Ron Rehel and his fellow cyclists are flying high as they gear up for another exciting season with the Newmarket Eagles — one of the oldest cycling clubs in Ontario.
With more than 40 years under its belt, the club’s nearly 200 members continue to promote cycling within the community and welcome riders of all different ages and skill levels.
Rehel, the Eagles’ president, has grown to love the cycling lifestyle since he joined the club seven years ago. Like many of its members, Rehel started off without a lot of cycling experience, but quickly found his stride through his own personal determination and support he received from the club.
“I just went down the street to the local bike shop and grabbed a bike. My first ride was one kilometre, then it was two, and then it was four, and I just kept building. And then during COVID, every second weekend, I was doing a 200-and-something ride,” he said.
Additionally, the friendships he has made and fostered through the Eagles’ community are just as important as the exercise he gets from riding.
“Over the winter months, you miss these people. You’re together for eight months, and you’re riding, and you’re talking, and you know everything about each other. You spend a lot of hours beside one another, so you learn a lot about each other,” he added.
On Tuesdays, the Eagles offer a learn-to-ride group for beginners, where they teach cyclists how to change positions and form the social pace line, which is a standard cycling formation. Tuesdays tend to be a very relaxed night.
Thursdays are called hammer night, and they are much more intense because riders pedal as hard as they can for a certain distance without stopping.
Saturdays are often longer rides but are usually the most social because the members meet at a local coffee shop at the end of the ride to catch up and chat with one another.
The Eagles also offer an all-women’s group within the club called the eGALS and have four inter-club races scheduled in addition to the multiple charity rides they participate in every year.
“We do time trials, we do club races, we’ve got something for everybody basically. Anything you can think of. Our calendar is full all week long,” said Rehel.
The club also helps many youth riders cover the costs of purchasing bikes and other cycling equipment through the Tony Osborne Memorial Youth Cycling Fund. The fund is named after one of the club’s founders, Tony Osborne, who owned a bike shop on Eagle Street called Eagle Cycle. The bike shop is also the namesake of the cycling club.
Rehel stressed that the Eagles cycling club is not about one person, and their motivation to help others is why the fund is embedded in its DNA. Anyone can donate to the fund through the Eagles’ website.
The club also strives to educate drivers and cyclists about road safety to create a safer experience when riding. One of the club’s sayings before every ride is "tight and to the right." Their ride leaders always remind the group to stay together and to the right before heading out onto the road.
Rehel also believes in taking the calm approach when trying to educate drivers on road safety.
“Instead of getting upset and yelling at people, I’ll pull up to a car that’s done something and just have a chat. I just try to go up and talk to them and just say, hey, I’m so and so, and I have a life, and when you make a mistake, you kill us, and when we make a mistake, we can fall down. Education is the best.”
Anyone interested in joining the Eagles can do so at any time during the year. The club’s website has information on what events are offered and how to join.
New members should also expect Rehel or another member from the Eagles to reach out right away after they join. The club is adamant about taking new members under its wing to help them feel welcome and to enjoy the many benefits of cycling.