“You’re only young once but you can be immature forever.” –Germaine Greer
And just because you’re pushing 50—or 65 or 80—doesn’t mean you can’t wear spandex shorts and form-fitting shirts and ride around on a bicycle. Just ask any of the several dozen members of the whimsically named SOB bike club of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The concept for the SOBs, Seniors on Bikes, was imported by cyclist Joel Stein when he and his wife, Mary, moved to Santa Fe from Boulder in 1997. Through a newspaper ad, he put the word out that he was seeking riders-of-a-certain-age for regular Thursday-morning jaunts.
Among the charter members were Rennie Finlay, Jim Hallquist and Bob Hilley—all still active members…except when joints or other body parts need replacing.
Joel established regular routes and snail-mailed out the season’s plan to members. Word of mouth attracted Herb Schon, newly arrived from New York City and eager to have people to ride with. He brought in some of his Eldorado neighbors, and with the help of a computer—and his wife--took over the maintenance and dissemination of the membership roster and the annual ride plan. He instituted a Tuesday ski-hill ride and also injected a social aspect to the club by hosting a summer cook-out. In 2008, he designed and had manufactured a club uniform, nagging members unmercifully until they agreed to order enough to make the price break. Those bright red and yellow shirts are now collectors’ items!
Other innovations introduced since Joel came south include the formation of a board of directors, heading by the unflaggingly enthusiastic Edwin Crosswhite, who established the club’s affiliation with the League of American Cyclists (and its liability insurance coverage) and instituted modest dues to help defray the costs of his colorful weekly
newsletter. He also rounded up sponsors to provide discounts to card-carrying SOBs, and with his ubiquitous camera he supplies much material for the club web site,
"http://www.santafesobs.com" , which was created and is maintained by the brilliant ex-Kiwi Ian Norrish.
The SOBs’ social side has grown too, and overnight rides introduced, most recently a three-day Enchanted Circle trip, but the biggest change perhaps is the structure of the Thursday rides: once a casual collection of riders of differing skills who did what they felt like, Thursdays now offer a choice of longer, faster rides (40-60 miles) or rides that average 30 miles at a gentler pace. Each is overseen by a leader, and a sweeper (or HERO—High Energy Rear Observer) is always designated to make sure stragglers aren’t eaten by coyotes. Route sheets are provided at each ride’s sign-in so getting lost isn’t as easy as it used to be. Most rides conclude with a coffee or snack before the members separate.
Though the name Seniors on Bikes implies geezerhood, in fact most members are in their 60’s and a number are a decade younger. And a few pushing 80, God bless ‘em. Some are retirees, some, alas, still work. There are currently about 50 members, a mix of men and women, and an average ride generally attracts half of them. Several rides offer an option for mountain bikes, but most are designed for road bikes. Members are required to wear helmets and obey all traffic laws. Those who flout the rules of the road risk the wrath of Judy Costlow and Devon Dalzell, both frequent ride leaders and sticklers for cycling etiquette. Members are encouraged to know how to fix flats and to carry the appropriate tools and equipment, although no one will be abandoned (unless Judy is late for her next caffeine fix).
The SOBs welcomes all: some of our members are really good, really fast riders, some are, um, less so. We do look for a sense of humor and a willingness to help out when needed (but we also have a number of cranky, dour characters we keep for old times’ sake, so don’t let that deter you).
Check us out and if you like what you see, and you think you’ll
look good in red-and-yellow Lycra, come join us.