Club Cycling in Belgium

A note from Eric Arnold, former BBC member now living in Belgium

I’ve been in Belgium a couple months and riden with a couple different clubs and observed many others.  I thought I’d share some observations on the club culture here in Belgium which is extensive – my community of 15,000 folks has four clubs and that is not abnormal at all.

1.        Length of ride – rides are typically 35-60 miles depending on the time in the season.    There are no regroups or stopping.  Its good in that it keeps the rides to a reasonable amount of time for those with families or other commitments.
2.       Routes – there are only 4-6 routes that are rotated.  There are variations that cut off distance depending where you are at in the season.  Routes change each year.  But once you riden each route a couple times, if you do get dropped, you can find your way home and more importantly you know where the many turns are.
3.       Racing/Sprinting or any other actions that split up the group. – strictly forbidden until last 6km of the course where it becomes a “free ride.”  Keeps the group together.  You have a pace and you stick to that pace.  Only a select 3-4 folks are allowed to take pulls and this controls the pace.  And the pace here is fast.  We did 52 miles yesterday and averaged 19.8 MPH with zero breaks.  The weaker riders could keep up because they didn’t have to take pulls at the front and where not expected to and the pace was absolutely steady so you didn’t get worn out early in the ride trying to keep up with someone you can’t keep up with.
4.       Support vehicle – always present with first aid kit, extra wheels, air, tools.  Protects the group from traffic approaching from behind.
5.       Club kit – mandatory for club rides.  Sold at a very reasonable price – certainly at cost.  Clubs also get sponsors for the kit which lowers cost even more.
6.       Weekend rides begin and end at a local bar.  Brings in the social aspect of things.  Strictly voluntary but 2/3s of those on yesterdays ride stayed for 90 minutes having a couple beers and watching soccer and generally kidding around with each other.  It was all in Dutch but I still enjoyed it greatly.
7.       Ability groups – most clubs have A-C groups and its really bad form to ride in a group you can’t keep up with.  You typically start at C and earn your way up to B or A.  Also, if you’re holding back the group by having a bad day, can always get in the support vehicle.

I’ve got to admit I really like the way they do things here.  Now granted, Belgium has probably, absolutely the best biking culture/history in the world – per capita anyways.  But I think there is much to be learned by the way they do things. 

Board Meeting Highlights

The board had its regular bimonthly meeting on Monday, August 25, 2014, in the back room of the Crazy Horse Restaurant downtown. Note that board meetings are listed on the club calendar a few days in advance of the meeting, which is usually scheduled via Doodle poll. Any club member is welcome to attend.

All five elected officers and six appointed chairs attended. We especially recognized Andrew Dingman, new chair of safety, education, and outreach.

Minutes of the previous meeting were approved as prepared by secretary Kathy Cummins.

Treasurer Jerry Arveson reported that the club finances are in solid shape, with almost all expenses for RAIN paid, leaving us with a strong balance sheet going into the fall when we will entertain applications for our community grants program.

Advocacy chair Ron Brown discussed several issues he is working on: the Cascades hill side path, which is very unsafe for cyclists; need for a stop sign on Rock East along a standard BBC ride route; expectations of reworking some club routes related to the planned i-69 interchange at Sample Road. He reported that 164 out of 173 dangerous drainage grates have been replace over the last few years.

Andrew Dingman discussed several issues related to Safety, Education and Outreach. Family rides have had limited but clear success, providing a good way to reach out to non-members who want to involve kids in cycling. Andrew has completed the League of American Bicyclist training course and now needs to offer classes in town We discussed a few ideas for that.

Ride coordinator John Bassett reported that the I69 closure of the Tapp Road crossing has played havoc with several standard club rides. He noted that Ron Brown has been updating club maps with minor alterations to reflect current road conditions and practices. John has tried to keep his GPS maps consistent with these club maps as much as possible. He noted that the midweek rides have been especially successful with 8 to 15 riders out for iRides, 15-20 for OWLS rides, and continuing good representation at Beginner’s Rides (led by Tammy Thompson) and Sunday Nice ’n’ Easy rides (led by Ron Brown). Jim noted that the Trailhead Pizza place at Pine Grove offers a 10% discount to folks showing up on bikes. Also he mentioned that Jeremy Schott is promoting the idea of a club velodrome ride at Marian University in Indianapolis.

Warren Smith reported on Mountain Biking in the absence of chair Dan Hickey, who is still convalescing. Often the group goes to Wapehani or Brown County State Park. Interest continues to increase within the club. They have a separate email list for announcing mountain bike rides.

We discussed the club picnic, which took place the evening before. By all reports it was a great success, with the largest turnout in recent history, of about 60 people.

Grant program chair Brett Nelson reported in absentia that he wants to get the application process started very soon, so that it can be completed in a more timely manner.
RAIN coordinator John Connell reported that everything went well. The RAIN committee has met for debriefing and discussed various small improvements that might be made.

Membership chair Tammy Berger reported that things have been relatively quiet, with most joining and renewing having taken place earlier in the summer.

Media/blog/Facebook chair Allan Edmonds hopes to do more blogs and would like to have another person to work with. There was discussion of having a BBC page in addition to our FB group that would have more of an outreach/advertising character. He may implement that idea later in the fall.

There was discussion of the new City/County bike route maps that are now available in bike shops, at city government, etc., as well as online. It was noted that there are a few mistakes with gravel roads indicated as good for cyclists. Since we are sponsors of the maps we should be pointing out corrections and updates for the online version and later printings. There are instructions at the link above for submitting comments.

Under the heading of new business Jim Schoeder announced that there would be another Open Streets event this fall, scheduled for Sunday, October 5, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. We need something participatory. Best suggestion was some bicycles on trainers. In the afternoon there will be documentary on pro women riders; Jim will lead a Breaking Away ride, with registration via the Buskirk-Chumley. In the evening there will be more bicycling shorts shown, followed by a screening of the movie Breaking Away. Follow links at the Open Streets page for more details.

There being no further business the meeting adjourned around 8 p.m.

Midweek Century August 6

Jackson County Road Crews Awfully Busy in August

By Jim Schroeder

Four riders who are all rather knowledgable of southern Indiana country roads drove down to Heltonville for a midweek century titled “Houston Skyline Weave”.  Little did they know all their expertise was needed on that fateful Wednesday.

They all got started on that muggy morning at Damon Bailey’s old grade school southeastward on IN-58.  There’s some history and explanation on this particular route.  Back when IN-58 had a bridge out and the nasty chip n seal was laid on IN-135 Jim Schroeder decided to do some investigating for some country roads as an alternative. This route weaves those highways plus much too busy US-50. As the Nashville 90 route is on relatively flat roads, these weaving roads are not!

Planned route.

After riding through Norman and speeding down through Norman Woods, we all turned east halfway up the climb a couple of miles before Kurtz for our first weave.  This would lead us toward the western trailhead of Nebo Ridge on some good paved roads of Jackson County.  You might be familiar with them if you ever rode Seymour’s Ride to Recycle or Brownstown’s Round Barn Ride.  Unfortunately, due to last year’s harsh winter, there were a few stretches of gravel road magically appearing amidst good pavement otherwise.  After approaching the third stretch Mark Napier had had enough of this gravelly groove, and so he and Joe Anderson and Stan Ellis decided to backtrack to uncharted and new blacktop beckoning.  The classic cyclist that he is, Jim, forged onward on the designated route, and did find a fourth stretch of nasty, big, and ugly gravel.  The icing on the cake was five miles of some week old chip n seal all the way to Houston (how’-sten according to the locals).

We planned to meet at Spurgeon Corner at mile marker 25.  Joe’s Gang found some good pave’ but came upon the same chip n seal before Houston.  Joe actually scouted Jim’s tire tracks in the dust of the ground up chips, as there wasn’t much seal in the mix.  Their route had added a couple of miles as Jim had waited at the now closed corner store.

We returned to Houston on a different route on Buffalo Loop for our second weave and then headed to Freetown on Houston Road with a radio tower climb in the middle.  Racing down to IN-135, the road crews left us a smooth as silk blacktop almost causing us to forget the past chip n seal and gravel.  We were hungry enough to all have sandwiches at Freetown Grocery just before the lunch crowd came in.

The next weave crossed IN-135 and onto Kurtz via a hilly road up to a church and cemetery, but awaiting us on the other side was a car rally-esque descent to the town.  After a couple of miles past Kurtz, we then crossed over and travelled “up” to Clear Spring and rode some on this plateau bounded by highways 58,135, and 50.  Jim was describing another great switchback descent down towards Brownstown while on some half mile patches of new blacktop, but all of a sudden fresh chip n seal greeted us at the start of the great descent. We had almost forgot!

We dusted off at the Brownstown Huck’s and then rode up the now famous switchback up to Skyline Park.  Famous, as it is the easiest of the three ways to get to the top for a view of Brownstown:

Approaching Medora from the east, we rode thru the triple trussetted covered bridge, and stopped for some flavored ice cream cones at the popular c-store in Medora to prepare us for the switchback up and out of the dismal little town, now made famous from a PBS documentary.  Stan mentioned that Joe always has some good edible strategies while frequenting all possible stops.

When we approached the next famous Medora switchback a white dusty road greeted us, and we retreated along the river toward Fort Ritner. After a few miles we were again ambushed by those gravelly road crews again.  We escaped northward and made our way up to Old Highway 50 and proceeded to Leesville.

We did skip the next weave and stayed on the old highway and then crossed US-50 and onto to the always fun and windy Mundel Church Rd.  In order to make up for the skipped weave and get closer to 100, Joe suggested that we go westward all the way to Shawswick and onto IN-58 and a very nice stretch of windy downhills as we headed into Heltonville.

Jim’s actual route. Compare miles 70 onward.

Usually when one rides in the Brownstown area, the bicyclist needs to worry about the always flooding White River. That wasn’t the concern this past Wednesday.

Michael, All of your concerns are addressed annual…

All of your concerns are addressed annually by the RAIN organizers, but as always the "minority" chooses to ignore. In 2011 I chose to go one step farther and "penalize" a few of those misbehavers and was reprimanded by the president of BBC and fellow RAIN facebookers. Since everything now is electronic, no one is reading anymore. I suggest billboards all over the registration area forcing everyone to read these while waiting in line. Perhaps an instructional video should be mandatory.

It should not have to be stated that ethics, hones…

It should not have to be stated that ethics, honesty, and courtesy should be the precepts of RAIN, but apparently this is not the case for all riders. Trashing people's yards or the roads with debris and wrappers, riding in sag vehicles to move to the front of the pack, sag vehicles handing items to riders at full speed and blocking other riders behind the vehicle, and riders being cut off by other riders were some of the behaviors observed. I would suggest RAIN adopt some simple rules that need to be stated more as a reminder of ethical behavior at this time.

RAIN 2014 is Over

By Allan Edmonds

Some thoughts on RAIN 2014.

The 2014 version of the Ride Across Indiana (RAIN) started at 7 AM on Saturday, July 12, at Saint Mary of the Woods College with John Bassett fulfilling the starter role.

(photo by Klaus Rothe)

Actually the ride started over a year ago, with planning by the RAIN Committee of the Bloomington Bicycle Club. The date was set and various contracts and commitments were arranged with Saint Mary of the Woods and Earlham College and rest stops in between. Planning and executing RAIN is a huge undertaking of the BBC and involves many, many folks. A core group voluntarily did PRERAIN (Pre-Rain Ride) the preceding weekend in order to give full time to the event the next weekend. John Connell chairs the RAIN Committee and was everywhere at the finish line. Jen Miers and Keith Bobay handled registration, John Bassett was in charge of route mapping and marking, Mark Villanova organized the rest stops, and Tammy Berger handled all merchandise. Ron Brown handled electronic recording of finish times and producing the finisher list. I hope I’ve mentioned the main people who devoted many hours over the year to make this event happen. Many, many other friends and club members were on hand to staff registration and rest stops as well as the finish line. A good crew of volunteers helped stuff over 1200 registration packets a few days before the event. It could not have been done without everyone’s enthusiastic participation. A big THANK YOU to all who pitched in on Friday and Saturday, too. It is a particular challenge that the event covers such a wide area and is so far from home. Somehow it comes together and gets better every year.

The 2014 RAIN route, 162 miles from Terre Haute to Richmond, from from home base in Bloomington.

Recent innovations that continue to work well include the gatorade and water dispensers, plenty of ice at the rest stops, and more salty snacks at the rest stops, too.

Many people cheer on riders, providing welcome encouragement when energy flags.

(Photo by Klaus Rothe)

A few firsts for this year: maps were released electronically prior to the event and riders were not provided printed maps and cue sheets (riders really don’t need maps or cue sheets, the route is so well marked, some SAG drivers needed help, though), packet pick-up without having to sign a waiver (assuming it was done in advance on-line), baseball and cycling hats available for purchase, a Friday evening buffet meal available for purchase through SMWC, a new location for the finish line at Earlham (one block further west and less inviting to motor vehicles to “accidentally” turn in there; indeed a little behind the scenes pull by Earlham security folks got the highway people to declare the right lane closed to traffic in the block or so approaching the end! For the first time we used only an electronic system to record finish times without the backup of tear-off numbers. Another first (not noted before at least) was a welcome burger and brat concession at the student union near the finish line. For the first time those welcome showers at Earlham were cold! Still welcome, but people didn’t spend so long in the shower!

At each rest stop it is fun to see friends from the club working to help make things work so smoothly and to provide more encouragement. The traditional ices and cold drinks at the Dunreith, not to mention the mister, are always welcome afternoon sustenance and relief.

The fee for participating in RAIN is relatively modest by comparison with fees for other comparable cycling events and basically covers expenses. Popular merchandise items including custom jerseys, decals, and hats have allowed the club to make a decent profit, which primarily funds our important community grant program as well as a few club activities. The club reimburses out of pocket expenses, like mileage, to all volunteers.

This year’s number of registrations was similar to last year’s, but the number of finishers is vastly higher. This year we had cool, overcast skies, a little light rain midday, and something of a tail wind during much of the day. My own group finished about an hour sooner this year than last year and felt in much better condition at the end of the ride. The rain was always a worry (that it might get heavy), but in fact it was a plus, helping to cool things off. Who could ask for anything more?

This year’s ride also seemed a bit safer. Of course I only saw a small slice of the ride, but I witnessed no accidents of any sort involving cyclists or the aftermath of any, and few mechanical issues or even flat tires along the way. Riding did seem kind of crowded for a longer stretch up to the lunch stop and beyond. I was happy that for the last 30-40 miles our group got to ride in its own style and pace with only a few “outsiders” joining us, rather than in huge packs of 50 or more, which always seemed to have a few riders weaving in and out or speeding up and slowing down, etc. Almost everyone was friendly and courteous, though.

At the finish line riders are cheered on and congratulated, times are recorded, pictures taken, and a traditional RAIN medallion keychain

handed out. Official recording of times ends at the stated time of 9 PM, although often folks determinedly finish those last few miles even when they know they’ll miss the cut-off. As long as volunteers are there, and while supplies last, all finishers receive a medallion.

The RAIN Facebook group continues to grow and provides an outlet for many people to post pictures and comments, some during the actual event! Check it out for more perspective on this amazing event. Maybe you, too, have stories and pictures to share!

If you didn’t “ride RAIN” this year, you can start now to dream of doing it next year! And if that seems like torture to you, or if life intervenes with other priorities (how could that be?), then plan now to join the crucial RAIN volunteer corps! Planning is already underway.

Informal, Unofficial BBC Board Minutes

Lately board meetings have been about every other month at a downtown eatery.Meetings are announced via the club calendar.  Crazy Horse has worked out well, and we gathered in the back room at 6 PM on Monday, June 30. Some folks ordered beer or soda or water and several ordered supper. 
Present were the elected officers Jim Schroeder (pres), Warren Smith (VP), Kathy Cummins  (sec), Jerry Arveson (treasurer), and Stan Ellis (at large), Committee chairs present included Tammy Berger (membership), John Bassett (ride coordinator), John Connell (RAIN), Allan Edmonds (media), and Yusuf (marketing). Absent were chairs Dan Hickey (mountain biking), Brett Nelson (grants), and Andrew Dingman (safety and education). Andrew is the newest board member.
Several minor corrections to the April minutes were made.
Advocacy Chair Ron Brown made a report in an area that has become more and more significant to the club. He briefly discussed ongoing issues of a bike bridge over the new I-69. Ron also reported on his dangerous drain covers project. Major progress has been made over the last few years, thanks to support from the city. He has updated his map of dangerous grates on the BBC web site. Issues of mixed use trails continue to be prominent. He got quick action on an upside down grate that caused a flat (fortunately nothing more) to a club member.
Our new marketing chair Yusuf reported on two new items. First the idea to have a BBC slogan. He has tabulated the top votes. Some good ideas were never entered: Bike and Community; Breakaway with the BBC. The board didn’t choose one. But we did award prizes to the two leaders “Because Biking’s Cool” (Jerry Arveson) and “”Today is a good day to ride” (Mark Naper). The winners will receive their choice of existing merchandise inventory. Maybe we’ll have 2 or 3 slogans available for different uses. Second is the question of sponsoring a men’s and women’s Little 5 team. Base amount is $3000 for a dual sponsorship. There was some discussion of pros and cons of such a sponsorship. The idea would be for increased exposure, with our name in the program. There would not be much interaction with the sponsored teams. We wondered whether any other non-profits do this? None that we know. Maybe we could purchase an ad for much less. E.g. $400 for a full page ad. But would we get more exposure with a sponsorship? We can wait to make a decision until late winter.
John Bassett reported that club rides have all had leaders. We have successful family rides, relax rides (a few participants), and beginner rides. We had a Saturday  ride this spring with 50. They’ve run from 8 to 50. Waivers have been working okay, using it to encourage people to join up.
John Connell reported on RAIN. Things are going well, with committee naturally a little nervous as the event approaches. They are planning a slightly different finish line at what is a car exit. This is in part due to Earlham installing geothermal in the bigger field east of the old entrance path. Still hoping to have a masseuse. Definitely will have a couple of bike mechanics, which was a popular option last year. So far we have 1050 registered. Might hit 1200, a bit less than last year. There are increasing options for competing rides, e.g. iron man, indy crit, etc. Tammy has been doing a great job with merchandise. Still need just a few more volunteers. They still expect some extra volunteers at the finish line, by people who are just there. PRAIN going this coming Saturday for volunteers who want to ride the route. We will go with Ron’s electronic finish line program, without the manual  backup operation.
Membership is more or less normal now that the renewal deadline has passed. Has cleared out all but a couple of women’s jerseys. Tammy has Rain merchandise in her house.
We awarded a $1500 grant to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission that will help fund bicycle instructor training.
In general chairs are welcome to run with their ideas, with broad oversight by the board.
Jerry Arveson made his regular treasurer’s report. We continue to be in good shape financially. We’re somewhat behind on RAIN registrations 9-10% compared to last year. Jersey orders are down proportionally. Dues are up 4% (at same annual charge).
Other announcements:
Summer picnic is set for August 24 in Upper Cascades.
 We will contribute $500 to co-sponsor a special speaker for a city program this fall on the topic of reducing traffic. 
RAAM was a great local success this year, with one complaint about inappropriate rider behavior near Bloomfield.
There being no further new business, the meeting adjourned about 7:30.

I figure my four flat tires were just a run of bad…

I figure my four flat tires were just a run of bad luck. I could have caused my own bad luck with thin and worn tires. I had some inexpensive Performance Forte Strada K tires I got on sale for $12. Yeah, I know you get what you pay for but I got over 2,500 miles out of them. I guess I should have changed tires at 2,400 miles. I have Michelins on now.

Everyone I rode with was supportive and patient. No one complained. We were running out of 25mm tubes, though. The good thing is that I got a lot of practice changing tires. Sunday morning when I was fixing the fourth flat I discovered an easier way to do it. One of those "doh! moments": why didn't I think of this before?