Looking to Start a Chain Reaction

By: Caitlin Vanlaningham Last Updated: April 22, 2013

Active in NWI Graphic"I want to ride my bicycle,

I want to ride my bike.

I want to ride my bicycle,

I want to ride it where I like." -Queen

We have a cyclist this week. Here's Eric Beschinski, and he's taking his love for cycling beyond himself and into the community. Read on below to find out more about how he is Active in NWI.

Written by Eric Beschinski of Valparaiso, IN

Once upon a time (several years ago), in a land far, far away (La Porte) I decided I needed to get into better shape. So I started jogging. I hated it, but I did it. Now, I have heard that people get a “runner’s high” and grow to love running. Not me. Never happened. So when I read online that I could burn more calories riding my bike for an hour than jogging for 15 minutes, it was an easy decision to stop jogging and start riding (well worth the extra 45 minutes!). I cleaned up my bike and got moving. I rode off and on for the next few years, and in the interim moved to Valparaiso. Then, in 2011, my son, Isaac, went on the Coast to Coast Wisconsin ride (www.Coast2CoastWisconsin.com). Jeff Miller had been heading up a Valpo contingent on this ride for over a decade, and my son decided to participate. He had a great trip… not only completing the 300+ miles in 5 days, but he even rode the optional Century Ride (100 miles in a day). Upon returning, he said I needed to go with him the next year.

valpo-chain-gangIn 2012 I had an extra week of vacation. I had no valid excuse not to go (although it was never something I planned to do). As soon as the weather broke in the spring, I started training. I rode several times per week, 10 to 40 miles per day. Whether I was by myself; with my wife, Jen, or with Jeff and the other C2CW riders training for the trip; I pushed to get myself ready for the trip across Wisconsin.

C2CW 2012 was a great trip. About 25 cyclists (there have been as many as 100 in prior years) from around the country gathered to ride across the state of Wisconsin -approximately 300 miles in 5 days. Although I injured my knee on day 4, I completed the trip and proved to myself that I could do it. I was also pacing with the faster riders in the group (until my knee started acting up) which really surprised me. Now I know there are riders around here that have ridden in the mountains, so Wisconsin is not rough terrain to them. But the hills around here are nothing compared to what we traversed in Wisconsin!

After all is said and done, I still love cycling. I hate uphill; I hate wind; but I love biking, especially downhill! However, I did not want to participate in C2CW this year (many reasons… finances, vacation plans, sleeping on an air mattress, etc…) Nevertheless, the Wisconsin trip taught me how much fun it is to ride in a group. In addition to meeting new people, a large enough group will inevitably provide other cyclists who naturally ride at your pace. While there are some organized rides in the area, they are usually one-time events and/or fund-raisers. It seemed there was nothing that was structured, organized, planned, scheduled, low-cost, and recurring.

Looking around and not finding anything that quite met my criteria, I decided to create it. Hence, Valpo Chain Gang, Inc. was born.

I took the best of C2CW, broke it up into 6 monthly rides from May through October, sought volunteers for support (Leo of Leo’s Mobile Bike Service), planned lunch stops for each ride, and set a low price ($15/ride) to cover lunch for each rider and a little extra for administrative costs. I wanted to keep it about cycling and community. So riders can show up on ride-day, sign in, gear up, get a copy of a map, and ride without having to worry about where they were going, how to get there, where to stop for lunch, carrying a ton of supplies, bringing lunch money, etc… Show up, ride, have fun, socialize, and go home (and sleep in your own bed that night).

I’m just a regular guy who still needs to get into better shape. I plan to continue riding, and I hope to inspire others to get engaged. If not with Valpo Chain Gang, Inc. then find another group to encourage and inspire you. If not cycling, then find another activity about which to be passionate. Then do it and begin to inspire others.

{valpo}Click here to read last week's installment on Active in NWI about Sherri Guba!{/valpo}{portage}Click here to read last week's installment on Active in NWI about Sherri Guba!{/portage}{laporte}Click here to read last week's installment on Active in NWI about Sherri Guba!{/laporte}{nwindiana}Click here to read last week's installment on Active in NWI about Sherri Guba!{/nwindiana}