How many bike clubs do you know in which the "in" group rides 10 - 12 mph and happily answers to the nickname "Turtles?" In Folks on Spokes, a club of about 250 members in the south suburbs of Chicago, the group which "stops to smell the roses" is the fastest growing segment of the club — both because they are friendly and fun-loving and because their slower pace welcomes new riders.
The Turtles group rides together on the club's regular rides and enjoy weekly rides, generally with an ice cream stop. In addition the group plans weekend outings including biking/camping journeys.
Rides planned by the Turtles offer entertainment in addition to riding for distances and at a pace comfortable to new riders.
With a philosophy that "New riders are the riders who most need encouragement to continue. By staying together and seeing that no one is dropped, we provide friendship and that necessary encouragement."
The Wednesday night Turtles rides starting in the spring will begin from various locations around the South Chicago area and Northwest Indiana. Some of those who started out with the Turtles now ride several thousand miles per year, including commuting to work.
Folks on Spokes has always tried to encourage new riders by having the "ride leader" ride at the back of the group — instead of the front, in order to stay with the slowest person. However, we've found that people who voluntarily ride at a slower pace are a much better source of support and encouragement to new riders than faster riders who take their turn riding at the back.
Craig Oberman, Turtle leader and co-founder, explained, "I'm a slow rider, not a new rider — being a Turtle is a state of mind." The welcoming attitude and comfortable pace of the Turtles, as well as learning rides and many social events have helped Folks on Spokes attract a lot of new riders — many of whom enjoy a leisurely pace.
Regularly scheduled rides begin in early May and run through October.