Savannah Cupid Ride

The Last Stop Loved Cupid Ride is a police-escorted 5-mile bicycle ride through Savannah’s Historic District to raise money and awareness for Georgia Rescue, Rehabilitation, & Relocation (GRRR). GRRR is a 501(c)(3) rescue organization that serves Savannah and the surrounding counties. Their program, Last Stop Loved, finds homes and provides medical care for medically challenged senior dogs who have been abandoned or lost their owners due to unfortunate circumstances. The name Last Stop Loved represents a final place where these pups can find incredible love and caring as they spend their last days on earth. Money raised for Last Stop Loved will directly benefit GRRR’s efforts to care for these canine babies. Cupid-themed attire is encouraged! The event will feature live music, on-site delectable bites, and raffles to win prizes, including a new bike from Savannah On Wheels. Bike rentals are available for the duration of the ride.

Local Club Spotlight: Bikes and Friends

Georgia Bikes spoke with Dan Leonard from the Bikes and Friends Cycling Club. Bikes and Friends is a community of friends in Peachtree Corners, Johns Creek, Duluth, Suwanee and surrounding areas who have a passion for cycling, and work to promote health and fitness while supporting each other.

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Georgia Bikes: Tell me a little bit about your group. When did the club start?
Bikes and Friends started informally in 2011 with a group of cyclists that purchased their bikes and gear at a shop in Johns Creek originally called The Bicycle Wheel. The manager of the shop, Amos Harvey, raced competitively and led our group ride on Saturday morning helping us build the skills needed to safely ride together since most of us had no prior experience with group rides. Over time, we became good friends while staying competitive with one another. And we have continued to build on our friendships adding many new “friends” to our group while taking our riding to the next level and beyond.

GB: I’ve noticed that a lot of group rides today lack this foundational approach and that every ride is a “Tuesday Night Worlds” type of hammerfest. Do you think building these skills together (rather than just getting on the bike and going as hard as you can) has contributed to the group’s longevity?
Amos was a huge influence, especially with the basics such as emphasizing safety by helping us build a better cadence, and establishing no-drop rides with periodic regroups. And when he later moved to Atlanta Cycling in Duluth with the former owner, Mark Gernazian, they both helped us take our skills to the next level while learning to safely ride in a peloton, optimizing our efforts, and having more fun. And building these skills together has clearly contributed to the longevity of our group. We know how far we have come together and have great respect for each other’s work ethic. And it has also made us very collaborative in sharing what we have learned. And of course by nature we are a competitive group, so we are always challenging one another and looking for new riders that share our spirit.  

GB: Who had the idea to found the club? What was the inspiration (raising money/awareness for a cause, racing, junior/women’s riding, or maybe just looking for an alternative to the existing clubs in town)?
When the Bicycle Wheel transferred ownership in 2015 and there was no longer a staff member to lead us, one of our stronger riders took over leading our Saturday group ride. And since we were now responsible for organizing our rides, we gave our group the name “Bikes and Friends Cycling Club” and created a Facebook page mostly to communicate our ride and route details.

Our inspiration was to stay a close-knit group and to work as hard as our schedules and families would allow for us to become the strongest and fittest riders that we could. In the beginning, we were still relatively new to group riding and were looking for an alternative to some of the larger and less personal rides.

GB: How many people were part of it initially? How many do you have now? Originally there were about 15-20 active riders in our club. Today we have 309 members that have signed up to be part of Bikes and Friends and actively use our Facebook page for communications. Although we closely monitor our page and member activity, anyone is allowed to post on our Bikes and Friends page. We also have a Bikes and Friends Cycling Club on Strava made up of our 62 most competitive members to share their ride results and compare with others. 

GB: What makes people want to ride with you- is there something different about your group that they may not find elsewhere?
We are competitive and we are compassionate. We are a competitive group who share a passion for cycling while supporting each other. As our group has gotten stronger our rides are faster, so we have started a group within our club called “Strivers Club” that attracts newer riders or experienced riders who are returning from injury or a gap that want to train back up. These rides are at a slower pace with the intention of mentoring folks new to Bikes and Friends to become better group riders.

Our 4-7 rides each week are communicated clearly on our Facebook page including links to the routes in Strava and pertinent details. And every Sunday we have a special ride that usually involves either a coffee and donuts break or a brew pub visit. We also have at least one annual 4-day ride in May typically over the Blue Ridge Parkway. Throughout the year our group participates in many charity rides wearing our embroidered Bikes and Friends shirts, and we train rigorously as a group beginning in May/June to prepare for the Three/Six Gap ride in Dahlonega on September 25th.

We are a multicultural group with active riders originally from Germany, Korea, South Africa, Colombia, and the UK. 

GB: How did the idea for the “Strivers” come up? It’s easy to take a Darwinistic approach to group rides and clubs, how important is it to you all to continue fostering new riders and growing those skills? I came up with the idea and the name “Strivers Club”. We encourage all of our riders to connect on the application Strava, and in Swedish strava means “strive.”  Striving is consistent with Bikes and Friends’ core desire in striving to get better. One of the challenges that we were having with our rides was that since we were getting so fast, many of the folks who joined us couldn’t keep up. And even with our best efforts to keep the group together, folks would occasionally get dropped. Following my recent recovery from an unrelated hip fracture and subsequent surgery, I was especially motivated to encourage new riders to join us along with previous riders that maybe gave us a try and stopped showing up. Many of these riders are strong but for whatever reason say injury or time off the bike, they have receded some and were interested in getting back to at least where they were before. You often see folks like this that are good riders and are out riding alone. I recognized through my own experience that it’s a lot more fun and effective in getting stronger by riding in a group. Especially a group like ours!       

GB: What has your club accomplished that makes you proud? What do you want to do next? We brought many new members into the group while maintaining our integrity with the primary goal of supporting one another to achieve a healthy and active lifestyle. We help each other build optimal training schedules, make healthy diet choices, and enjoy each other’s company getting together after most rides and in our many social events. We are also proud of the riders in our group that are now part of NGCA and participate in the many sanctioned races here in the Southeast. As far as what we want to do next, we have discussed an interest in having more frequent and interesting destination rides with a Natchez Trace Trail ride on the horizon.

GB: If our readers were to take away just one thing about your group, what do you think it should be? If you are interested in spending time with a nice group of folks that will help support your passion for cycling and desire to get stronger while having a great time then Bikes and Friends Cycling Club may be for you.

Local Club Spotlight: The GOAT RIDERS

Georgia Bikes spoke with Diane Seale of the GOAT RIDERS to highlight the efforts of this local cycling club. The GOAT RIDERS are a social riding group in Cumming, GA who focus on no-drop rides with a welcoming atmosphere and weekly goat-farm rest stops. 

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Georgia Bikes: When did you originally organize the group? 

Diane: It officially became a group in 2014. A few years prior to that, we were a group of runners who decided we needed to do something more than run so we started cycling on Sundays.


GB: How did you come up with the idea? 

Diane: We would meet up at various places and someone always knew some of the roads and others we just explored. As the group of cyclists grew, everyone lived in different locations. We found the Forsyth County YMCA to be a centralized location for all to meet. We started exploring new roads from there and for some reason we always rode by the Goat Farm. At that time the goats actually had a Fisher Price play set in their field with country music blaring from the speakers. Since we never knew where we were going each week, one of the cyclists asked a particular Sunday if we were going to ride the Goat Route. We asked what she meant and she referred to the Goat Farm as being on the route and, from then on, every Sunday we made sure the farm was on our route and we stopped to share our snacks with the goats.


GB: How many people were involved initially? 

Diane: It initially started with about five of us and eventually others started asking to join in.


GB: How many are riding with you now?  

Diane: We have over 1,200 members with cyclists on Sundays numbering from 20 to over 100.

GB: I think no-drop rides are so important because they provide a welcoming and supportive entrance into riding. I’ve had friends that were dropped on rides and it really soured them on riding in groups. How important is the no-drop ethos to your group? 

Diane: That is THE most important aspect that we strive for as a group. Our motto, “No one left behind” is what makes the GOATS unique. There are leaders assigned to every group along with sweepers that make sure everyone in their group is accounted for along the whole route. I have seen sweepers actually turn around and ride back to be sure the LAST person is within eyesight. 


GB: Do you think it makes people more likely to join in rides? 

Diane: Yes, without a doubt. As long as a “new to the GOATS” cyclist joins a Sunday ride and does not jump in front of the leader, we try our best to prevent that cyclist from getting lost or left behind in the group. Not only are the leaders and sweepers looking out for the group, but the entire vibe of the club is to look out for others and help them in any way that they need help.


GB: And to come back? 

Diane: After the rides I encourage people to join us at Tanner’s Restaurant for not only food and hydration, but more so the camaraderie you get from sitting and talking to other cyclists. We are all at different stages in our lives, but share the common interest of loving to cycle outdoors.


GB: I really like the idea of “enjoying nature’s beauty from the seat of a bike” concept. How important is taking time to be present in nature to the members of your group?  

Diane: The routes that we have created are all on the rolling hills of country roads. We pass many farms and beautiful landscapes and homes. None of the routes from 21 to 40 miles have a traffic light so you really feel like you are out of the city and enjoying nature.


GB: If people were interested in starting similar rides in other parts of the state, what advice would you give them? 

Diane: Remember that it’s a ride and not a race. Always keep levity in 95% percent of the situations that happen, but of course be present when something does occur that needs the leader’s attention. Be consistent and concise in posting rides and information. Put yourself in the position that you have just moved to the area and this will be your first ride. Think of what information that you as a new rider needs to know and try to post that on every ride. Plan fun things for the group i.e. once a month have a field trip to another location to ride or pick a century ride to train for together as a group. We have done both of these things with the GOATS which was something out of the ordinary from the usual Sunday rides, but kept the enthusiasm going within the group.


Diane: One last thing I want to share with you was something I posted on the FB page in July 2020 after hearing that the GOAT RIDERS was MY group (note, this excerpt from Diane’s Facebook post has been edited for length):


“WHAT MAKES GOATS SO SPECIAL? Lately, when I’ve been giving my “safety briefing” on Sundays, I start off by saying, “Hello, my name is Diane Seale (yes, I have that in my notes to remember…) welcome to the GOATS…THIS IS NOT MY GROUP…”


I felt our group was more about having fun, meeting new people, enjoying being outside to exercise and most of all making EVERYONE feel welcome. We’ve never wanted anyone to be left behind with their kick-stand bike with no water, thinking that’s how group rides were structured.


So truly, the GOATS are special in that SO many of you help out to lead, to sweep, to share GOAT food, to organize the post-ride hydration, to encourage each other along the way. I am only the catalyst to post the ride and read a safety briefing which we borrowed from another club and restructured for our ride.


Each and every one of you are the reason why the GOATS continue to grow!!! It is OUR GROUP!!”

Georgia Bikes wants to thank Diane for taking the time to speak with us and for sharing photos!