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.”
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.”
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!
Trailnet’s St. Charles County Epic Mountain Bike Event – January 17, 2015
While the conditions for single track riding in Lost Valley and Klondike Park were too spongy, the Hamburg and Katy Trails utilizing the Great Rivers Greenway connector were almost ideal. For mid-January, the weather seemed more like spring. The day started out in the low 40s with bright sunshine. Our partner, Missouri Department of Conservation, hosted the start/finish at the Weldon Spring Conservation Area maintenance facility near Highway 94.
At 9:00 a.m., 60 cyclists were ready to roll and begin their 14-mile loop. With temperatures unseasonably warm, the frozen ground thawed and was slightly soggy. Though soggy, the two trails served as great routes for a pleasant ride. Cyclists returned smiling and slightly speckled with white limestone mud. After resting briefly and getting some nourishment, cyclists who made the loop in less than 2 hours jumped back on for another go-around.
While the cyclists were out, Trailnet’s new Executive Director, Ralph Pfremmer, prepared chili for the after-party. Ralph was also the day’s announcer, calling out some of the faster or muddier cyclists. By noon most of the cyclists had returned from one, two, or three laps of the course and were ready for chili with all the fixings.
They were also treated to cold beer from O’Fallon Brewery. St. Charles County Parks, another Epic partner, prepared handmade plaques from sections of local cedar trees for all cyclists– a cool reward for finishing a fun ride! By 2:00 p.m., temperatures were in the low 60s and cyclists ended the day with their fill of food and drink at the after-party.
The day started out chilly with temperatures in the upper 30s for our final road ride of the season. The cold air reacted with the warmer river water to create some foggy conditions near the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The fog moved in after registration opened at 7:30 and lingered for another hour, seemingly clearing from the top down. The effect created some beautiful and eerie scenery.
It was a slow start Sunday morning with most cyclists opting to start after the sun was brightly shining overhead. The routes were hilly but short compared to other rides this season. The long route traversed many rolling hills, with riders visiting historic Augusta twice in their 31-mile journey. As the temperatures climbed to the 60s, the bright sun and colorful autumn leaves created a perfect fall ride.
Riders enjoyed sampling wines from Sugar Creek, Noboleis and The Yellow Farmhouse along with the host winery, Chandler Hill. By 11:00 a.m. Chandler Hill Winery was hopping with crowds of people spending a fantastic fall day at the vineyards. All 80 riders had a great time.
A real adventure! Trailnet’s Journey Across Missouri began on Monday, September 30 with a train ride from St. Louis to Kansas City. Spirits were high and the trip to Kansas City passed by quickly with a car of lively riders making acquaintances and sharing their excitement. Upon arriving in Kansas City, riders immediately got on their bikes for a short four-mile ride to the Kansas state line to mark the start of their Journey Across Missouri. Afterwards, riders cruised on a scenic ride along the Missouri River to the Monday night campsite.
The kickoff party Monday night was organized by BikeWalkKC and held at Harry’s Country Club. Delicious food and drinks were consumed as riders learned about BikeWalkKC and Kansas City.
The first day of riding was beautiful, but challenging. Riders made their way to Higginsville, a 67-mile trek with 3,000 feet in elevation change. Along the way, riders visited the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence and several Civil War sites before racking their bikes for the day. For dinner, the Higginsville Rotary Club provided a grand feast of rib-eye steak sandwiches with all the fixins’ and live entertainment. Riders set up camp in Fairground Park.
Wednesday morning started off with advancing thunderstorms. A few riders left before the rain and some waited and watched, however most everyone experienced a soggy ride. Seeking shelter from the rain, riders were treated to lunch at Arrow Rock in the historic J. Huston Tavern. Arriving in Booneville, riders looked forward to a savory dinner at Maggie’s Bar and Grill. A smoked pork barbecue buffet was served in a private upstairs dining room. The campsite that night was at Fredrick Kemper Park where the Boonslick Heartland YMCA provided hot showers. Unfortunately, the forecast predicted strong thunderstorms for Wednesday night. The YMCA graciously offered their gym for a night of unconventional camping. Many cyclists took advantage of this offer to stay dry.
Rain was an integral part of the ride on Thursday. Riders battled bouts of heavy rain on the scenic and hilly ride to Jefferson City. Campsite plans were altered due to the severe thunderstorms. Thankfully, the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation extended their multi-purpose room in the Ice Arena for riders’ use to stay dry that night. Dinner was held at Bones Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Jefferson City. It was a scrumptious meal with chicken and beef options. After dinner, riders were spooked at the famous “haunted” tour of the old Missouri State Penitentiary.
By Friday morning, a cool front had moved in and the skies were clear. Riders started with a hot breakfast at the Downtown Diner then took off for a quick ride to the historic German-settled town of Hermann. With a strong tailwind, some riders made the 50-mile ride in under three hours, arriving before noon. Dinner that night was at Stone Hill Winery. Before dinner, riders enjoyed a tour of the historic winery with some of the largest underground cellars in the nation. The fun continued after dinner with riders attending the first night of the Hermann Oktoberfest, an event that lasts all month. Settling down for the night, the campsite in Hermann was in City Park.
Saturday morning began with sunny skies and very cool temperatures due to a strong northwest wind. It was another hilly ride en route to Defiance. In Defiance, riders checked out the old railroad depot town of Mokane on the Katy Trail. They also enjoyed visiting the historic Daniel Boone Home and Heritage Center. Riders camped out at Katy Bike Rental, conveniently located on the Katy Trail. Live entertainment, great food, and good times were had at the Defiance Roadhouse Saturday night. Back at the campsite, a big bonfire created a warm and reminiscent night with riders sharing their favorite moments of the 6-day adventure.
On the final day of the ride, the wind shifted from the south bringing warmer temperatures. Many riders opted to take the Katy Trail to Page Avenue Bridge, crossing the Missouri river and avoiding the rolling hills. Arriving in St. Louis, riders rode throught quiet neighborhood side streets and admired many St. Louis sites. Trailnet hosted a rest stop at the Missouri History Museum. The ride finished at Laclede’s Landing on the Mississippi River.
An after-party at the Admiral Portico welcomed riders. To celebrate the completion of their 340-mile Journey Across Missouri, riders made their way to the river for the ceremonial dip. Friends and family joined riders for the festive after-party with music by Tim Ryan Quartet, food from Sundeckers, and beer from Morgan Street Brewery.
Sunday, August 31 started out with decent temperatures in the low 70s and beautiful blue skies. Riders were eager and ready to go by 7:10 but were held at bay until 7:25 a.m. The turnout for this Sunday City ride was stellar with nearly 400 cyclists.
Each route started cycling in different directions and featured unique rest stops. The short route began by going north into Forest Park. Cyclists then had a refreshing rest stop with cold watermelon at Turtle Playground.
The medium route cyclists first headed south and rode a bit on the River des Peres trail before stopping at Bellerive Park. At the park, cyclists admired a scenic overlook of the Mississippi while enjoying snacks provided by Pedal the Cause.
The long route traversed some of Grant’s Trail and River des Peres Trail before heading north into the City. Making a stop at the Carondelet Park YMCA, cyclists replenished with some hard-earned trail mix.
Most of the riders returned before the afternoon temperatures and humidity became too overbearing. The historic Giro della Montagna ProAm races of the Gateway Cup started in the early afternoon just half a block from our ride start. The Giro della Montagna races have been going on since 1986 and attract a large crowd and professional racers from all over the nation.