Spokes models

Paul Thissen

But a club where people well into their 60s and 70s cycle thousands of miles per year tends to defy the expectations associated with age.

The members do, however, get up early in the morning. The ride starting at 8:30 a.m. Saturday was a later run, with some riders beginning as early as 7 a.m.

“It makes me feel like a kid again,” said Chicago resident Sally Allen, 47.

When warned that their ride was being joined by a reporter Saturday morning, one member told his fellow riders to cut out the raunchy banter. But while passing a group of children, someone still shouted, “Don’t hit any munchkins!”

Meandering through the neighborhood streets of the North Shore, the group of about a dozen riders splintered into smaller packs and pairs, riding side-by-side to converse. Occasional shouts of “Car back!” caused some to fall into single file.

For many rider the most exciting part of the morning seemed to be the stop for brunch. But some riders nonchalantly split from the group to ride 48 extra miles on top of the usual 30-mile route.

“People ride for the (camaraderie),” said club president Howard Frank, 61, a Skokie resident. “For a lot of folks, it becomes a social life.”

The club organizes between six and eight rides every week, with regular rides scheduled every day except Monday and Friday. Rides vary in distance between 20 and 200 miles and riders can choose a speed between 10 and 20 miles per hour. Almost all rides include a stop for food.

The 400 club members hail from all over the North Shore because Evanston’s club is one of the most active cycling groups in the area, Frank said.

Although the social aspects are important in influencing people to ride with the group, most riders said exercise was the most important reason to spend their Saturday morning on a bike. Riding with the club can encourage people to push themselves harder than they would when riding alone, Frank said.

“If you go out by yourself you don’t always have the motivation,” he said.

Some rides, called “show ‘n go rides,” occur on the same day at the same time each week, allowing the riders to go as far and as fast they wish. These rides often break into a number of groups going different distances and speeds.

“I enjoy it because you don’t have to make plans,” said Glenview resident Susan Higgins, 56, who also is an assistant for Northwestern’s anthropology department. “It’s kind of addictive.”

Other rides are scheduled with particular distances, paces and destinations. Often there are multiple rides of different lengths and speeds scheduled on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Some past rides have whizzed by the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Oak Park, Ill., or visited particular Chicago neighborhoods. The club also has conducted rides on holidays, such as Halloween and Christmas, where members dressed in costume or adorned their helmets with strings of lights.

Chicago resident Steve Matuk, 55, said these types of activities are simply another part of the club’s draw.

“We ride because we enjoy it, and socialize and just have fun,” he said.