Image courtesy Willie Faison
It may not feel like spring in Detroit just yet - snow flurried from gray skies just a week ago - but it's going to take a lot more than wacky weather to prevent the members of Beat the Train in Detroit (BTT) from enjoying the thing they've waited patiently for all winter: the beginning of their 2006 season.
Beat the who?
Started by Andy Staub - a mountain biker with a strong passion for Detroit - in 2005, BTT is a group of a individuals that meet up on Saturday mornings from April through October for medium-paced bikes rides throughout the city.
Designed as a combination training ride and historical tour, members gather weekly at 6 am at Fort Wayne in Detroit and embark a half-hour later on 20 to 30 mile trips in and around various parts of the city.
Oh, the places you'll go
Why in the world would anyone get up so early for a bike ride? For the enthusiastic Detroiters of BTT, reasons are plentiful.
For Dave Freeman, who began riding with the group last May, BTT rides are about fun and showing others the positives of Detroit.
Member-Dawn says she rides with BTT for a number of reasons, including one that's simple and honest:
"Biking makes me feel young and good," she says.
Along with that, Dawn enjoys seeing the city from the seat of her bike - or, in Staub's words, from a different vantage point.
"We...smell the tortillas cooking on Vernor, exchange morning greetings with the neighbors in the Cass corridor, ride up to the top of the parking structure of Motor City Casino, enjoy the 'art work' of Heidelberg street, wave to the midnight staff of the DMC," Dawn says.
Image courtesy Gloria Rocha
Mary Ryan, who learned about BTT while riding through Clark Park last year, has her own set of reasons; namely, the family-friendly environment and the encouragement she and other riders receive.
Ryan says doing something in the city that is unrelated to alcohol or bars is a welcome change from the norm, too.
"This city has so much more to offer than cocktails," she says.
"(The rides) are good exercise, great people and a fun way to see a beautiful city."
Image courtesy Willie Faison
Duane Hanson, who fell in love with BTT after viewing a few early-morning sunrises - a normal occurrence for weekly riders - agrees wholeheartedly with Ryan on the kid-friendly aspect.
Hanson, who has brought both his 6-year-old son and young daughter on the rides, says the "children-allowed" factor is positive for him because he gets to spend time with his family. He says it's great for the kids, as well.
"I believe this form of riding with the young ones gives them a view of safely riding in the street and obeying the rules of the road...I always point out why and what I am looking at (to my son) so he can develop the skills to ride solo in a couple of years with us." says Hanson.
Image courtesy Andy Staub
For founder Andy Staub, a big part of his own love for the group is that he gets to help other people.
"I try to encourage our riders to push their limits and set higher goals for themselves," he says.
Staub takes pride in the fact that many of the riders have overcome big roadblocks through the group.
And Staub, known to some members by the nickname "drill sergeant", is happy to offer his help. He says that sometimes all they need is "just the smallest push".
Equally important to Staub are that people get to know the real Detroit, the one members of BTT see on their weekly bike trips.
"This is something you can't (sic) get from your couch or...your front porch. You must get out and feel the streets. Experience the history and the majesty of our great city." Staub says.
Hard work = accomplishment
Along with working off some calories and learning more about the D, the members of BTT note that the weekly rides have lead to other positives in their lives, such as better time management, the ability to set realistic anachievablele goals, and the confidence to try new things.
One of the greatest examples of this belongs to Dawn, who joined the group thinking she couldn't keep up with "the big dogs", but proved herself wrong after she accomplished a major milestone last summer.
"Because of Beat the Train, I made a bike trip of 297 miles," Dawn says.
"Last year I would never have even attempted."
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Beat the Train