize together.”

The club rides on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, beginning at the Saber & Quill at 6 a.m.

“It is typically still dark when we start, and we don’t typically see others [exercising that far out] unless they’re cyclists too,” Runk said.

Some of those chance encounters have brought other riders into the fold. Other times they’re just along for that day’s ride. Either way, Runk is fine with it.

“The club started by word of mouth throughout the halls of HRC and the email distro and social network emerged from there. Then we began meeting people along the same routes,” Runk said. “Some join the club, and some are just there for the ride, and might join in with us at any time.”

Runk says that the club is open to anyone and can facilitate any level of athleticism or experience.

“We welcome cyclists of all abilities from beginners to competitive riders,” Runk said. “We provide routes that allow you to ride at your own ability and then we regroup for ‘no drop’ segments. Other times, we ride in ability groups or we may ride where we ride together at a lower ability to push each other or just to enjoy the conversation.”

“When you ride with a group, there’s aerodynamic benefit from the wind. Those who are behind don’t have to pedal quite as hard, and you can catch your breath a little bit but still pushing pretty good,” Velmer said, “You’re still getting a good workout, and then you take the lead. It’s something like a fartlek run where you speed up and then slow down. It’s that same concept, only you’re in the lead [until someone else steps up to keep the pace] and then you are in the rear.”

Velmer said that while bicycling can push your body, it can also allow you to rest your body too.

“For individuals recovering from injury who are able to do the motion without causing more damage, this could be a great benefit,” he said. “There’s the preventive maintenance part of it. You’re getting the cardio without beating up your feet, knees and hips and back.”

Runk adds that it supplements running when he is preparing to run great distances.

“I’m getting ready to do my fourth 50-mile Ultra Marathon, and I find the cycling definitely compliments my running ability,” Runk said adding, “It strengthens your knees, hips and core muscle groups without the pavement pounding. It’s a full-body workout.”

The cycling club accounts for different experience levels and athletic ability and facilitates the fact in different ways.

“The group keeps ev- eryone honest with their training plans, while improving everyone’s abilities,” Runk said. “We do break down into ability groups — sometimes as planned and other times as needed. We definitely don’t want to discourage anyone who thinks [35-65 miles] is too great a distance. We tailor the ride to whoever shows up, and we’ll post an experienced rider to ensure everyone is safe and keeps up.”

Velmer said that even the different ability groups can be used as motivation.

“We break off into ability groups and it makes life a lot easier, and people want to come out knowing there is the incentive to move into the faster group.”

“We’re not going to let anyone fall out, but everyone tries really hard to keep up with the group,” Runk said.

Riders who began their biking regimen for one reason find different reasons to keep riding, said Runk.

“On our Sunday rides especially, we go off the installation into [some of the surrounding communities] and we’ll get a good 70 mile trip without ever having to double-back on the same road,” Runk said. “It gives you that ‘Lewis and Clark’ explorer feeling. It keeps it fresh and new and that’s what so many of us look for when we cycle — to see more of the unbeaten path.”

The view is free, but these riders agree that the reward of a good steed is worth the cost in the end.

“I would encourage anyone interested in riding to really research your bike purchase. The lower range bikes are heavy and a slow bike with low grade components will prohibit your riding and discourage you,” Runk said. “The really good bikes are expensive. I would recommend a good mid-range that you have thoroughly researched. I researched my purchase. I bought a mid-grade twelve years ago, and after some upgrades, I’ve kept it ever since.”

After Velmer began with the group, he quickly saw the need to get a better bike.

“I quickly realized that I was out of my league with these guys, and buying a new bike really helped me to catch up,” he said. “You’re riding more because you’re riding better, and the more you ride the more the bike pays for itself. We’ll help you get set up with the right gear or whatever else you need. “

The money spent is well spent, and Runk and Velmer believe you’ll get what you’ve paid for.

“It’s worth the investment and not just for your health. This scratches that itch to get out and explore the country,” Runk mused. For me, it’s a social network, it’s seeing the world; it’s therapy — that time outside of work to just release stress.” n