Ten years ago, Chris Huebner would have scoffed at anyone who suggested that he and his pick-up hockey friends would be the founders of a popular bike club. Back then the idea was just a sparkle in his post-hockey beer.
“After you play hockey, you usually go out for beers,” says Huebner, associate professor of theology and philosophy at Canadian Mennonite University and one of the original members of the Fort Garry Bike Club. “The bike club started when we thought that maybe we should keep doing something so that we can get together for beers after hockey season is over. And so we started riding bikes.”
Fast forward to the present day and that group of five to eight guys hanging out after hockey to drink Fort Garry Dark beer, from which the club takes its name and logo, has turned into a weekly meeting of as many as 30 people who get together to ride and race before heading to the Fox and Hound Tavern to unwind and socialize.
The actual membership numbers are quite vague, but that’s because no one is really counting.
“There are a lot of people that hang out with us now,” Huebner says. “Which of them is a member and which of them is not is not a straightforward question to answer. The boundaries are sort of porous.”
The group’s eclectic makeup includes doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers and carpenters, and ranges in age from 20 to 50 years old and beyond.
“I think its indicative of the fact that our reason for getting together wasn’t first of all cycling,” says Huebner. “It’s pretty diverse, but at the same time that is what most social groups look like.”
The club’s Tuesday Night Ride is more of a social ride than any form of more serious training. A favourite activity is a type of race called Alley Cats, where the participants have to pass a series of checkpoints - but how they get there is up to them.
“It’s an accessible form of racing because everybody scatters, so it’s not like the fast guys take off and the slow guys are dropped. It levels the playing field.
“These are all races in a very loose sense of the term,” he says.
The club also organizes several winter races, including a 24-hour race, which sounds inhumanly grueling until you delve a little deeper. Competitors can win by riding frigid laps, watching films in the designated rest area or some combination of the two.
“It blurs the line between the competitive and the social aspects of what we’re about,” says Huebner. “What makes us the club that we are is that we try to keep that line intentionally blurred. When we race it’s as much about hanging out together as it is about destroying each other.”
The Fort Garry Bike Club also organizes official race events with the Manitoba Cycling Association (MCA).
“That’s a whole different ball game,” he says. “But at the same time we try to make them fun events more than anything.”
For more information about the Fort Garry Bike Club, visit http://bikeclub2003.blogspot.com.
Published in Volume 66, Number 9 of The Uniter (October 26, 2011)