Fair Weather Riders enjoy sociability, northeast Iowa views on weekly bike ride

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Bob Hendrickson and Adam Niewoehner, members of the “Fair Weather Riders,” prepare to leave from Elkader’s Fast Trak convenience store on a weekly bike ride. The group heads out every Thursday, at 6 p.m., weather permitting, and leisurely traverses the beautiful landscape of northeast Iowa to destinations like St. Olaf and Farmersburg. Other riders are welcome to join.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

In a tradition dating back to April 2019, a group of bicycle riders, unofficially called the “Fair Weather Riders,” leave from the Fast Trak convenience store in Elkader every Thursday at 6 p.m.—weather permitting of course, hence the name—and leisurely traverse the beautiful landscape of northeast Iowa to destinations like St. Olaf, Farmersburg or wherever the group decides before departing. 

It all started when Elkader native and city council member Bob Hendrickson, interested in starting up groups with like-minded individuals with similar interests, attended a meeting at Osborne. There, Hendrickson encountered people who enjoyed the peacefulness of a rural bike ride. Those who were interested put their names and contact information down and found themselves in an email group. 

As Hendrickson told it, “I reached out to those that were interested in bicycling and the rest is pretty much history.” 

Soon after, the date and time was selected and the Fair Weather Riders were born. 

One rider who joined the group is Adam Niewoehner, who saw the ad in the paper last year. Since he biked as a kid, Niewoehner decided to take up the practice again as a way to socialize and exercise. 

But Hendrickson also had another reason for starting the group, aside from it being on his bucket list and a way to train for RAGBRAI or the Hotter Than Hell 100 held every year in Wichita Falls, Texas. It is more personal: the loss of time and youth and the acknowledgment that life never stops. 

“Life passes you by and it did for me from the age of 17 to 50,” Hendrickson said. In other words, to be able to do the things we enjoy, we need to do them while we can still enjoy them. 

Other than the basic simplicity of common interests, the ride promotes sociability and a way to de-stress in a COVID-obsessed world. It also creates a low pressure environment for bike riders of all levels, from beginners to the Lance Armstrongs, to enjoy the scenery, the company and the drinks, typically enjoyed at the St. Olaf Tavern prior to returning to Fast Trak, usually between 8 and 8:30 p.m. 

Speaking of COVID-19, the ride adheres to all the guidelines, such as social distancing, small groups and being outside, making it a particularly safe hobby or extracurricular activity to break the tedium. 

When it comes to the ride itself, Hendrickson reminded that it’s not a race; it’s just a for-fun activity. 

“Nobody will be left behind,” he said. 

The problem, disappointingly so, is there aren’t people to leave behind. So far, the ride has attracted, at most, four people, and usually only two attend regularly, Hendrickson included. 

“Many people expressed interest and indicated that they wanted to do it, but the fact of the matter is, the interest and encouragement for the ride is greater than the actual number of riders who show up,” Hendrickson said. 

Part of the problem this year is certainly related to the ongoing pandemic and the uncertainty that has followed, but it could also be, as Hendrickson indicated, that “a lot of the ones that join occasionally are at that point in their lives where their children keep them pretty busy.” 

Maybe the ride is too dependent on word of mouth, having only advertised once in the paper last year, and as Hendrickson stated, “This is our first article.” 

So, if you’re looking for something to do, grab a bike, grab a friend and ride in the fair weather of Iowa, where anyone is welcome and the main objective is fun. Just be at the Fast Trak on Highway 13 at 5:30 p.m. every Thursday. The Fair Weather Riders will be excited to have you along. 

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