Paul and Barbara Beach are committed to one another in marriage. Like many others, they’re also committed to cycling.
The Jeffersonville couple have been married for 31 years, meeting through their shared affinity for riding a bike. Paul has been a member of the Southern Indiana Wheelmen, a local cycling club, for 38 years and Barb for 36 years.
On Jan. 16 this year, Barb, 74, became the first woman in the club to surpass 100,000 club miles. The Wheelmen have a massive amount of group rides throughout Southern Indiana available to members to pull those up. The unique thing is Barb and Paul — also a member of the 100,000-mile club — have racked up many of their miles on a tandem bicycle.
“It’s something we can do together,” Barb said.
That’s a lot of miles. Paul was the first male in the Wheelmen to surpass 100,000 and three more in the club have since hit that impressive mark.
“That just means we’re old,” said Paul, who is 67.
The tandem bicycle has made it easier to stay together. Barb, a former runner and triathlete, switched over to cycling for the lower impact on her ailing back.
“It’s not because I’m not working hard. It’s different. But for us, that’s something we can do together and it’s been really good,” Barb said.
The Wheelmen, who take off for a good amount of rides from Silver Creek High School, have about 30 tandem bicycles in the club.
“We ride a tandem 95 percent of the time we ride,” Paul said. “Barb does great on her own but on the tandem she can go a little bit faster and longer with the back issues and stuff. Maybe she can ride 60 miles on her own. She can ride 100 on the tandem. We have also ridden some mountain bike and singles. In 2004, our big ride, we rode the tandem from San Francisco to Maine. That doesn’t even count for mileage.”
The group rides and the tracking of miles made for a group of nearly 300 accountability buddies to “compete” with throughout each year. Paul recommends joining the inexpensive group for the camaraderie.
“We have teachers, doctors, lawyers, we’ve got a little bit of everything. My thing, you’ve got these miles, it got me out to ride to accumulate miles. What made it better is it’s such a good group of people. And it's so much safer riding with a group. We really preach a lot ‘car up’ or ‘car back’ or pointing out obstacles,” Paul said.
The group rides are casual but they also typically break into different speed groups for those looking to hammer at 20 miles-per-hour or more. Ride captains ensure that no one ever gets left behind, helping encourage new members to come out.
The Wheelmen offer one organized ride that has a cost — the Harvest Homecoming in October, which usually draws more than 500 riders and has lengths ranging from five to 75 miles.
“That’s our moneymaker, helps keep the club going,” Barb said. “We do a lot of charities, donations out of that. Plus that pays for our banquet at the end of the year. We also try to do 'Adopt a Highway' cleanup up by Silver Creek.”
The club started in 1975 when Bob Peters, owner of Clarksville Schwinn started the club, which has nearly 300 members. He also met his wife through the club.
“It grew real gradually,” Peters said. “A lot of times it was myself and a handful of people. We had maybe a ride on a Sunday. Now, it’s a busy schedule. You can open it up to a broader group of people if you have more rides. All kinds of pace. Good people.”
Prior to heading to rural Sellersburg, Peters described cycling in Southern Indiana as one of the top things to do.
“It’s one of the best-kept secrets. There’s a lot of good roads to ride on. We hardly ever get hassled. We try to take a lot of backroads. That’s the only way to have fun,” Peters said.