Out for a spin
they ride for practical reasons or the sheer
joy of speed, the number of bicyclists
in Grand Rapids seems to be on the rise.
by Johnny Quirin
It’s easy to believe 29-year-old Derek
Graham when he says that cycling is an addicting
sport. The Grand Rapids resident has multiple bikes,
including a Pinarello road bike with “lightweight
carbon fiber frame and wheels, skinny tires and
drop handlebars — like what you see in the
Tour de France.”
Graham has been riding
since he was a kid, becoming hooked after his
first mountain bike race at Pando Ski Area in
1991. Now as a member of the Bissell/Advantage
Benefits Group team, he focuses more on road
“I love the
sense of freedom and the feeling of going fast
under my own power,” he said. “As
you get more and more fit and start going faster
and faster, the more fun it becomes.”
Bike fever is catching on with a growing number
of Grand Rapidians.
Koert, owner of Commute GR in downtown
Grand Rapids, rides his bike to run errands
all year round.
Cyclists seem to be everywhere. Some, like Graham,
crouch over their handlebars wearing spandex
shorts and bright jerseys. Others have their
pant legs rolled up and a pack slung across their
shoulder, cycling to class or work. Like 26-year-old
In summer 2009, Koert opened a bicycle shop
in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. And just
as the shop’s name suggests — Commute
GR — Koert relies on his bicycle as his
primary means of transportation.
“A whole day of errands and running around
is about 20 miles, tops,” said Koert, who
enlists his bike in all weather.
rear rack on his bike, he can carry around $100-$120
worth of groceries. “That’s a lot
of groceries,” he said with a smile, hinting
that bikes can handle more than most people think.
Koert has spent the past five years without
a car simply because he loves cycling. Others
may be motivated to take up bicycling for more
“When gas prices went up three years ago,
bike sales skyrocketed. Bikes became more a means
of transportation, and people were getting off
their butts and riding,” explained Koert.
Brian Bangma, owner of Grand Rapids Bicycle
Co., a bike shop on Celebration Drive near East
Beltline and Knapp, experienced his first taste
of competitive cycling 20 years ago.
“I enjoy the speeds that we are able to
maintain as a group,” said Bangma. “Combine
the speeds with the chess-like strategy, and
I was hooked.”
With racing season in full swing, the
33-year-old Ada resident is on his bike almost
every day, training during the week for races that
occur almost every weekend.
However, not everyone has the need for speed.
For Sarah Andro, beverage manager at Grand River
Grocery, cycling is not about competition.
The Grand Rapids
Mountain Bike Park that opened this
summer at 580 Kirtland SW was a project
of the Western Chapter of the Michigan
Mountain Biking Association, the city
and the local bicycle community.
“I love that you can just go outside and
go forever.” And “go forever” is
just about what Andro does on her bike.
After her daughter, Sophie, was diagnosed with
diabetes five years ago, Andro heard about an
opportunity to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes
Research Foundation through a 100-mile bike ride
in Death Valley, Calif.
I bought a bike in April, trained in six months,
and rode 100 miles in October,” she said.
Now, she said, cycling is a big part of her
life. The whole family, including her husband
and their three children, ride together at least
once a week. Even the youngest go along, sitting
in a Burley Bike Trailer that attaches to Andro’s
Andro said she rides
her Cannondale bike four or five times a week,
either on her own or with friends.
“We will go
out, ride and talk. It’s a fun and social
exercise; you’re outside, and I feel good
about it.” GR
Cristina Stavro is a former Gemini intern
and a student at Calvin College.