Collingwood Cycling Club president Jody Wilson (left), and club vice-president Steve Varga, with the club's new 'high-vis' jersey for 2014. The club hosted its 'spring social' at Blue Mountain Resort on Saturday, April 26, 2014. Morgan Ian Adams/Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin
COLLINGWOOD — The local cycling club is ready to hit area roads with new vigour, and a new look.
On Saturday night, the Collingwood Cycling Club held its annual ‘spring social’ at Blue Mountain Resort, as club members turned out to check out the offerings of the club’s sponsors and pick up the club’s new jersey.
“It’s our ‘new year’; we don’t care about the other New Year,” said club vice-president Steve Varga with a laugh.
While there’s been a cycling club in the Collingwood area since the early 1980s, it’s only been in the last several years that road cycling has really taken off in the region.
“It’s at an all-time peak in North America; my dad was cycling in the ‘70s and he went through the last peak, but this is well beyond what he experienced,” said Varga. “Collingwood has the best road cycling in Ontario… it’s bound to be a hotspot for cycling. There is tremendous opportunity for cycle tourism, and this is a very sporting town, and that’s why our club is so successful.”
The Collingwood Cycling Club, just three years old, now boasts more than 450 members and a full slate of sponsors.
“The sponsorship has been great; our sponsors have been with us since the beginning, and they’ve been the bedrock for our organization, and allowed us to give our early sign-in members free jerseys,” said Varga. “It’s become a signature of our club that we can give these jerseys out.”
Club president Jody Wilson also noted it’s a group predominantly made up of local residents — a point the club is trying to get across as it prepares for its weekly rides on area roads.
“That’s a lot of locals who are getting out and using the roads... we are from Collingwood and ride here every day, we’re not just up for the weekend,” said Wilson. “We’ve tried to design a (jersey) so the community will notice it, see us on the roads, and that most of them our local riders.”
The new jersey is a vibrant yellow, with ‘Collingwood’ across the midriff.
“We want to make sure that club riders are noticed on the road,” said Wilson.
The club has spent the last year or so on cycling advocacy issues, notably road safety for both riders and vehicle drivers. The club has adopted an approach of ‘tight and to the right’, cycling two abreast in groups that make them noticeable to approaching drivers, while also making it easier for vehicles to pass and not be stuck behind a huge line of bicycles.
“There are some drivers who take liberties with cyclists out there, and we decided we needed to define who we are, visually, so we are going with high-visibility (with the jersey), a statement that clearly says Collingwood; in tandem with our very disciplined, safer style of riding, we’re hoping we’ll gain the respect of local drivers,” said Varga.
Saturday night’s event was a chance for club members to meet and chat — ”It doesn’t happen that often, so it’s great for our membership to chat with each other, meet each other, without their helmets on,” said Wilson — while also driving home the safety message after six months of being off the roads.
“It’s our opportunity to talk about the things worked on all winter, dealing with a lot of cycling advocacy issues,” said Varga “We’re always reminding our riders about the important elements of safe cycling.
“Repetition is key, and every opportunity we have to be in front of our membership, we talk about what’s important to the quality of our rides… One of the messages we want to remind people is to ‘have pride in your ride’,” he said. “We did really well last year getting everyone riding in a disciplined manner.
“Our goal (for 2014) is that we ride a little bit better: a little bit tighter, a little bit more to the right, smoother, better cyclists, in general. We had huge improvements (last year), so we can’t anticipate getting any better because we’re just getting into the season now, but we just want to get incrementally better.”
The club’s first rides will be taking place this weekend; the club rides out of the AGNORA parking lot on the 10th Line on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and a few evenings during the week.
“We ride Saturday mornings when people aren’t even out of bed yet; we pick times when the roads aren’t busy, we only ride on roads that are less-travelled — you won’t find us on 26, or 124,” said Wilson. “We stick to the roads where there is less traffic.”