Out for a spin with Beaches Cycling Club

Sunday cyclists catch hell if they forget when church gets out.

Of all the things Dan Yang tracks for the Beaches Cycling Club – safety, speed, routes and riding skills – church schedules may seem a bit off-course. But eight years after founding the club, Yang knows to avoid church traffic when he plans a Sunday Sunrise.

Such weekend rides draw the most riders – up to 100 on Saturdays – so the more open road Yang can find, the better.

That’s relatively easy to do from the East End, he said, where there are few 400-series highways. Club rides regularly loop the Toronto Zoo, or venture into the greenbelt south of Stouffville.

Riding safely is always goal one, he said. But with that sorted, the club’s 275 riders are also looking to pick up speed.

“We’re not all racers, but we’re all people who want to progress, to get better,” said Young, chatting over coffee at the Main Street café that doubles as the club’s unofficial start and finish zone.

Yang was 11 when he got into cycling. He started in 1988, the same year as his dad.

“My dad really wanted a nice bike,” he said with a grin. “He bought it, and then I borrowed it.”

Yang put more dirt on that blue-and-white Nishiki than his dad wanted, but it is part of what led him to a 20-year career in sport retail.

In the early 2000s, when Yang was working at an Upper Beach bike shop, he and five friends started doing regular group rides. Yang said it became Beaches Cycling Club the way most cycling clubs do – someone said, “Hey man, we should get our own jerseys!”

Today, the club rides a few days a week and on weekends. Splitting into packs of eight to 12, they tackle everything from Hillicious Thursday climbs up the Brimley Road hill to the advanced Tuesday night rides that hold speeds of 35 to 40 km/h.

Nearly a third of the riders are women, and on April 3 the BCC fielded its first women’s team at a race on the Ancaster Fairgrounds.

“It’s always evolving,” said Yang, who got a kick out of riding fixed-gear bikes in the new Milton velodrome this winter. Others have branched into mountain bike and cyclocross rides in the Don Valley.

And two years ago, a chance meeting on the road with a fellow cyclist and organizer of the Children’s Breakfast Club led BCC members to starting an Outreach Committee for benefit rides.

The Beaches club now helps out at the Tour de Black Creek, a police-supported race for kids that raises money for the breakfast program. Members also support the Ride for Christian, an annual cycling event started last year that raises money for genetic research into Williams syndrome.

However else it evolves, Yang said the club is focused on safe riding.

When cycling in a pack or peloton, riders in the front, middle, and rear each have things to do to keep safe, and all new members do a skills test before joining. The club has used designated ride marshals, Yang said, but it’s best if every rider has the same safety checklist in mind.

“Even in our club people sometimes forget,” he said. “They think when they put a helmet on, and sunglasses and a kit, that they’re invincible.”

For example, Yang said cyclists often forget to shoulder-check their blind spot before they turn or change lanes.

Others ride by stop signs – something extra tempting now that many cyclists are trying to post best route times using a GPS tracker.

“When you’re going hard, the last thing you’re thinking is, ‘Oh I should probably stop at that stop sign,’” said Yang. “You look quickly, you’re going 45 km/h and there’s no car – you just go.”

Such risks are less tempting when riding in a group where safety is standard. And there are other advantages, too.

“When you watch Canada Geese fly, they fly in a peloton,” said Yang.

Each bird drafts behind the next in line, and when the leader tires, it rotates to the rear of the flock for a break, he said – just like road cyclists.

“So you gonna join or what?” he added, smiling.

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