Friendships spring from Wednesday night bike rides

Joking around with each other before their Wednesday evening ride are, from left, Mike Long, Rodney Linder, Kirk Newell and Dave Heiar. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard
Joking around with each other before their Wednesday evening ride are, from left, Mike Long, Rodney Linder, Kirk Newell and Dave Heiar. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

By Karen Brainard

They range in age from 15 to 67, but the friendship they share, developed from their passion for cycling, transcends the different generations.

Every Wednesday evening a group of cyclists begin to gather at 5:15 at Kirk's Bike Shop, 619 Main St. They take off at 5:30 for a 20- to 30-mile ride.

"We ride at the same time year-round," said Kirk Newell, owner of the bike shop.

"It's always been sort of a group deal," he said, adding, "The cast varies."

The mountain bike group can be as few as three in the winter months but as many as 25 in the summer.

"This has been going on for at least 20 years," said Rodney Linder, 67, who casually heads up the loose-knit group that he referred to as the Wednesday Night Riders.

"He's the nicest guy on the trail," fellow cyclist Mike Long said of Linder.

They were two of the eight cyclists who showed up Wednesday, July 23.

At 15, Jaron Cappos was the youngest. The high school junior, who turns 16 in September, competed for the Ramona High Cycle Dawgs in the spring and won the state championship for the Division 2 sophomore boys.

Linder, who assists as a coach for the Cycle Dawgs, highlighted Cappos' achievement, as well as the skills of Kyle Skeen, a 2014 RHS graduate who also competed for the cycling team.

Calling Skeen an "exceptional rider," Linder noted that the teenager was quiet when he first joined the Wednesday group and was a slower rider. That has changed over the 4-1/2 years that Skeen has been riding with the group. Now he's fast and at the pro level, noted Linder.

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Rodney Linder leads the pack as the cyclists head out from the parking lot at Main and Sixth streets for a 24-mile ride. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

Skeen, who will be competing in a race in Temecula in November, said he enjoys meeting with his cycling friends, and the ride "definitely helps with distance and long climbs."

The rides vary and are selected by Linder. On July 23 they rode two miles past Sutherland Dam, a 24-mile ride with 2,100 feet of climbing. They never rode on state Route 78 but took back roads and fire roads.

Long pointed out that they do interval riding — each cyclist can ride as fast as he or she wants but they all stop at spots to let the others catch up.

As for traffic, Cappos said they will let other cyclists know if cars are approaching and immediately get into single file.

Cyclist Andre Perrault, who recently undertook an 85-mile trip from Ramona to the top of Palomar Mountain with Linder on a Friday ride, jokingly called the leader "Mother  Rodney," noting that Linder likes to ride in the back.

Linder said he does so to "make sure everyone's OK."

In addition to the Sutherland Dam area, other destinations have been Pamo Valley, Black Canyon, and Orosco Ridge, which has 3,000 feet of climbing. The rides are usually two hours, said Newell.

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Meeting by Kirk's Bike Shop on Main Street, cyclists start their journey to Sutherland Dam by heading north on Sixth Street. Sentinel photo/Karen Brainard

Cappos added about 10 miles to his Wednesday night trip as he rode his bike from home to the Main and Sixth street meeting spot. He said the rides are fun and a great way to keep in shape. Cappos raced July 20 in Big Bear where he was a bit disappointed to find he was the only one in his age group. Noting the altitude change, Cappos said, "It was a little bit harder than here."

Also riding July 23 were Dave Heiar, who assists with coaching the Cycle Dawgs, and Dave Curtis. A Poway resident, who frequently rides with the group, joined them during the trip.

Although the group consists of mostly males, there are a few females who occasionally ride on Wednesday nights.

"It's been a good group. It's fun," said Linder, who has been riding with Newell for 30 years.

The informal bike club is open to anyone who is at an intermediate level of mountain biking and can handle interval rides of 20 to 30 miles. Anyone interested may stop in Kirk's Bike Shop and talk to Newell or contact him at 760-789-4111.

   
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