For many Southland bicycling enthusiasts riding is more than just a fun way to exercise or save money on gasoline.
It’s a unique way to experience the world.
“You can see so much more on a bike that you can see in a car,” said Dan Rumishek, president of Folks on Spokes, a bicycling group based in the south suburbs.
For example, he made some odd little discoveries while riding through Iroquois County, which is just south of Kankakee County.
Each little town, such as Beaverville, Rumishek said, displays a replica of the Statue of Liberty.
“If you’re in a car you wouldn’t notice that,” he said.
And for Bill Lang, director of rides for the group, bicycling was once a way for him to find peace with his wartime past.
A Vietnam War veteran, he took to two wheels upon his return home to rediscover the country while riding his bicycle.
“In every ride I find something unusual, in the people I meet, places I go,” Lang said.
Rumishek and Lang now are such avid riders they say they fall into the estimated 4 percent of bicyclists who are able to ride on any surface and in any weather condition.
Lang said he’s even rode on frozen rivers.
But one doesn’t have to be an expert to join Folks on Spokes, where expert and novice riders alike all learn from each other.
Lang said he learned from a member how to prevent “saddle sores.” He just had to buy specially padded shorts.
And he said they’ve learned the best ways to fix a flat from each other.
Founded in 1972, and now consisting of 140 members, the group organizes rides throughout the south suburbs as well as social events for members.
“We know the good areas to go to,” Lang said. “We know the good roads.”
The biggest ride is the group’s Easter Ride, which is held at the end of April when weather might be a little more favorable for most bicyclists.
This year’s event drew 348 riders, Rumishek said.
A ride in October features a Halloween theme and takes bicyclists up to 65 miles past several cemeteries.
One of the group’s main emphases has always been about promoting bicycle safety.
That usually refers to safety in sharing the road with motorists.
“Overall, the biggest thing is visibility,” Lang said. “Be as visible as you possibly can.”
But the type of complaints bicyclists in Chicago usually report about drivers there, such as with “dooming” — where a car door opens abruptly in the path of a bicyclist — aren’t that common in the south suburbs.
“I find, in general, motorists are very patient with bicyclists,” Lang said.
Rumishek said one website every bicyclist and motorist should visit to learn about bike safety is bikesafetyquiz.com.
The landscape for riding in the south suburbs has drastically changed over the years and is still changing.
Lang said the region can be divided into two main areas.
Areas north of Interstate 80 have become much more developed, which brings much more traffic, while many areas south of I-80 are still mostly rural, which makes for easy country riding.
Lang said four-lane roads in more developed areas are not recommended for bicycle use.
But thanks to the advocacy from members of Folks on Spokes and other enthusiasts there are more trails to ride if they’re heading north of I-80.
And smaller roads north and south of the interstate are now more suitable for riding after being paved and marked.
Folks on Spokes meets on the fourth Thursday of every month at Life Time Fitness in Orland Park.
Annual membership rates are $15 for individuals and $25 for families. More information can be found at folksonspokes.com.
Frank Vaisvilas is a freelancer for the Daily Southtown. June 8, 2018 Page 3