Out spoke-n: Local cycling club is a social outlet with a purpose

REGION – Remember the days as a kid when you used to get together with friends and ride bikes? That's pretty much the mission of the Cherry Capital Cycling Club (CCCC), whose members all share a joy of biking together and are advocates for cyclists' rights and safety.

The club first formed in the spring of 1984 and boasts approximately 450 members, ranging in age from 20 to 80 years old and in ability level from beginner to racer. There is a good mix of singles and couples and some children, too. The current club president is Traverse City resident Yvonne Cunkle. She and her husband Don joined many years ago.

"Some of our members ride strictly road or strictly mountain bikes, but the majority of our club consists of a nice blend of touring riders, mountain bikers, road enthusiasts and environmentally-conscious transportation advocates," said Cunkle, who herself enjoys both mountain and road riding and commutes to her job at Munson from the east side of town as much as possible.

"I like being a member for the social aspect more than anything," she added, describing herself as a "so-so" cyclist. "It is a great way to meet new people and I have developed some wonderful friendships over the years."

The club's event calendar is jam-packed with sponsored road rides, mountain bike rides, alternative transportation activities and fixed gear rides.

The CCCC also hosts two popular annual biking events: the Ride Around Torch (or, RAT to those in the know) in July and the Leelanau Harvest Tour this month. The money raised from the RAT is used for club expenses and activities and the harvest tour is a benefit for the TART Trails organization. Last year, the event raised $18,000 for TART.

Club rides are led by a member, and riders who want to keep track of their miles report them to Pete Danly, the road riding section chair, who keeps it all updated on the club web site (cherrycapitalcyclingclub.org). Right now, Danly himself is number six on the list, having logged 2,115 miles as of mid-August.

Danly joined the club in 1997 after many years away from being an active cyclist, seeing it as a way to get motivated to ride and to support riding at the local level.

"I'm primarily a recreational cyclist, mostly during the six months of nice weather," said Danly, who works in food service at Northwestern Michigan College.

His favorite ride is one of the most popular, the Old Mission Morning Ride every Wednesday at 9 a.m. Starting from East Bay Park, the full 41-mile route follows the east side of the peninsula out to the Old Mission Lighthouse and then the west side back into town. The ride usually draws between 30 and 40 people.

Among the club's accomplishments during Cunkle's presidency is an initiative to help resolve conflicts between cyclists and drivers on Old Mission Peninsula and a program that refurbished and donated 85 bikes last year to organizations serving people in need.

"I am very proud of the diversity, intelligence, insightfulness, and grand sense of humor of our board members," she said.

John Sohacki is the board's racing section chair. Sohacki, who works in sales for local technology service provider Integrated Systems Consultants, joined the club four years ago. He averages 100 miles a week on his two wheels.

"Biking has become the thing I do most in the summer because of the bike club," said Sohacki. "It's a social thing with a great health benefit."

As racing chair, Sohacki is trying to revitalize that aspect of the club and is working on organizing a race in downtown Traverse City this fall.

Fellow club member Duane Amato has become quite a racing enthusiast since joining the group a few years ago. He thought the club would motivate him to bike more, and it has, as he averages between 100 and 125 miles a week. As of mid-August, Amato had completed 36 road rides and 12 mountain bike rides this year for a total of 2,070 miles. He said the club's sponsored rides force him to make time to train, and go faster and further than he may otherwise go on his own.

When he's not pedaling, Amato works as an expert witness in asbestos litigation. "Most of my time is spent reading depositions and forming opinions," he said. "And I can do that on a rainy day."

Non-members are invited to share several rides with the club before joining and vacationers are always welcome. More information about the club and its activities can be found at www.cherrycapitalcyclingclub.org. BN