Center for Active Living's Bike Club welcomes all pedal-pushers
Participants in the Bike Club meet Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, often riding the trails around Lake Okabena.
WORTHINGTON — After some initial wheel-spinning, a local bike club for seniors is officially rolling.
Sponsored by Worthington’s Center for Active Living (CAL), the group is a relatively informal collection of bicycling enthusiasts, ages 55+, who seek to combine outdoor activity and exercise with relaxed social contact.
“My wife Terry and I enjoy the social aspect of biking,” said Jerry Perkins, Worthington, one of the club’s participants. “I’d say we’re casual bikers; our first priority is enjoyment, and our second priority is exercise.”
Armed with a list of over two dozen would-be cyclists, volunteer biking club coordinator Janet Cuperus of rural Reading is enthusiastic about the promise this fledgling group has for wheeling further down the road.
“We set two times a week for rides,” said Cuperus, mentioning 9 a.m. Tuesday and 2 p.m. Thursday as the touch points, with the starting point being the Centennial Park pavilion.
The Tuesday morning time slot has proven slightly more popular, possibly due to the numerous hot afternoons the region has experienced this summer.
“It varies as to who shows up, but we typically have six to seven riders,” said Cuperus. “Some of these people have been biking for a long time already, but we welcome more people to join us.”
The senior cyclists typically chart a course around Lake Okabena, using the existing walking/bike path where it makes sense for their route. They log about seven miles on a normal outing.
“I’m just thrilled with the path here,” said regular biker Marcia Basche, 85. She takes full advantage of the local trail system, often fitting in a previous round of travel with two other dedicated biking friends before joining the CAL group at 9 a.m. most Tuesdays.
However, with the frequency these wheelers traverse the paths, they can’t help but notice occasional bumps and flaws, too.
“These trails need maintenance and improvement,” urged Perkins. “That would be very helpful to the bikers.”
The CAL bike club’s origins were churning behind the scenes for some time. Previous CAL director Mary Luke had made efforts to initiate a bike group, as several CAL members requested one, but the pandemic shutdown hindered its development.
“Jan (Cuperus) was the regular element we needed,” said Luke, who passed the CAL directorship torch to Jill Cuperus a couple of months ago. “Jan was willing to find days people could meet and kept reaching out by group text to firm up plans.”
With CAL’s ongoing support and sponsorship, Cuperus is pleased with the direction the bike group, though still green, is headed.
“We want to take a trip somewhere,” said Cuperus, mentioning possible destinations such as Luverne, Sioux Falls and Spirit Lake before more ambitious, further-afield bike-friendly locales are attempted.
A retired Early Childhood Special Education teacher who was a long-time runner and 5k race contestant, Cuperus became more enthusiastic about bicycling after observing a group of cycling seniors in southwest Wisconsin, where one of her four children lives.
“I was impressed with the ladies there, all in their 70s or older, because they bike for miles and miles on hilly routes,” said Cuperus.
Already equipped with a bike rack on her vehicle, Cuperus is happy to throw her bike on it twice a week and head into Worthington for the CAL group bike rides.
“It’s a social activity, and that’s what I was wanting,” said Cuperus. “And I enjoy being physically active in all seasons.”
Perkins affirms that the CAL bike club accommodates varying capabilities among its riders.
“The social piece is an incentive,” he said. “Some people need to slow up while others bike ahead, but even when there’s some separation during the ride, we all meet up at the start and end.”
Basche is vigilant about safety protocols when biking; she always carries her cell phone and wears a helmet, though she says not everyone chooses to, and she has adopted the habit of donning a reflective vest to alert motorists to her presence.
Biking, she notes, is slower than driving but zippier than walking.
“And I love seeing all the familiar people around town when I pass by and through the parks,” said Basche. “It feels so good to see all the recreational activity around Worthington.”
Cuperus is committed to continuing her efforts to build the CAL bike club. She texts the group the night before each ride, mentions the weather, takes an informal tally of who is expecting to appear and does her best to keep the tires in motion.
“The CAL assists us with contact points and getting the information out there,” credited Cuperus, adding that bike club details usually show up in the CAL’s monthly newsletter. “We’re starting small here and seeing what we can work up to.”
Meanwhile, the early-70s Cuperus draws inspiration from her fellow bikers, several of whom — though older than her — have been gearing up and notching miles for some time now.
“Marcia (Basche) is my hero,” said Cuperus, pinpointing one of her local idols. “I’m so impressed with her.”
Cuperus also sneaks peeks every so often at a picture from a Parade magazine article featuring a centenarian female who continues running 5ks with vigor.
Reminded Basche, whom Cuperus praises as a cycling role model, “You have to remember that age is just a number.”
The Center for Active Living bike club welcomes all interested participants ages 55+. The group meets for rides at the Centennial Park pavilion each Tuesday at 9 a.m. and Thursday at 2 p.m. For more information, visit the CAL (211 11 th St., Worthington) or call 376-6457.