Those stepping outside of their Willowdale homes on Wednesday evenings may just see the night light up as a team of bicyclists race through – and see many of their neighbors, among those cyclists, getting fit along the way.
“It’s pretty colorful when people see us riding,” said Vicki Johnson-Cain, a group coordinator for EZ Riders SCP (St. Charles Parish), a social biking club that sees its members attach LED lights to the wheels of their bikes. The group rides mainly at night, and with more than 460 members, EZ Riders has proven a hit.
“Really, almost every night of the week, there’s a ride you can go on,” Cain said. “And you make so many new friends. It’s a really great social event.
“I would have never done this in the past, just to go by myself. But now I know once I get there, there are gonna be people I know through (the group’s Facebook page) and through these rides, and we’ve become really good friends. It’s good, it’s healthy, and it’s a lot of fun.”
EZ Riders was established by Steve Saragusa of Luling in April of 2016. Cain got involved in June of last year — she said the lights were exactly what caught her eye one night as she and a friend rode their bikes along the levee.
“We had started riding there at sunset and we’d take pictures,” Cain said. “And one night we were riding and saw (the riding club) and said, ‘what the heck is that?’ All these bikes were at the St. Rose tavern and they were lit up. I searched around and found someone who knew this group, and I started riding with them in June of last year.”
Though Cain believes the visual of the lights on the bikes has garnered interest from many who have joined, she said the chance to get active, meet new friends and partake in an activity with family have contributed to making the riding club a successful venture.
“We’ve got families that go out and ride with their kids,” said Cain, who lives in Destrehan. “Parents are spending time with their kids instead of having them on the couch watching TV … it’s really turned out to be quite a phenomenon, (riding clubs) have really taken off in Louisiana and the New Orleans area.”
EZ Riders-SCP coordinates group bike rides on both the east and west banks of St. Charles Parish, most of them at night.
“Willowdale Wednesday” is one popular regular venture which usually sees between 40 and 60 of the group’s members ride through the streets of the subdivision. Following the ride, many in the group will head to the Willowdale clubhouse to perhaps enjoy a cocktail and snack along with the company of their fellow bike-riders, Cain noting that Willowdale keeps the restaurant open for the group.
Cain has also begun leading a regular Monday ride, which is geared more toward fitness than the socially-geared Willowdale ride.
“It’s almost every Monday, for 10-12 miles at a little bit of a faster pace,” Cain said. “We like to say we’re chasing the sunset. Once you get to the end of the path at the Bonnet Carre Spillway, it’s usually a beautiful sight to see the sun go down.”
A social ride, she said, might see bikers ride for about 6 to 8 miles per hour. There are also rides along the top of the Mississippi River levee, which tend to be more fitness-driven.
Some riders like to “trick out” their bikes as they get more invested in the fun.
Others even bring the family pet.
“We have people who have little carriers where you can pull a child behind,” Cain said. “They’re beefing these things up. They’re bringing their dogs! One guy has an American bulldog, and he’s kind of become our mascot.”There are no dues or fees to become a member. That makes it a pretty good deal in the eyes of Cain, who said she’s “having the time of her life.”
“These rides are for young and old and all fitness levels,” Cain said. “It’s all about getting out of the house and staying active and healthy and making friends. Our motto is ‘let’s light up those bikes and enjoy the ride!’”