Sunday, 22 July 2012 by Mark Magnan
Ladies, what do you do on a Sunday morning if your husband is off fishing or golfing? Well you go for a bike ride of course.
Specifically a "WOW" bicycle ride. The "WOW" standing for Women On Wheels. Each Sunday morning a group assembles at the corner of FM 439 and Sparta Road just outside of Belton for a routine 30-mile bicycle ride.
WOW is the work of an enthusiastic bicyclist and a few friends.
Colleen Isdale organized a group of about eight friends back in August 2009. Now one might question the sanity of the words "bicycle" and "August" in the same phrase, especially in Texas. But what sets this group apart is their dedication to the sport.
WOW has an e-mail distribution list of more than 100 at this point, and routinely has a group of 20-plus riders for their Sunday morning ride.
So what exactly is WOW as a group? Well it is a group of bicycle enthusiasts, that are women. Tired of the male competitive nature and just wanting to provide a place where the actual ride is the central activity, Isdale decided to create something a bit different.
The group has no official membership role, no dues, no officers, no fancy greeting or handshake. What they do have is some very cool (pun intended) riding jerseys. But there is a level of achievement to wear the lime green top that stands out amongst your peers.
Women tend to be a bit less competitive than their male counterparts, even in a sport that seems to speak of speed and endurance.
So the group is about socializing as much as riding, but with riding being the most important characteristic of the group. The rides are open to every skill level. There is no pressure to make the entire ride. The route is purposely set up so that a rider can turn back at any time they feel they need to, and not get lost returning to their car. What is encouraged is the friendship that surrounds the sport of bicycles.
The Sunday morning ride starts at 7:07am. It is a 27-30 mile route along Sparta Road. The course is popular with bicyclists of several clubs because of the lack of hills and other obstacles. There is also a Tuesday evening ride, and various holiday and special rides. It is really something for every rider.
So what if your husband happens to be a bicyclist as well and doesn't leave you every Sunday morning to go fishing. Well he is welcome on the ride too. A special exception is made for boyfriends and husbands, and perhaps a select few. It helps with those times when spending time together crosses over to bicycles as well.
But WOW is much more than just a bunch of girls riding bikes a couple times a week. The group is active in the county to raise awareness of bicyclists. They have also been active in state government trying to get some laws and bills passed for protection of, not only bicyclists, but all that use our public roads. One of the key bills is the Safe Passing Bill. This would make it a law that if you pass another vehicle (of any type) you would have to allow a three foot buffer. This applies to bicyclists as well as any other vehicle on the road.
One of the concerns closer to home is trying to get Bell County to place signage along certain routes alerting motorists that there may be bicycles present. The signs would be permanent but might also have flashing lights when a ride is taking place. Richard Cortese has taken this task and expects positive results soon.
The push for bike trails or bike lanes is also a regular topic. This would allow safe riding for those that might want to introduce younger riders to the sport. It would also help motorists avoid being in the same area as the bicyclists.
So you think this is a good idea and decide to show up on Sunday morning. There are a few things that you will need. First, you will need a bicycle, after all it is a bicycle club. Secondly, a helmet, that is mandatory for the rides. A bright colored jersey would be a good choice, as would a set of bicycle warning lights. And don't forget water. All brands and types of bicycles are welcome. But as experience takes over you will realize why bicycle races are on specialized types of lightweight bikes.
Safety is always first and foremost for the rides. With an average of 50 fatalities for bicyclists each year in Texas it is something that all the riders take seriously. A bicyclist has the same rights to the road as a motor vehicle, however not all motorists realize that and fail to obey the law. Safety awareness is key on both sides, and is one of the major goals of the club, to make bicycle safety the most important topic.
It sounds like a club that just rides bikes around a couple times a week. But it has become more than that. Friendships have been forged with riders that have traveled the world. With some members from Fort Hood being active in WOW and then being stationed elsewhere in the world. The WOW jerseys have gone world-wide. Often riders will send photos back of themselves in their WOW jerseys in exotic locations.
For those that want some form of competition, there are a few rides for that. There is one challenge called the Prediction Ride. This is a set route, you give your prediction on your time to complete the ride. The rider that comes the closest to their predicted time wins that competition.
So even a slow rider could actually win this. For fairness all bike computers are removed or disabled for the ride. It is a challenge that pushes the person to ride consistently in their style.
What if you have a bicycle but are not sure how to maintain it? Well that is another of the social gatherings. At times following a ride there will be a short get-together to share food and tips on how to keep your bike in great shape.
Isdale has been active in the sport for about thirty years, she has raced in triathlons and various other races both in the US and Europe. Her vision for the group is to first and foremost create a safer riding environment for all riders, both in Bell County and Texas. She would like to see the signs go up, bills passed into law, and motorists educated about a bicyclist's right to the road. She would also like to see the group grow with more women taking part in the sport, for fitness as much as for the socializing.
She is happy with the diversity of the group, young and old, different backgrounds, varied skill levels, but most of all the enthusiasm of the riders.
So all of this sounds great, a spirited ride is in the near future.
To find the WOW's you can show up for a ride or search for them on Facebook; "WOW Central Texas"