"Spandex? Helmets? No way!" Chris Banks, one of the charter members of the Grayson Cycling Club, laughs as he remembers back when he first thought about cycling as a way to stay fit. That was back in March 2015, when he, David Walker, and Dr. David Pierson began riding their bikes together, always meeting in Banks' driveway before hitting the road.
"I had never been on a bike like that before, at least not since I was a kid," said Banks. "But as I was getting older, I saw that my physical activities were slowing down. I knew I had to do something." On his first ride, he logged 1.5 miles. Within 2 months, he completed a 124-mile ride.
Pierson and Banks noticed, when they first started riding together, that they often passed other cyclists, some in groups of 2 or 3, and some biking alone. The two talked it over and decided to start Grayson Cycling Club. "It was about that same time that Grayson Coffee House was opening, and we talked to Allison Grier (one of the owners) and asked whether she'd mind if we all met there before and after rides. She loved the idea, and that's still where we all gather. We'll have coffee before or after a ride, and it's just a great way to make new friends," Banks said.
"We call ourselves "a social club that rides bikes," said Club member Rob Lee. "We're all about fun, fitness, and friends." In two short years, the Grayson Cycling Club has grown from just a few members to about 120. The group's Facebook page has about 500 followers. "On our first official ride as the Grayson Cycling Club, 14 people showed up. The weather was rainy and the roads slick, so we decided not to ride," Banks remembered. The next day, 14 people showed up again, but the misty weather discouraged us from riding for safety reasons."
The group met again the following Monday, and 25 people showed up. On Tuesday, 35 people came to ride. Within 2 months, there were about 60 riders. "Cycling is the new golf," Banks observed. "We love the sport, but we are also committed to doing some good in our community." For example, Banks and other cyclists also noticed that, during their many rides, they'd often bike past homes in lower income areas. "We thought, 'How cool it would be, to be able to buy four or five bikes and helmets, and give them to some of the kids in these homes," Banks said.
The group, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was able to do that and more. They were able to raise enough money to buy 35 bikes and helmets. They did their homework, and decided to give the bikes to kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrenceville. "We threw a big pizza party and invited the kids and their parents, and we gave the bikes and helmets out at that party," Banks said. All of the children selected to receive bikes were "A" students in school.
The cycling club also donated food to the local food bank. This year, they are adding to their growing list of community service efforts. On May 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Grayson Cycling Club is hosting a Fun and Fitness Festival at Grayson Park. According to Lee, cyclists in the group have noticed that Grayson has grown from a sleepy bedroom community to a bigger, faster-paced city. "We asked ourselves, how can we counter the anonymity that comes with such growth," Lee said, and they came up with the idea for the festival.
"I actually Googled 'Happiest Communities in America.' One thing they all have in common is strong social and physical activity. That's what we're all about, but we realize that not everyone is into cycling." The festival, therefore, will host fitness instructors and organizations from many different sports, including karate, running, gyms and more. Benchmark Physical Therapy and BodyPlex are major sponsors of this year's festival.
Both Lee and Banks stress the fact that their club, as well as the sports organizations represented on May 20th, include athletes at all levels of proficiency, from beginners to high-level performers. "There will truly be something there for everyone," said Lee.
"I'd just like for everyone to know that we all start somewhere. I started cycling six years ago. At first, I didn't feel like I could keep up but now, I can. Our club really does have room for cyclists at all levels."