Bicycle club masters social distancing

Ron Drozd, of the Village of Polo Ridge, meets with other members of The Village Bicycle Club in the parking lot of El Santiago Recreation Center before they ride around The Villages on Tuesday.

Bicycling has been a breeze for social distancing. Over the last few months, The Village Bicycle Club has managed to integrate new safety precautions into their outings, and club members have been very responsible and understanding of new procedures, said Chris Schmidt, club president. After suspending formal rides for the month of April, Schmidt, of the Village of Briar Meadow, said he knew he would have to implement some changes when things reopened in May. “We made changes to limit the size of group meetings,” he said. “We meet at El Santiago Rec Center, and we’re quite spread out.” Separating riding groups into six sections with the fastest group being “A+” and the slowest being “social,” Schmidt said the biking club was able to keep group numbers low and make social distancing when meeting before their rides more effective.

“When you’re on a ride, we encourage everybody to keep a greater distance,” he said. “That’s pretty easy for slower groups, which have more distance between riders, but the faster paced groups, in the past, have tried to be as close as possible to ride the draft of the person in front of them. Now of course, they’re much more spread out.”

Phil Rupert, of the Village of Pennecamp, who has been riding with the Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday group for 10 years, said the rides have been going well.

“It was really nice,” he said. “I’ve continued to ride through the COVID-19 pandemic. We have a riding group for every skill level, as far as speed and distance. It hasn’t really presented too much of a challenge.”

Social distancing also has been made easier with lower rider numbers per group.

“When we ride, it’s always in groups of nine or less,” Schmidt said, “which goes along with the original ruling months ago of not meeting in groups of 10 or more.”

This was easy enough to implement, he added, because the rules also serve as a safety precaution for riders.

“If someone is in the front, 10 riders back is pretty far back,” he said.

Over the summer, social distancing has been easy to accomplish because there are fewer riders attending meetings.

“Some folks are also still out riding by themselves rather than with the group,” he said. “We’re looking forward to this fall when more folks come back down from the north.”

Rupert said the riders have been making the best of social distancing.

“A lot of people have been isolated from their friends and family,” he said, “and it can take its toll on people emotionally being isolated like that. I enjoy the socialization that goes along with the riding.”

Staff writer Alexandria Mansfield can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5401, or alexandria.mansfield@thevillagesmedia.com.