The Cycle Folsom bicycle club has exploded onto the local outdoor and fitness scene, and its members are seemingly everywhere, decked out in matching jerseys and shorts. Club members in total purchase about $18,000 worth of custom Voler brand bike clothing every six months.
The success stories are practically as expansive as the club’s 500-plus roster. Chris Mumma went from a 300-pounder on a collision course with diabetes to a svelte 155-pound athlete who cranked out 14 centuries – 100-mile rides – in 2015. Aaron Terrazas, 42, slimmed down from 205 to 167 pounds in two years and has gone from novice to dedicated athlete who plans to start racing in 2016.
And not so long ago, graduate student Linda Rushing, a busy mother of two, couldn’t imagine pedaling nonstop up Folsom’s “Costco Hill,” a moderately challenging climb on Iron Point Road. In October, she completed her first century.
“I felt great. I didn’t have any issues at all,” she said of the Foxy’s Fall Century in Davis. “It was a lot of fun for me and it gave me a great sense of accomplishment.”
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By all accounts, what distinguishes Cycle Folsom from typical recreational bicycle clubs is its unabashed and infectious emphasis on performance without turning off those with no interest in becoming a hardcore “roadie.”
Many members of Cycle Folsom had little notion of what it took to be safe and successful riders when they joined the fast-growing and meticulously organized club. How to draft and save energy in a paceline. How to point out debris and road hazards for others to avoid. How to patch and change a flat tire. Why it’s a no-no to overlap the wheel of the rider in front of you.
Moreover, members say they learned to improve their fitness by being consistent with their training, riding at least three times a week and tackling progressively harder and longer routes. And they say that being part of a group often motivated them to get out their bikes and ride because they knew others were there waiting for them.
With a mix of competitive spirit and camaraderie, they’re pushing themselves and fellow members to greater heights.
“It’s a big community of riders. Everybody is trying to get better, get healthy and have a good time,” Terrazas said.
Kim Hong, 48, decided to join the club almost immediately after witnessing a group of Cycle Folsom members whisk by her with apparent ease.
“I was going about 15 mph and they went by so smooth and fast,” she recalled. “I said, ‘Wow! How can they go that fast? I want to ride like that.’ ”
That was in 2014. Cycle Folsom organizes its rides into skill levels – “Gruppetto” for beginners, “Peloton” for more skilled and fit cyclists, and “Performance” for those among the fittest and fastest endurance riders in the area.
Beginning at the Gruppetto level, Hong spent the requisite 12 weeks learning the skills that she can carry with her for the rest of her cycling life.
“They make you a safer rider, not just for your sake but for everyone around you,” she said. “It’s a great way to put more informed riders out on the road.”
Now riding with the Peloton group and equipped with a near pro-level Cervelo S3 road bike with pricey carbon race wheels, Hong routinely rides 25 miles on weekdays and 40- to 60-mile routes on weekend excursions.
Though it’s not a race team, Cycle Folsom members proudly fly the club colors on rides. Given the explosive growth in membership the past few years, it has become the most conspicuous road bike club in the region.
Much of the group’s success lies in guiding cyclists to the ride group that matches their skill level. Members tend to encourage each other and form fast friendships. Soon, their grueling workouts become a focal point of how they socialize.
“I really think it’s the people,” said Rob Pucci, who joined Cycle Folsom with his wife, Burga, as a beginner and these days completes a century every month as part of his training.
“When I started, doing 25 miles seemed so long,” Burga said. “We had been doing 12-mile rides around Elk Grove. It’s pretty incredible to people who don’t bike when I tell them I’m doing a 100-mile bike ride. It’s definitely amazing that you start at a really low level and build up.”
Even for the advanced riders, the club has a systematic approach to preparation that practically guarantees success. Those training for the Death Ride and some of the other extreme cycling tests sign up for the “Train for the Tour” series. Designed by member Scott Mckinney, a longtime endurance cyclist, the program begins in January and has riders complete one century per month, each more challenging that the previous one.
Members give much of the credit to Stan Schultz, a marketing specialist who joined Cycle Folsom when it was relatively small in 2009. Back then, it was run by Steve Ward, an enthusiastic cyclist who was simply looking for like-minded folks to join him on rides. Ward became known for the online catalog of turn-by-turn routes he created.
In 2010, when the group grew to more than 100 members, Ward turned it over to Schultz, who saw an opportunity to build on Ward’s foundation.
“As a marketing guy, I don’t get to play much and try different marketing techniques. This was an opportunity to try to brand this club and create an identity that people would be proud to be part of,” said Schultz, who works for an international plastic manufacturer.
Schultz created a presence on Meetup.com for ride leaders to post upcoming rides and for members to RSVP. He also understood entry-level riders and what they needed to advance. That’s why the Gruppetto level has an extensive program emphasizing the basics.
“When I first started riding with the group, I would see them post a ride online that was going to Ione – and I didn’t even know where Ione was. It turned out to be 80 miles, and I thought, ‘These people are freaking nuts,’ ” he said, laughing.
Two years ago, Schultz did the Death Ride, the 129-mile challenge in Markleeville that climbs 15,000 feet and traverses five mountain passes.
For Terrazas, who has already mapped out his goals months in advance, the Cycle Folsom experience has dramatically changed his outlook – and his appearance.
“Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I have to stop and go, ‘Wait a minute. Who is that guy?’ ” he said. “My goal is to get down to 160 and race in 2016. I’ve never done anything like this. But now I love pushing myself.”
Membership is $15 annually
Riders say consistent training at least three times a week leads to improvement.
Training plans are tailored to various skill levels, all the way up to “Train for the Tour,” a series of monthly century rides that progress in difficulty.