Our Town: AlpharettaBike club reaches out to experienced and novice riders

Ride Along

Bike Alpharetta’s group rides take off at 5:30 p.m. every Wednesday through the end of September. Meet in the parking lot of Harry’s Farmers Market, 1180 Upper Hembree Road. Maps of the bike roads can be downloaded from the group’s website, www.bikealpharetta.org. Information: 678-362-6228.

Now that the weather’s improving, the parking lot of Harry’s Farmers Market on Upper Hembree Road is going to be a lot more hectic on Wednesday nights. Along with shoppers, carts and cars, there’s also a group of helmeted cyclists rolling in for the weekly “Harry’s Not in a Hurry” ride sponsored by Bike Alpharetta.

Whether riders are complete beginners or seasoned marathoners, the Wednesday night excursion accommodates all levels, said Jackie Tyson, who leads Bike Alpharetta’s 126 members.

“So many rides cater to intermediate or experienced riders, but there are a large number of people who buy bikes, go on the [Big Creek] greenway [trail] and find it’s way too crowded, yet they’re afraid to ride on the roads,” said Tyson. “So we started a beginners’ ride that’s not about how fast you go.”

Riders start arriving around 5:15, and Tyson talks to each about their cycling abilities and comfort levels.

“We have a 20-mile route and others that are longer and shorter, so if someone is fast and experienced, we hand them the map and say, ‘Have fun!’ ” she said. “We haven’t had anyone younger than 18 show up, but if they did come, we’d modify the route for their age and ability.”

One of the main reasons the group conducts the outings is to get riders familiar with the rules of the road.

“We cross Highway 9 and wind up the Westside Parkway, and a lot of people are pleasantly surprised that we use the least-hilly route in the city,” said Tyson. “The whole time, some of our members ride alongside, providing encouragement and talking about how to ride with traffic and how to use hand signals. And we encourage people to use their bicycles for transportation as well as recreation.”

The trip isn’t only about learning good cycling guidelines, though.

“It’s very casual; people show up in shorts and tennis shoes,” said Tyson. “We’ve stopped at a fire station to get water and sung happy birthday to a rider. Sometimes at the end, Harry’s hands out bites and prizes. The whole point is to have fun.”

Though Bike Alpharetta organizes the rides, that’s not the group’s primary objective, explained Tyson.

“We do provide resources to tell riders where rides are happening around the area,” she said. “But our first mission is to provide feedback to the city on road improvements. The city has asked for our input, and usually it’s the other way around. We’re very proud of Alpharetta for consulting with us about where riders are likely to go.”

Founded in 2011, Bike Alpharetta recently became an official nonprofit, enabling it to accept donations to fund its small operating budget and its major outreach program.

“Every November, we have a bike drive and collect, clean and refurbish bikes all in one day,” said Tyson. “Last year, most of them went to the North Fulton Community Charities for their holiday gift program.”