If you’ve ever noticed a group of kids on bikes at the bottom of Renwick Road or heading out of IHS onto Cayuga Street, chances are you got to witness Cycling Club in action.
The IHS Cycling Club started about four years ago with Ben Stewart ’15, Anna Sylvester ’16, and Toby Brisson ’18. Club advisor Armin Heurich, one of IHS’s librarians, explained, “We owe a great amount of thanks to Ben Stewart’s dad, Gary Stewart, who was unrelenting in his pursuit of the formation of a cycling club. When my kids were old enough I decided I could take on the responsibility. It started off really small and then we quickly added a few members—we were about five or six people strong for our first two years. The goal of the club was never about competition or racing, but about developing a lifelong love of cycling. That’s the birth of it. We made some mistakes the first two years of trying to use the new gym to work out when the cycling season was over, but in the last two years we have chosen instead to switch to hiking and cross-country skiing in the offseason.” Currently, Cycling Club has nine members, but that number is constantly in flux as many join only after fall sports have finished. The club welcomes new members at any time because flexibility is important to the team. As Heurich sums up, “The growth of the club has been organic.”
Heurich helps the club become better cyclists and a more tightly knit community. Some who joined Cycling Club last year were completely new to road cycling and had never been up a major hill. After less than a year, we completed a 100-mile bike ride with almost 4000 feet of elevation around Cayuga Lake. This is a testament to Heurich and his skill in working with the club.
When asked about his first ride with Cycling Club, one of the new members, Tom Hohn ’19, remarked, “It was fabulous. Nice riding in a group and having people of different skillsets working together to get up a hill.” This is what is emphasized in the club. People of all different abilities come together, learn more about cycling, and develop a love for the sport. For many, this has translated into getting involved in the greater cycling community in the Ithaca area through the Finger Lakes Cycling Club (FLCC).
Three other club members competed in the Hollenbeck’s race in April, and several are planning on participating in the upcoming Cascadilla Hill Climb. The club is also involved in and volunteering at events through the FLCC, such as the opening ceremony for the Black Diamond Trail on October 2 at Cass Park. This works both ways, as Heurich remarked: “Groups like the FLCC gain a greater appreciation for recruiting young people to participate in regional cycling activities. Parents have been amazingly supportive of Cycling Club as well, which is critical because without them it just couldn’t happen—from snacks to buying kids appropriate accessories to supporting their need to ride non-weekends. They are greatly appreciated for all their support, because this is a one-of-a-kind club in our school because we meet on the road and in the fields.”
Cycling Club’s main challenge last spring was preparing for the AIDS Ride for Life. Many members committed to the goal in the spring, and they began fundraising by starting a bike repair workshop after school on Thursdays with the help of Elliot Richards ’17. Anyone who was free would stay after school to work on bikes sent in by IHS staff and family members for a flat fee of $10. The group raised around $300 this way. For the Ride, the group banded together as a community to complete the challenge, raising $1,897 for the Southern Tier AIDS program through a lot of hard work and dedication. To train, the group would ride through resources like Strava (social media for athletes—the club members love it). The members plan rides and hill challenges together to train as a team.
Speaking from personal experience, Cycling Club has been one of my favorite things in my time so far at IHS. I started doing the women’s Wednesday night rides in the spring and loved them because they were a great way to carve more time out of my schedule and meet other riders. I took a big leap by deciding to join—I was scared, I had no idea how to road bike, and I didn’t know who else would be joining—but it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I have gained a lifelong love of the sport, a gateway into a large, relatively unknown part of the Ithaca community, and a greater appreciation for the area I moved to. I now understand the Ithaca area and have a community I love and feel supported by. As Heurich said, “Tuesdays are my favorite days of the week.”