Bicycle enthusiasts will descend on Calhoun County this weekend for a 100-mile ride, but for some local residents a long two-wheel cruise is a regular thing.
Every Tuesday, dozens of local cyclists gather in Golden Springs for what’s known as the Pizza Ride, an informal excursion of between 10 and 30 miles into the countryside. Some participants in this week’s ride said they’re preparing for this weekend’s Cheaha Challenge. Others are still undecided.
“I’m still on the fence,” said Bethany Davidson, a Birmingham resident who was in Tuesday’s ride. “I’m supposed to get married in a couple of weeks, so it depends on how much I get done this weekend. It’s also supposed to rain, so I’m kind of waiting to see.”
The Pizza Ride is an event that brings riders together from all over Calhoun County. The riders meet Tuesday evening at Golden Springs Baptist Church with their gear, ready to ride. Afterward, members meet at Mellow Mushroom in Oxford for the tasty treat that gives the ride its name.
“A lot of people here train for the Cheaha Challenge. But a lot of them may only do a section,” said Tom Nelson, president of the Northeast Alabama Bicycling Association, which sponsors both the challenge and the Pizza Ride.
Davidson said a lot of the members weren’t in attendance this week because the Cheaha Challenge is on Sunday.
The Pizza Ride group started seven years ago and is still going strong. Nelson said it averages about 30 people a week and gets up to 60 participants on some days.
“Anyone can ride,” he said. “Sometimes when people are in town visiting they’ll come ride with us.”
There are three levels for riders to choose from. The A level is for the competitive riders. Levels B and C are for non-competitors, joyriders and beginners.
Riders say they joined the Pizza Ride community for different reasons. Many of the members said they partake because riding for them is a hobby. Davidson comes to Anniston to ride every chance she gets. She joined the club while living in Anniston because she found it interesting and wanted to meet other riders.
“I saw a flier and thought it would be a fun thing to try and meet people to ride with,” she said. “It’s a lot safer to ride with a group than with yourself, especially if you want to ride on the road.”
Others use the Pizza Ride as a training method.
Keith Wyatt and his daughter Madison Wyatt said they won’t participate in the challenge this weekend because of a relative’s graduation.
Madison is on the Cheaha Composite mountain biking team and the main reason she does the Pizza Ride is to train and stay in shape.
“I do it to keep the cadence up,” she said. “Road biking helps a lot with how fast you’d go because you’re going like a longer speed and in mountain biking you’re going at a shorter speed, but you need to keep your cadence up.”
Pizza ride is not just about getting in a joy ride and food after. The members consider each other as family.
Landon Cartwright, Auburn graduate said he’s been doing pizza ride for about eight weeks. He said everyone in the organization is friendly and very welcoming. Cartwright has gone to the pizzeria every Tuesday that he’s been there.
“We have a good time. It’s like going out to eat with your friends,” Cartwright said. “We’re like a family here.”