Local cycling club riding strong

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cyclists from across Hampton Roads meet weekly in Suffolk to ride long distances among friends.

The Chuckatuck Chainring meets every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at Oakland Christian Church, with weather permitting. There are approximately 130 riders on the group email list, and about 12 to 30 participate in each ride.

“It’s one of the most consistent riding groups in the Tidewater area,” said Virginia Beach resident member Frankee Love.

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The average age among these cyclists is 65, according to Western Branch resident and founding member Harold Heafner. As cyclists across the country celebrate National Bike Month this May, the Chuckatuck Chainring will continue to defy their ages and keep riding.

“This is an incredibly impressive group of people that’s more active and physical than most of the population,” Williamsburg resident Cindy Halliday said. “It kills me to hear people say they can’t do something because they’re old.”

Many of the riders are retirees from a variety of careers and from as far away as Williamsburg and the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

“It’s a unique club,” Heafner said.

The club began in 1987 with just several riders meeting at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Portsmouth.

“We called them donut rides,” Love said.

The club formally became the Chuckatuck Chainring in 1989 when it started meeting at Oakland Christian Church. Some riders are Oakland members, but the club remains independent.

Heafner said the traffic and roads are ideal at their location.

“We have the best roads in all of Tidewater to bike on,” he said. “We’re very fortunate.”

The club has a ride leader for each ride, with Lamont Poole being No. 1, Heafner said.  Virginia Beach resident Larry Walter led the ride on Tuesday as Poole recovers from a recent surgery.

Like most of their rides, they undertook approximately 50 miles starting at 9 a.m. This ride took them 25 miles to Bradshaws Country Store in Carrsville for a brief rest, then 15 miles into Windsor, then the last 10 miles back to Oakland Church.

“When you come back from a 50-mile ride, you really feel great,” Heafner said.

Larry and his wife, Becky, have been riding with the club for about 20 years. The couple began biking together after Larry injured his hip while running, and over time they got hooked.

“We progressed from beach cruisers when we started, then to hybrid bikes and then road bikes,” Larry said.

Becky said she didn’t intend to go so far with it initially, but her husband took to the club immediately.

“He took to it like a duck to water,” she said.

There are no dues in the club or formal positions. Members become regulars simply because they love to ride and they cherish the camaraderie among the riders, whether they’re seasoned veterans or beginners.

“This is the best group of people ever for biking,” Halliday said. “Everybody is unique. Everybody shows up with different abilities, and it works.”

Love was one of the founding members of the club before she stopped riding for 25 years after moving to the Blue Ridge mountains. She then moved back into the area, dusting off her bike and rejoining the club.

“I was so excited to see it was still going on when I came back,” she said.

Furthermore, she met her business partner, riding mate and boyfriend, Tommy Richardson, through the club.

“There have been a lot of couples that met here,” she said.