The Jersey Ride

The Jersey Ride is our “all-club” monthly ride on the second Saturday of every month. It’s easy to forget it’s there because its ride listing is the same every month and it doesn’t have a cute, fey title to get your attention. Like Coit Tower it seems the Jersey Ride has been there forever. However the Jersey Ride is actually a rather recent innovation. The very first Jersey Ride was on August 18, 2001—almost 17 years ago. My recollection is that the idea came from Chris Larussell, who was secretary at the time and then became the club president.

There were likely two influences. First, other local cycling clubs had all-club rides, the idea being that there should be an opportunity for all the different ability levels and subgroups in the club to get together on a regular basis. In my neck of the woods Grizzly Peak Cyclists have “Alex’s Second Saturday Ride” and it has exactly that origin. GPC is a considerably larger club than Different Spokes and probably was even during our heydey in the late 1980s and 90s when we had a membership well north of 300. Grizzly’s ASSR currently gets 30 or more participants, which is still less than 5% of its club. Even in the early Oughts when GPC was smaller it likely had a good turnout and would have impressed anyone. Second, at the time the first Jersey Ride appeared on the calendar we were undergoing a serious decline for the first time. Membership was sinking and ride listings were becoming sparse. The Jersey Ride was a way to generate club spirit: everybody show up in your club kit and let’s ride together! Apparently it worked because the club did not fold and resurged dramatically. Perhaps the Jersey Ride played an important role in unifying the club and aided in the rebuilding.

The Jersey Ride was probably just a modification of the Decide ’n Ride, an irregular club ride that goes back to the very beginning of the club. In 2001 the Decide ’N Ride had a slightly different form than when it started in the early ‘80s. It still started at McLaren Lodge and the route depended on the consensus of whomever happened to show up. However unlike the original Decide ’n Ride, which didn’t have a specific date during the month and usually was put on the calendar by the ride coordinator when we had an empty weekend date with no scheduled ride, it now was scheduled for the first Sunday of the month. It wouldn’t be much of a reach to rebrand the DnR as the Jersey Ride. In fact, after the appearance of the Jersey Ride there were no more DnRs. The Jersey Ride, like its DnR predecessor, would always be on the calendar on a specific date free of the vagaries of member posting.

The initial Jersey Ride was a little bit different than today’s. First it didn’t have a set date. It moved around at first simply because there wasn’t someone available to lead it on the second Saturday. The set schedule didn’t take place until November 2001. But it also varied between the East Bay, Peninsula, and San Francisco before settling on the Tib loop forever. The initial Jersey Ride’s three options were slightly different than today’s. The easy route never went to Tiburon; instead riders went to Sausalito and then turned around to go back to SF. The nice thing was it made the easy ride only 17 miles instead of 27, but those folks never got to hang out with everyone else for a bite to eat in Tiburon.

The conundrum for the creators of the Jersey Ride was that a shorter, easier ride doesn’t sate the appetite of stronger riders but a longer, harder ride puts off those who either can’t or don’t want to do something that pushes their limits. The Tib loop was in essence a compromise albeit flawed. Adding the Conzelman loop to the Tib loop was a way to keep the ‘serious’ cyclists involved. The Jersey Ride faces the same problem that the Orinda Pool Party has: how do you create a single ride that is appealing and doable by the majority of Spokers? And like the Jersey Ride the OPP standard ride is also a compromise. Of course this doesn’t even address the issue of pacing. Without multiple leaders or a sweep, the group if large enough is bound to fragment. And then you have the problem that the DnRs faced: part of the group takes off never to be seen again and slower—usually newer—riders feel left out. From the beginning of the club one of the perennial criticisms is that the club caters just to “serious” cyclists. There is another history here about attempts the club has made to broaden its base but I’ll save that for another time.