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Natchez Bicycle Club pedaling to a healthier life

JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Allen Richard, right, and his wife Beth, hidden, ride a tandem bike together ahead of a pack of cyclists from the Natchez Bike Club as the group rides together on the Natchez Trace Parkway early Tuesday evening.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Allen Richard, right, and his wife Beth, hidden, ride a tandem bike together ahead of a pack of cyclists from the Natchez Bike Club as the group rides together on the Natchez Trace Parkway early Tuesday evening.

NATCHEZ — Riding swiftly throughout Natchez and Adams County is a group of amateur bicyclist who just enjoy the nice scenery, the breeze in their face and, most importantly, the health benefits of cruising around the Natchez Trace Parkway.

These men and women, mostly ages 50 and up, make up the Natchez Bicycle Club.

The club meets at the National Guard Armory on Liberty Road at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, and travel different lengths on different days. They travel about 20 miles through the Parkway on Tuesday, and they take it up a notch to 60 miles or more on weekends.

Monday at 6 p.m. are beginner nights for all riders who are just getting started.

JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Members of the Natchez Bike Club move in a pack along the Natchez Trace Parkway during a group ride early Tuesday evening.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT —
Members of the Natchez Bike Club move in a pack along the Natchez Trace Parkway during a group ride early Tuesday evening.

Allen Richard, the president of the Natchez Bicycle Club, said it’s satisfying to see all of the people come out and cycle with him, and he encourages anybody to join.

He also said that cycling could help in ways other than just fitness.

“It helps a lot from a psychological aspect,” he said. “It helps with destressing you.”

Barbara O’Brien has been cycling for five years because it’s a physical challenge and it’s not hard on the knees. She also likes the relationships she has created with others.

“It’s easy on the joints and everybody looks out for everybody,” O’Brien said. “The fellowship is most important to me.”

A lot of middle aged people and seniors chose cycling for the same reason, but Richard said. Richard also said cycling is not just for older people; younger people can come and try to keep up with their elder counterparts, too.

George Marshall is one elder not to underestimate. As an 83-year-old man, he is the oldest cyclist in the club, and he cycles the more intense 60-mile routes on the weekends.

Marshall has been cycling for about 40 years and there is no sign of him slowing down.

Stan Smith, a 57-year-old cyclist, owns Stan’s Rock and Roll Bike Shop in Natchez and the Monday beginner rides start from his shop.

Smith said there are people, like Marshall, who have been cycling for decades in the club and there are those who have only been around a few months, and you can tell by their position in the huddle.

“There about 20 people who ride on Tuesday, and we put the slower people on the inside so it’s safer,” Smith said.

O’Brien agrees that with the bike club being so closely connected, there are little to no safety hazards.

“Nobody is ever left behind,” O’Brien said. “If you’re a slow rider, the fast riders always come back and check on you.”

With the long rides and the southern heat, it is mandatory that everybody looks out for each other, especially in a town like Natchez.

“Natchez is a little hilly, but it is a bikeable town,” Richard said.

Curtis Moroney is 50 years old and has been cycling in 1983, a year after the club first started in 1982. He said the club has been through a lot since it got started.

“The club has come and gone,” Moroney said. “Usually, we have a lot of people riding and then it got dormant but now we’re up and going again.”

But with 10 to 20 people showing up a night, Moroney said the club is growing and he wants to see it continue to grow.

“This club is for anybody who wants to ride,” Moroney said. “We have riders who don’t have biking gear so beginners can come out too.”

When it comes to car safety, Richard said there have not been any car accidents, and he believes that there is a good relationship between car drivers and bikers.

“We’re fortunate to where we have a good relationship with cars,” Richard said. “But in the summer in larger cities there is some animosity, but we’re fortunate to not have that problem here.”

For more information on the Natchez Bicycle Club, visit their website at www.natchezbike.org