Ann Crowe took up bicycling while living in Washington, D.C., where an extensive network of cycling paths made commuting by bike a convenient way to incorporate exercise into her daily routine. Ann moved to St. Louis to be closer to family and to pursue work in engineering. After deciding to make a career change, Ann began volunteering at Trailnet rides and fundraising events while completing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Her volunteer activities allow her to “meet many new people and see different parts of the city and surrounding areas,” she says.
Ann’s volunteer experience introduced her to a “warm and welcoming community,” and she believes that a “shared love of biking provides common ground” for people that participate in Trailnet events. Ann’s husband Vance now joins her on many of the weekend rides, which she credits with giving him “the same confidence and passion for cycling and health” that is so important to her.
As a physical therapist, Ann understands the critical importance of regular exercise for maintaining health and recovering from injury. She notes the abundance of research supporting the positive impact of exercise on mood and overall health, and sees evidence of these effects at Trailnet events. “It only takes a morning at a Trailnet ride to see this come to life in the laughter, support and friendships created through group exercise,” she says.
Even with many years of experience as a bike commuter and recreational cyclist, Ann is aware that for many people concerns about safety may mean that they don’t bike or walk if no specific infrastructure exists. She is committed to building a community where more people have access to the benefits of active transportation. “Having a network of safe and connected bikeways and sidewalks will make biking and walking easier and available to more people,” she says. She also predicts that “as more people use the bikeways and sidewalks, they will feel personally invested in supporting the growth of this network.”
In addition to volunteering time to Trailnet, Ann and Vance are Trailnet Peloton members, providing financial support for the protected bikeway vision. They strongly believe in “dedicating personal efforts and resources to build infrastructure that empowers communities.”
Ann and Vance also feel that positive change will come to St. Louis only if individuals take the initiative. “Whatever challenges we face, the best way to identify problems and solutions is to get personally involved, seeing the community by biking on the roads and paths, meeting our neighbors, visiting and supporting local businesses. Trailnet gives us the opportunity to come together as individuals and make our city healthier and more interesting, with access and opportunity for everyone to enjoy a more active lifestyle.”
If you’ve ever been on a Bicycle Fun Club ride, you have probably been a recipient of Andy Mayberry’s generosity. If you have ever had a beer at a Trailnet event, you have definitely been on the receiving end of this equation. At the annual chili party five years ago, Andy noticed that we were serving beer with a hand-pumped keg. At the time, he worked for Grey Eagle Distributing and pulled equipment out of his truck to pressurize our keg and install a tap. He has been a valued member of the Trailnet family ever since, helping out in numerous ways at rides and other events.
Andy has been an avid bicyclist ever since buying a used Schwinn Continental at Goodwill while in junior high. He first rode the length of the Katy Trail in 2005 and now rides with a group called the Landsharks, that includes local friends and cyclists that come from other states to enjoy the country’s longest continuous rail-trail. To date, he has ridden the Katy Trail twenty-one times, and has also ridden with the group in Nebraska, Illinois, and along the shores of Lake Superior. “It’s the journey, not the destination…the people you meet and the sights you see,” he says.
Andy also participates in numerous fundraising events, and initially joined Trailnet to train with the BFC for his long-distance charity rides. “You get into riding because you like to ride and then you find a higher purpose with the charities,” Andy explains.
One of Andy’s favorite causes is The Delta Gamma Center for Children with Visual Impairments. As a volunteer, Andy rides a tandem with a visually-impaired child so that they can experience the freedom and joy of bicycling. “They just want to be normal kids and get out on a bike, and that is something I can help with,” he says with a smile.
Andy has helped to raise money for a variety of health-related causes by participating in numerous fundraising rides, including the Tour de Cure and Bike MS. “I’m never going to be the fastest, the strongest, or biggest fundraiser,” he says, “but I can give of myself and my time.” He also encourages drivers to be courteous to cyclists who “may be out there training for a charity ride that will help someone that the driver knows.”
A ride that has particular significance for Andy is Pedal the Cause, which raises money for cancer research and support of individuals with cancer and their caregivers. Andy has beaten cancer twice himself and refers to people with cancer as “fighters, not patients.” He rides to “let them know that there are a lot of people out here who have beaten it and offer support.”
In 2015, Andy provided support for an 8-man racing crew in the Tour Across America. The cycling team won the race from Ocean Side, California to Annapolis, Maryland. They rode over 3000 miles in 5 days, 21 hours, and 58 minutes, raising $600,000 for the Fallen Heroes Fund.
“Once you ride, you get it. You can’t explain it to someone who doesn’t ride. For the time that you’re on the bike, you can put all that other stuff behind you.”
Andy has taken on many tasks to help Trailnet, including painting road markings for rides, driving SAG vehicles, and leading group rides. “As a group leader, you’re sometimes with people who haven’t ridden a bike in twenty years. You get to take them from zero to completing twenty plus miles,” he says.
The many ways that Andy Mayberry helps Trailnet have sometimes meant that he spends less time on a bike himself. “The more I’ve gotten involved, the more I am not on the bike,” he explains. “The satisfaction I get is to see the smiles on peoples’ faces when they come in, and I don’t care if the people know what I do at all.”
If you look up the word “sag” in Webster’s dictionary, you will find this definition: “to hang down in the middle especially because of weight or weakness.” That definition might apply to some bicyclists, but for most, the word is an acronym for Support And Gear. Trailnet can thank Stewart Drolet for providing some of our most reliable and versatile SAG services.
His work with Trailnet is not the first time that Stewart has taken his mechanical skills on the road. After owning a bike shop in his hometown of O’Fallon, Illinois from 1994 through 2004, he started a traveling bike repair service, working out of a 16-foot step van. He describes one of his successful forays into mobile bike repair:
“I got together with a guy in St. Louis who put the word out to all of the tenants in his apartment building – I worked on the bikes all day and when people got home, their bikes were ready to go,” Stewart said. “I really liked that but eventually the truck died.”
In his current job, Stewart works on airplanes instead of bikes, but he continues to get his bike “fix” through his work as a Bicycle Fun Club SAG driver.
“I really enjoy all of the people, I like being outside and I love fixing things,” Stuart said. “I like being able to see something that’s broken work again. We get a lot of people that are doing 100 miles for the first time because they have the support. Lots of these folks just wouldn’t feel confident doing it on their own.”
Many bicyclists that participate in these rides may not realize the commitment of time and energy given by the SAG drivers. “I usually leave the house by 5 a.m. to start putting water out so it’s ready for the early riders,” Stewart said. “I bring my own tools and repair stand. Between doing repairs, moving supplies around, and picking up riders, you keep really busy all day. Even though SAG support usually ends at 3 p.m., you still have to collect everything, so you may not finish until six in the evening.”
The repairs Stewart makes range from airing up tires, to adjusting brakes and derailleurs. His most complicated fix was completely rebuilding a rider’s wheel that had become “untensioned” within a few miles of the start. His most frequent task is fixing flat tires.
“I had a group come in who had three flats on the same tire between downtown and the Chain of Rocks Bridge,” he said. “When I checked it out, I found a wire stuck in the tire. They were surprised that they kept getting flats with such a ‘small hole.’”
In addition to his mechanical expertise, Stewart uses his skills as a photographer to benefit Trailnet. He frequently volunteers his time taking photos at Trailnet events, and occasionally takes photos on the rides. Stewart also does his part to spread the word about Trailnet on the Illinois side of the river. He lets his friends and co-workers know about Trailnet events and encourages them to go on the rides.
As for himself, Stewart said he has too many work and family obligations to bike these days. But he remembers always being into bikes, and introduced his daughter to biking when she was an infant.
“When I had the bicycle shop, my daughter came to work with me,” he said. “I would pull her to work in my bike trailer and take her on any errands that I had.”
Stewart believes that encouraging more kids to bicycle should be a focus for Trailnet. He was pleased to hear that Trailnet has “Bike Weeks” planned at three area schools this fall: two in Kirkwood and one in south St. Louis. Stewart said he’s happy his daughter still rides a bicycle and hopes that Trailnet will be able to “teach more kids about bike safety and give them opportunities to ride – do outreach to more schools and maybe even provide loaner bikes. If kids got a chance to ride, maybe they would ask for a bike for Christmas instead of a video game.”
Big Muddy Blues Festival Bike Valet
Celebrate Labor Day weekend by listening to great music and making it easy for people to ride their bikes to the Big Muddy Blues Festival. This year’s festival will be even bigger and better, and we’ll be providing free bike valet for all of the cool people who will be biking to the Landing.
Sign up here to volunteer on Saturday, Sept. 3. Volunteers receive a FREE PASS to the festival (Saturday only).
Plan on riding your bike? We’ll meet at Big Daddy’s in Soulard for a “slow roll” down to Laclede’s Landing. Click here for info.
Dean Wette enjoys challenging himself by setting personal goals. When he got into bicycling three years ago, he wanted to maximize the number of miles he put in the saddle. Averaging 150 to 200 miles per week, he has bicycled more than 6,000 miles each year. He rode 15 centuries in 2015, some of them on Trailnet BFC and nonprofit partner rides, qualifying Dean as a Trailnet Century Club member.
Riding 15 centuries in a year is an accomplishment he shares with several of his friends, demonstrating the physical challenge involved as well as the camaraderie he enjoys in cycling. Although he loves the social aspects of bicycling, Dean found himself riding solo a couple of years ago, noting, “I wanted to see if I could ride a hundred miles in all sub-freezing temperatures. I got 70 miles in at 24 degrees, but then the roads got so slick from snow that I had to stop.”
So what could be so great about being on a bike that Dean braves frigid temperatures and spends so many hours rolling on two wheels?
Climbing in Augusta during Big Shark’s 2016 Vino Fondo Mondo ride. Photo: Kim Morris, kimmorris.com
“It’s just fun!” he said. “You never really know where you live until you get on a bike. You can explore the entire metropolitan area. There’s just no way to really experience things if you’re in a car, and if you are a runner or walker, you just can’t cover the miles that you can on a bike.”
Most of the miles Dean rides are for recreation, although he did participate in Bike to Work Day this year, completing a 40-mile round trip commute. He and his wife do almost all of the Trailnet BFC rides every year.
“They bring cyclists of all capabilities together,” Dean said of Trailnet’s events, adding, “It shows them that there is a real community that they can belong to.”
In addition to his participation in the BFC rides, Dean is a strong supporter of Trailnet’s Advocacy work.
“Trailnet has done a lot to make St. Louis safer for bicyclists,” he said.
Going forward, Dean believes Trailnet’s most important contributions will be to educate drivers and bicyclists about safely sharing the road. Although he appreciates efforts to increase the number of bike lanes in the region, he believes these infrastructure changes should be met with education and maintenance.
“If a bike lane has bad pavement or a lot of debris, I won’t use it,” he said. “So the drivers get confused when they see a bike lane and I’m not in it. And ‘sharrows’ are even worse – drivers don’t know what they mean. All of this should be covered in driver’s ed and questions should be included on the driver’s test.”
Because issues sometimes come up with drivers and even with law enforcement, Dean carries Trailnet’s “Missouri Bicycle Law” cards with him when he rides.
“Sometimes drivers will tell me that I should be on the sidewalk, so I have the card to show them that that is not only unsafe, but also illegal,” he said.
Dean also sees bicyclists doing things that compromise safety:
“I still see cyclists riding in the wrong direction, on sidewalks, or desperately hugging the white line on streets when there isn’t enough room for cars to pass safely—in which case the cyclist should be taking the full lane,” Dean said. “I see a lot of bicycle commuters riding as if they’re just unwelcome guests on the road. I see it differently: I’m not blocking traffic, I am traffic!”
For this year, Dean will be seeking out routes with lots of hills. His current goal is to become a better climber. His abilities will be put to the test at the end of July, when he and his wife travel to Colorado to ride in the mountains with Dean’s brother. Dean credits bicycling for greatly improving his own health and is also amazed at the benefits of cycling for his brother, who has Parkinson’s disease.
“When I got back into riding three years ago, I had a diagnosis of pre-diabetes and pre-hypertension,” Dean said. “I wanted to get healthy without medication. It worked. I now have great blood pressure and my blood sugar dropped down to ideal levels. Cycling also nearly eliminated my chronic lower back pain, got me off medication for high cholesterol and helped get my allergies under control, not to mention reducing stress in my life. For my brother, bicycling has really helped to control his symptoms, and has allowed him to live a more normal life.”
On many Saturday mornings, Matt LaBerta loads his bike trailer with tools, tubes, a pump and his two sons to provide support for Trailnet’s Community rides. Matt has been helping our riders for five years and looks forward to each new ride season.
“The community rides are just fun,” Matt said. “Some of the stops that we make are places that I would have never thought to explore on my own. I bring the kids partly out of necessity, but mostly to expose them to these neat things about St. Louis. It shows them a whole other world and culture. Plus, it’s cool for them to see what I do.”
Matt has used his bicycle for transportation all of his life, often in places where pedaling to get where you need to go is a real challenge. Before his sons were born, Matt spent eight months living in a tent located 14,000 feet above sea level in the mountains of Colorado. He worked as a mechanic at a bike shop 9,000 feet below his campsite. “It took me seven minutes to get to work and forty-five minutes to get home.”
Although Matt prefers using a bike to get around, he does own a car and has been driving for a few years now.
“I took driver’s ed when I was thirty,” he said. “I got engaged and got my driver’s license in the same week. None of my friends were surprised that I had popped the question, but they were really shocked that I had gotten a driver’s license.”
As a bike commuter, Matt feels one of the most important roles Trailnet plays in the community is “getting people together and providing opportunities for cyclists, walkers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.” He added, “The encouragement that Trailnet provides is really important for making St. Louis a safer environment for cyclists. Drivers in St. Louis are finally getting used to having bikes on the road – lots of people ride year-round now, and it makes it better for everyone.”
In spite of these improvements, he also believes Trailnet has a lot of work to do in educating drivers, bicyclists and law enforcement.
“All of the new bike lanes and signage in town are great, but if cyclists and drivers don’t know how to use them safely, it pushes us all farther apart instead of bringing us together,” Matt said. “Cyclists know the laws because a lot of them have learned them the hard way. How to deal with pedestrians and bicycles should be a part of driver’s education and the driving test.”
One specific risk that Matt feels needs urgent attention is the use of cell phones by drivers. “I’ve been in situations where a whole line of cars aren’t paying attention to a traffic signal because they are all texting on their phones,” he said. “It’s really scary. Like a lot of different problems that we face, education and looking out for each other are the keys.”
Matt’s passion for bicycling and bike mechanics began when he was his son’s age. He had a series of bicycles growing up and routinely took the bikes apart, “spreading all of the parts across the driveway.” He got into welding 15 years ago and began creating sculptures, gates, fences, and interior metalwork for residential and commercial clients. His interest in welding meshed with his love of bicycles when he took a frame-building course in Oregon 10 years ago. At his bike shop in Soulard, Matt provides a range of services, including production of hand-built bike frames.
“I start by taking biometric measurements of my client, make a two-dimensional full-scale drawing of the frame, and then cut and file all of the tubing by hand.”
Visiting Laberta and Sons Cycles on a Saturday afternoon is a little like seeing all of those bike parts spread out on his family driveway – frames at various stages of completion, components, accessories, and tools. If visitors are lucky, they’ll also get a chance to talk with Mason and Mylo, the “Sons” of LaBerta and Sons. When asked about how they like working the community rides with their Dad, the boys had ready answers:
Mason “likes going down hills and having donut breaks.” Mylo likes “the Art Museum and helping Dad fix flat tires.” Matt reports that the boys often recognize people from past rides who they have helped and ask them if their bikes are ok.
Community riders will no longer be treated to the sight of the two young LaBertas sharing their Dad’s bike trailer. Now six years old, Mason will be riding his own bike, and Mylo, five, will be traveling solo in the trailer. Mason is looking forward to being on his own bike and “racing all of the people.” Mylo said he “won’t miss Mason because Dad puts toys in the trailer for me.”
If the Gateway Arch forms the contemporary pillars of the front porch of our region, then the Katy Trail is a meandering path through our backyard. In the city, cultural institutions and historical sites are a short walk from home. On the Katy Trail, you can set out for an afternoon and bike through woodlands and meadows, past the bluffs of the Missouri River.
The Katy Land Trust and Trailnet have formed a partnership to highlight attractions in the area accessible by active transportation. The organizations will collaborate to connect the region and to highlight the area’s natural and cultural treasures. Join us on Saturday, July 16 to celebrate this new partnership as we Ride the Katy from Defiance to the newly-renovated Peers Store, where riders can enjoy live music and refreshments.
“The CityArchRiver project reminds us that St. Louis is the door that opened to the west,” says Dan Burkhardt, author and founder of the Katy Land Trust. “Many who focus on the rejuvenated Arch already have an interest in river-related activities. This ride will be a prime time to showcase our other ‘just around the river’s bend’ attractions: trails, rivers, parks, farms and forests that are closer than most visitors realize. The variety of natural and scenic wonders surrounding St. Louis is truly remarkable and they distinguish our region from many other cities.”
Experience Missouri’s spectacular countryside and meet the directors of Trailnet and the Katy Land Trust who will be on hand to discuss this exciting partnership.
For details about the ride and to register online, click here.
For ten years, Harold Karabell has led bicycle tours that highlight St. Louis’ unique neighborhoods and interesting inhabitants, both living and deceased. Riders on his tours have pedaled their way through Calvary and Bellefontaine cemeteries, LaSalle Park and Soulard, Old North and “North of Old North” (Hyde Park, College Hill, and O’Fallon Park), exploring the history and architecture of these fascinating parts of St. Louis. He recently led Trailnet’s Literary Tour, winding through the Central West End, Academy, and Fountain Park neighborhoods, regaling riders with the life stories of local writers such as Tennessee Williams, T.S. Eliot, and Kate Chopin while reading selections from their works. Of all of the tours that he leads, Harold lists the cemetery and literary tours as the most popular, though he himself plays no favorites.
“People seem truly fascinated by well-known authors and tombstones,” Harold says.
Harold is also a dedicated bike commuter, using his bicycle as his principal mode of transportation, a lifestyle that he concedes is a relatively new phenomenon.
“Forty-five years ago, I didn’t know a single adult bicycle commuter,” Harold says. “You would see children on bikes using them for fun and recreation, but seeing an adult bike commuter was even more unusual than dining with a vegan. My wife and I used our bikes much of the time when we became parents and were able to serve as a model of alternative transportation for the next generation. Now bikes are accepted as a legitimate and even preferred form of transportation for increasing numbers of people. We’re not marginal any longer, we’re almost mainstream.”
Harold believes that this shift came about in part because of people’s concerns about our energy dependence and related environmental issues, such as global warming.
“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by some of the big environmental problems that we face. Riding a bicycle is the single most important thing that an individual can do to make a real contribution and feel good about yourself.”
A long-time resident of the Central West End, Harold feels fortunate to live in a “self-sufficient and sustainable neighborhood.” He describes St. Louis City as “a bike commuter’s paradise – it’s very easy for an educated cyclist to get anywhere they need to go in the city.”
Harold also sees Trailnet as an important agent for change in transportation habits.
“As the pre-eminent bicycle enthusiasm organization in the region, Trailnet builds a constituency of bicyclists and pedestrians and helps move alternative forms of transportation from the margins to the mainstream,” he says.
Going forward, Harold believes Trailnet’s most important focus should be education.
“One can learn, as I have, to ride safely and successfully anywhere in the absence of separate infrastructure, simply by taking one’s place on the road as part of the normal flow of traffic,” Harold said. “Nonetheless, we’re seeing more and better infrastructure each year. The best local example is the City’s protected bike lane on Chestnut Street, a considerable step forward compared to St. Louis’ older door-zone bike lanes. But even the best-designed infrastructure contains not-so-obvious dangers and won’t automatically prevent conflicts between bicyclists and other users of the road. Cyclists need to educate ourselves not to run red lights, not to ride in the door zone, not to be victims of the ‘right hook’ at an intersection, not to be nighttime ninjas, and not to ignore the risks inherent in riding even in state-of-the-art separate facilities.”
Whether commuters or recreational riders, people have many reasons for riding a bike – they might do so to lose weight, to save money at the gas pump, or to do their part for the environment. Harold agrees with his long-time friend Paul McFarlane from the former St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation (which became part of Trailnet in 2011), who sums it up this way: “The bicycle is the answer to every question.”
For Harold, the most important motivation for riding a bicycle is that it’s simply the most pleasurable way to travel.
“If it weren’t just joyful to get on a bike, most of us wouldn’t do it in the first place,” he says. “Being on a bike opens up the sights and sounds of the city in a way that no other vehicle can. Not being confined inside a car allows you to see your neighborhood in a new and exciting way, to hear the birds, to discover that very large part of the world that remains unknown and unknowable when speeding along in a car.”
In that spirit, Harold says, “Nothing makes me happier than to be on my bike heading toward a dinner date with a good veggie burger. Forty-five years ago, who would have imagined that such a thing would be possible for so many of us on an everyday basis?”
Help to put the FUN in our Bicycle Fun Club rides!
These rides, which take place throughout the region, typically draw hundreds of riders. We need help from lots of volunteers so that everything runs smoothly. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities, including:
Group Ride Leader
Rest Stop Help
On regularly priced rides, BFC volunteers ride free at the close of registration and receive a voucher for another regularly priced BFC ride of their choice.
Pick a ride and sign up here – and THANKS for helping!
Century Club 2016
The 2015 ride season was the first year for Trailnet’s Century Club. Riders that completed five centuries on Trailnet BFC and/or partner rides earned a Century Club patch and recognition on our website. Last year, ten riders pedaled through this daunting feat, one of whom completed nine out of the ten eligible centuries!
For 2016 we challenge our riders to more than double the size of the Century Club – be one of the riders who helps us reach our goal of 25 members! Eligible events include the Ride the Rivers Century, other BFC rides that include century options, or any of our partner fundraising events that include a century ride.
It’s easy to “join” the club. For each ride, the online registration page includes a check box to participate in the century. If you are riding for one of our partner fundraising rides, let them know you are participating in Trailnet’s Century Club.
As the season goes on, we will keep you updated on the list of riders pedaling their way to their 500 mile goal!