By Pete Radowick
There’s a modern-day affliction known as FoMO – Fear of Missing Out. This is the social angst you feel that something good is going to happen without you in attendance.
At no time does yours truly come to grips with FoMO more than on Wednesday morning. This, you see, is when the more fortunate members and friends of the Northwest Cycling Club are on their bikes chooglin’ along in the midweek Hump Day Ride. Relegated to an office tower in downtown Houston on these sunny mornings makes me green with envy.
The Hump Day Ride – the province of the retired, the flexible, the self-employed, the unemployed – is fairly new. But more and more people are finding an excuse and finding their way to Hockley Community Center on Wednesdays to roll through Waller County. Some gainfully employed cyclists have been known to take a vacation day to join the ride.
Longtime NWCC members Al Pitre and Sid Trest are the Hump Day ringleaders. They tag-teamed questions about the midweek ride and its growing popularity exclusively for Wheel Brothers readers.
- What is the history of Hump Day?
Al: It started with the desire to provide an opportunity for retired folks to ride together during the week outside their neighborhoods. We started out at Zube Park for the first couple of months but moved to Hockley Park.
Sid: At first we didn’t really think about starting an organized ride. There were a few retired NWCC members who were riding together on Saturday. We got to talking (that kind of thing happens on no-drop rides) that it would be nice to have an alternate ride during the week. A handful of us started meeting at Zube on Wednesday and things just developed from there.
AL: From researching our postings on the NWCC’s Facebook page I found the following:
3/11/2015 – First posting of the “Wednesday Wheelers”
4/15/2015 – Name changed to “Old Geezers and Ladies Wednesday Ride.” We changed this name because we wanted to encourage younger folks who were off on Wednesday to ride with us.
6/10/2015 – Name changed to “Hump Day” ride. The Camel commercial played heavily in this name.
- Numbers-wise, is the average group larger today?
AL: It has really grown in the last six months and part of that was that when we started it was just one group 14-16 mph. Then we added another group 12-14 mph. Earlier this year Dennis Stuart started a 17+ group and we got a lot of new riders — younger ones, too. The 17+ is getting to be our biggest group. We are averaging about 27 riders, but in the summer we get the teachers who are off and they really help boost the numbers.
Sid: We have seen fairly steady growth from the original four to six of us. During the summer we have had our biggest groups since we have some teachers who ride with us. We also have had several riders who are between jobs. We are glad to have them ride with us, but always happy for them when they go back to work.
- Facebook is great way for you to reach out to potential riders.
Al: We have been using the NWCC’s Facebook page since the beginning. However, we have a few folks we text, send email or call. The main reason is sometimes due to weather we cannot ride and will cancel the ride.
Sid: Just recently we have been using the Facebook “Event” feature that seems to be a great way to get in touch with our riders. Since NWCC uses this method, it keeps things consistent and is something that NWCC club members are used to using.
- Does the turnout fluctuate considerably from week to week and, if so, how does that impact ride logistics?
Al: During the initial phase it did fluctuate but lately we seem to be staying about 25 riders. During the winter it may go down some. We started keeping track of who shows up and what group they ride in this past July. The list contains 66 names. It would be wild if everyone showed up.
Sid: We have kept the original format of the ride. It is not a matter of numbers with us but rather just a desire to provide an opportunity for us to have a fun ride. As long as we have a group with a leader and at least two riders (for safety reasons), they will go out as a group. We will do the same routes regardless of the group size.
- What is the typical game plan for any given Wednesday?
Al: We have three rider groups and the roll out is 7:30 a.m. in the summer which changes to 8:30 a.m. when daylight savings ends. Each group agrees on a route. We all start together, faster groups in front. All rides are “no drop” and have one rest stop. Occasionally someone will have a bad day or overestimate their ability. Someone will take it upon themselves to drop back and stay with that person. As in any ride, groups break up and there are those who just have to do it their way. That is OK, but you need a partner or if you insist on riding by yourself, cell phone numbers are shared. We have developed several maps with different distances.
Sid: When we switched our start from Zube Park to Hockley Community Center we needed to modify our original club routes so we could get about the same mileage for the rides. We put our heads together and came up with some new routes, then went out and drove them to assure that they didn’t have any problems. Both Al and I have maps for any rider who wants a route map.
The after-ride has changed a little bit. We both like the idea of doing a ride and ending at a nice café or restaurant. Other than rest stops at convenience stores, we never were able to find an interesting café or restaurant along our route. Al first suggested that we just finish at HCC and then take our cars to Starbuck’s for coffee and conversation. That was fun but there were usually only a few riders that would attend. When Al struck on the idea of finishing with lunch at Mo’s Irish Pub, things took off. I think our record is over 20 for the lunch. The manager at Mo’s is accommodating and will open early for us if needed.
- It’s my understanding you guys are fair-weather riders and the first inkling of a cloud in the sky is reason enough to cancel the ride. Have I overstated that scenario?
Al: Any forecast of thunderstorms, rain, very strong winds or temperatures below 40 degrees is the current “no ride” criteria. However, we need to come up with definite guidelines (i.e, percentage chance of rain). Sometimes the forecast is wrong and the weather turns out better than forecasted, but we prefer to err on the side of safety.
Sid: We are not a Rule #9 group. The ride is done for fun and safety is a primary concern. If we ride long enough, we are bound to get caught in the rain, cold or both at some point, which is inevitable. We just won’t go out in extreme weather intentionally. Sometimes the weather forecast is wrong and we call off a ride when we could have gone out. That is going to happen since we take a cautious approach.
- Is it perversely satisfying to be riding on a Wednesday morning when other working stiffs are chained to a desk?
Al: “Work” is a four letter word in our group. However, we do appreciate the Social Security payments you working folks are providing us.
- Seriously, you guys are known to have a lot of fun on Hump Day. What’s the secret to the feel-good vibe?
Al: We try to be flexible, patient and accommodating. We work to be sure the rides are enjoyable. We work hard to be sure no one is left out. Our Group 3 is very social and there is a lot of conversation. We change up the routine and create routes that are different than those done from Zube on Saturday to reduced boredom. We promote camaraderie, like going to Mo’s afterward. We strive to create a variety of rides like our “Fat Tire” rides and the “White Oak – Buffalo Bayou” rides especially during the cooler months. In “Fat Tire” rides we ask folks to bring their hybrids, mountain bikes, old bike and we ride a slower pace. For “White Oak-Buffalo Bayou” rides we meet at I-cycle on T.C. Jester and ride the trails along White Oak Bayou, the trails in the Heights, and Buffalo Bayou. Afterward we meet up at Cedar Creek Bar & Grill in the Heights. Our non-riding spouses sometimes meet us for lunch. In future we hope to do rides in places like Chappell Hill, Anderson and Bellville. Sid, Dennis and I always research and personally check out any new location and routines before we schedule a Hump Day there.
SID: We can’t do the White Oak Bayou ride during the summer because we need to start out early to ride in the cooler part of the day. Since some of us have to commute in morning rush-hour traffic to do the ride, it normally starts around 9 a.m. We listen to our fellow riders and heard loud and clear that the alternate Fat Tire and White Oak rides are popular. We continue to develop alternatives and hope to do different rides/routes in the future. However, we will not use a route unless it is appropriate for all three groups. Several months ago a friend took me on the HCC Hempstead Melon Trail. It was a beautiful 40-mile route with lightly traveled rural roads. It would be a great ride for the more experienced riders but too hilly and not appropriate for slower or new riders. We will only ride routes that all of us will feel comfortable riding.
- If someone from another club reads this and wants to establish a Hump Day Ride, what tips would you offer?
Al: It has to be fun. The leaders need to be flexible, patient and accommodating. Promote getting together after the ride. Promote different groups, but not too many, based on speed, distance and just how serious the riders want to be.
Sid: I agree completely with Al, keep it fun and accommodating. The after-ride just adds to the fun.
Northwest Cycling Club, based in Houston, is a four-time USA Cycling Club of the Year, earning the honor in 2005, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Club members ride every Saturday morning, rain or shine. To learn more, visit NWCC.bike or like the club on Facebook.