Let’s Move Quad Cities celebrates the spirit and determination Quad City area residents take to promote movement and fitness.
We welcome guest blogger, Chuck Oestreich, long-time bicycling advocate and supporter of the Quad Cities Bicycle Club (QCBC). The QCBC is in its 54th year and is well known for its club rides, organization of the Quad City Criterium, and advocacy for bicycling in the Quad Cities and surrounding areas.
We asked Chuck about not only how he grew to love cycling, but how the QCBC and the sport is growing in popularity in promoting more cycling in our community.
Peddling, Balancing, Living: Why I Love to Bike
By Chuck Oestreich, Quad Cities Bike Club
I’m not a super athlete – never have been. Oh, I played a little high school football, but that was in a small town in Wisconsin where if you showed up you made the team. I don’t have an athlete’s build and have never got into major bodybuilding or fitness training.
But I’m a pretty good cyclist, and have been ever since I was driving down 4th Avenue in Moline and saw a ten-speed bike for sale at a yard sale. I stopped and got into a big debate with myself: should I spend $15 for a used Raleigh road bike?
But this was way back in the late ’60s or early ’70s and the post WWII bike boom was on. I couldn’t resist the new fad – adults actually riding bikes.
Soon I was biking from the Broadway area in Rock Island where I lived to Rocky High School where I was a teacher. Nobody else biked to school, not even any of the students – cars were on their minds.
I didn’t even know where to park the bike, so I put it in the storage room, which was the approved entrance for teachers. The first day I did it, I was at my desk, setting up lesson plans, when all at once the PA system boomed: “Whoever parked a bike in the entrance room, please move it. It’s in the way.”
Even the school didn’t know what to do with a bike.
But I enjoyed pedaling to school each morning – and the swift descent back home in the afternoon. I started exploring all of the various streets and avenues that I could use. I tried Long View Park just to avoid the congestion at the 20th Street Five Points.
Wow! That uphill in the park left me floored. I had to walk it. But I stuck with it and pretty soon is was my morning challenge – wearing a suit jacket, white shirt, and a tie.
Soon I found out about the local bike club, the Quad Cities Bicycle Club, and its wealth of almost daily rides, most of them out in the country.
I started riding a few of them and soon, especially in the summer, was an eager participant. I tried group rides for a week at a time – even went biking in Canada and Europe. But my love remained almost daily urban bicycling.
I found that it gave me a whole expansion of my universe. Besides health and fitness, I became more aware of my community, of nature around me, and of the elevation that it gave to my body and mind.
So, yes, I move.
More about the Quad Cities Bike Club:
In the realm of the nation’s organized bicycling organizations, the Quad Cities Bicycle Club stands out both for its longevity and its total membership. Perhaps because it embraces the whole area, it has become one of the larger bike clubs in the entire nation, outdistancing even some major metropolitan areas, such as Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Why so large? Two reasons, in my opinion (others will beg to differ): one – RAGBRAI. And two – the many, many small local group bike rides covering most of our unique geography.
RAGBRAI’s connection with the bike club is that the club has through the years made it very easy to do the ride across Iowa. With buses, bike transportation, campsites, and tender loving care it has drawn ordinary bicyclists from all over the nation into the club’s friendly embrace.
The QCBC is almost as close as you can get to a national bicycle club – even if many of its members live far from the Quad Cities.
The second reason for the club’s success through the years also has to do with that friendly embrace. Club rides – to me, the real lasting basis for the club through the years – are small, uncomplicated group rides open to anyone who shows up at the start. They usually have a leader, although some are “riders choice,” particularly in the winter. And they start anywhere in the Quad Cities, switching from one side of the river to the other at random.
Historically, the club’s focus was on country riding. Now, however, with the rise of bicycling for transportation, the club is becoming more proactive about urban bicycling. Many urban bicycling improvements through the years were not directly brought about by the club, but certainly were influenced because of the club’s presence in the community: path development, family rides such as Ride the River, city bike plans, etc. all fall into this category.
But the basis for the club for 54 years now is not so much the racers and endurance bicyclists. No, it’s been the average person with a bike who just wants to have fun riding with others on a club ride through the city or out in the country.