The Wheel Deal
Story: Jim Dyar Photo: Deven Carter
Redding’s Russ Azevedo occasionally puts off the chores.
The 73-year-old former Caltrans worker feels it’s his duty to enjoy his retirement on two wheels. In fact, Azevedo, a 40-year member of the Shasta Wheelmen bicycle club, rode his bike a staggering 10,000 miles in 2009. That’s the equivalent of riding from San Francisco to New York City and back — twice. Or, like riding from Redding to Los Angeles and back 10 times.
“I get out when I can,” says Azevedo in quite the understatement. “It’s kind of what I do. I don’t get a lot done around the house, but I play a lot.”
For someone who rides that much, you wouldn’t think Azevedo needs much extra motivation to get on his bike. Yet, like most of the other approximately 90 members of the Shasta Wheelmen club, he says the camaraderie helps him stay focused on getting out there.
“Any time you’re feeling lazy you can’t, quote, let the other riders down,” he said. “So you show up.”
It’s the 40th year of existence for the Shasta Wheelmen, and the 40th year the club has held its annual Jamboree Century. The May 2 event is open to riders of all ages and ability and there are courses of 100, 66 (metric century), 25 and 10 miles.
Club members anticipate as many as 400 riders for this year’s event. All the rides depart from Redding’s Sundial Bridge, and the 100-mile course heads north to Shasta Dam, before leading cyclists through Old Shasta, Igo, Cottonwood and eventually back to Redding. The Wheelmen provide food and support at rest stops along the way. For more information or to register, visit www.shastawheelmen.org and click on the “Jamboree” tab.
“The neat thing about (the century) is it shows off the great things we have in the city and the area,” says event coordinator Paul Herman. “The Sundial Bridge is an excellent beginning point and showcase for the ride. But riders will experience Shasta Dam, the Sacramento River, the west side mountains and hills, Cottonwood and our scenic countryside. It offers a little bit of everything.”
The Shasta Wheelmen is open to men and women of all ages. The club hosts organized rides at least four times a week in winter, and five times a week when there’s more light in the warmer months.
In addition to always having someone to ride with, the club holds monthly meetings and pursues bicycle safety and access causes in the area. The club worked with the city of Redding and other agencies to create a city-wide bicycle map, which details the best routes for cyclists in town. It’s also purchased “Share the Road” traffic signs and bumper stickers, and offers a helmet-fitting program for kids.
At the Asphalt Cowboys Pancake Breakfast on May 14, the club will provide a free secured bike parking area and ticket for those commuting to the event on their bikes.
“We’re getting to be more of a force for cycling in Shasta County,” says club president Doug Holt. “We want to do anything we can do to make bicycling safer. It’s a two-way street between motorists and cyclists, and we know we’ve got to keep our end. We’re just people who happen to dress a little differently in our sport.”
Though there are some younger members in the club, the majority tend to be 40 and older. Club member Bob Malain is still riding strong at age 82.
The club has a no-drop policy on its rides, meaning that no matter how slow someone is riding, someone will always wait or return to ride with that person so that they’re not alone. That ethic can be very reassuring when riders are a good distance from town on a country road.
“I ride as much for psychological reasons as physical reasons,” says John Crowe, 62, a member of the club for eight years. “There’s some security when you’re riding in a group, some safety in numbers. If something happens, there’s probably someone else around or at least will be shortly.”
In 2002, Azevedo had one such awful encounter. He was struck by a pick-up truck while on a 120-mile ride. He was airlifted to Enloe Medical Center in Chico where he spent 42 days with broken bones and a variety of internal injuries.
His fitness and strength from cycling certainly helped his recovery. Because he doesn’t remember much from the crash, he said he never had a hard time returning to the bike.
“I lucked out because there are five days I’ll never know about,” Azevedo says. “I don’t have the shakes when someone’s behind me.
“You pay attention and you should always be OK and have fun. Basically, you pretend like no one can see you, because a lot of times they don’t.”
That is, unless they are other Shasta Wheelmen members. Someone from the club always seems to be on the lookout.