On Sunday mornings at least a half dozen bicycle clubs gather at Neptune’s Fountain in Malaga Cove well before the grandiloquent spray is turned on.
The Palos Verdes Bicycle Club, for one, is a chartered League of American Bicyclists club who has been showing up to ride together for more than 45 years. To join the PVBC all you have to do is arrive at the fountain about 7:15 a.m. wearing a helmet and have a bike in good working condition. At about 7:30 a.m. riders give their lightweight, carbon-fiber equipment a final loving tweak and head out.
Sunday routes ranging from 12 to 35 miles are typically posted on the websites for up to four months. Every care is given to choosing the safest routes going and coming home. Members are aware of their need to obey all traffic laws and ride to the right, President Geri Chaudhri said.
“Most of the rides are of medium duration,” Chaudhri said. “These are social events, not races. Rides are ‘no drop’ rides, which means we don’t leave anyone behind no matter how slow they are.”
The halfway destination for the club is a carbohydrate-loading breakfast at prearranged cafes throughout the South Bay. Members who can’t ride anymore still meet up with the riders at breakfast houses in places like El Segundo, San Pedro or Long Beach because of the enduring friendships they’ve made through the years.
Chaudhri said the number of riders may have dwindled to about 15 in the last few years, but the longevity of some members makes up for waning participation.
Redondo Beach resident John Verenkamp, 91, is the oldest member of the PVBC. He still rides with the club on Sundays.
“At my age, I can’t do the long rides anymore,” said Verenkamp who once peddled his way from the Oregon border to Baja California a few weeks after he retired. “I just don’t have the endurance, but I still enjoy riding with the group. I do about 20 miles, that’s my limit.”
Ages vary, but the feisty older club members who make fun of each other’s abilities, still put in a lot of miles.
Like retired cardiologist Bob Goldman, 81, a Peninsula resident who has been with the club since 1985. He calls senior member Tommy Thompson, 89, “his dad” and swore they started with the club “when they still had wooden bicycles.”
Thompson has been with the club since 1976, and still pedals with the best of them.
But the good humored Sunday morning rides aren’t the only endurance tests. More challenging weekday rides and routes for the biggest bicycle enthusiasts are listed on the club’s website.
Additionally, cross-country tours, ranging from about $1,000 to $10,000 support many of PVBC members’ bucket list destinations. The commercial tour companies supply hotel rooms, refreshments along the way, mechanical support, rolling bike shops, luggage and transportation services, scenic routes, daily cue sheets and maps.
And almost all the PVBC members have hardcore, long distance stories of their own.
Club member Lawrence Liang said he recently completed a one-way trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico—900 miles.
Club secretary Fran Wielin said one of her toughest rides was a tour she experienced years ago that circumnavigated Tasmania.
Treasurer Perry Shields, 57, said his father, charter member Walter Shields, designed the logos on the bike club’s bright yellow club jackets. His dad rode across country in his 70s and was devoted to PVBC until he passed away in 2009.
Upon Walter’s death, Perry said he committed himself to becoming an active member.
“I’ve been with the club 18 years, said Shield, an actor and director who is still employed as a charter school drama teacher. “My bucket list is, I want to go across country at least once, but I need to retire first. I want to continue my father’s legacy.”
Want to ride with the PVBC?
Be at the Malaga Cove Fountain no later than 7:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings.
For more information, visit pvbikeclub.net or call Geri Chaudhri at (310) 938-2003.