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'Take life by the handlebars'

The Portland Wheelmen Touring Club lives up to its motto as it promotes the sociability of cycling


by: PHOTO: JIM CLARK/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - A recent Friday morning ride took  members of the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club through North and Northeast Portland  via Marine Drive. The route ran 25 to 30 miles.Even by the standards of bicycle-friendly Portland, Doug Beliel of Gresham might be something of a pioneer on two wheels. Back in 1968, Beliel started commuting by bike from his home to his job as a Boeing machinist — about 4 miles, he figures.

He started riding, he says, because of his wife. “It was her birthday, and I bought her a bike. Then I went back to Sears and got one for myself. The first year I rode to work on nice days, and the next year I bought rain gear,” he says.

Beliel is now 79 and still riding, these days as a member of the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club, which he joined in 1983. Founded in 1971, the nonprofit organization promotes cycling and its social aspects, offering up to two dozen recreational rides every week and hosting a few yearly cycling events. The club has more than 500 members and welcomes riders of all abilities.

by:  PHOTO: JIM CLARK/PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Doug Beliel started bicycling in 1968, when he commuted to and from his job at Boeing. Now 79, he is still riding as a member of the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club.Beliel is one of the regulars at the weekly club ride known as the “Friday Morning Quickie,” a 20-to-40-mile jaunt through North Portland (sometimes the route goes to Troutdale. Corbett or Vancouver). On nice days these rides draw maybe 15 to 20 riders, if not more.

It’s a friendly bunch that includes Dick Fairbank, 65, of North Portland, who’s been biking since 1974 and, like Beliel, commuted by bike for years. “My wife and I have 10 bikes and no children,” Fairbank says, laughing.

There’s also Doug Weber of Carver, who rode the 15 miles from his home to the group’s meeting place not far from Parkrose High School. At 70, Weber has logged 200,000 with the club since joining in 1992; he often rides five days a week.

And John Joy, 69, of Scappoose, a retired truck driver who rode 28 miles to the Friday morning ride rendezvous. “Then I do the ride and then I ride home,” says Joy, who owns about 25 bicycles.

The Portland Wheelmen’s motto — “Take life by the handlebars” — says it all, club member Eileen Holzman believes.

“Within the cycling community there are so many interesting people who come from different professions. It’s a friendly, supportive group of people who want to be healthy and get enjoyment from riding bikes,” says Holzman, 69, who joined seven years ago after retiring from teaching art in New Jersey public schools.

Holzman was a bike racer in her 40s and started competing in triathlons at age 50. She says cycling is more relaxing now, especially on rides led by club member Bud Rice. “I enjoy his rides where we camp and then do rides in different areas from the camp sites,” says Holzman who bikes about 4,000 miles every year.

Nyna Payne of West Linn had been bicycling about five years before she joined the Portland Wheelmen in 2005. “They fix flats in five minutes,” she says with a smile. “They’re very friendly and eager to help and will slow down for you.”

New to riding?

New bike riders as well as people who haven’t ridden a bike for a while are invited to join the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club on one of its “Meet PWTC or Back in the Saddle Again” rides led by club president Ann Morrow. There’s also a series of “Welcome to PWTC” rides offered from June through September for less experienced (not novice) riders. These are group rides, Morrow says: “We stay together, we don’t leave anybody behind.”

Morrow, 59, of Vancouver, Wash., joined the Portland Wheelmen in 1992. “Like a lot of people I rode a bike as a kid, and then you wanted to do the car thing, and then I had a family.” Later she and her husband got back into cycling.

“I enjoy riding by myself, and it’s fun and it’s good for me, but it’s always the same. The club gets me out to a lot of different areas,” she says, noting the club is planning rides this summer in the San Juan Islands and Idaho, and she is leading one in Central Oregon in September. “You really branch out.”

Join the club

Membership in the Portland Wheelmen costs $25 for one year (family memberships same price) or $45 for two years.

Contact

Address:

Portland Wheelmen Touring Club,

P.O. Box 2972

Portland,

97208-2972

Info hotline:

503-666-5796

Website:

www.pwtc.com

(send email through the website)