While 2020 was almost completely forgettable for the club, 2021 proved to be much better even if it was not as good as we had hoped. After the lockdown in March of 2020 Bay Area cycling clubs including Different Spokes went silent for months. Offering social events and even rides, which are a lot safer since they’re outdoors, was contrary to county and state health orders for the first half of 2020. We started offering group rides in the fall of 2020 when outdoor recreation with social distancing and face coverings was allowed in more counties than just San Mateo. When most Bay Area counties decided not to use their own health orders and instead fell in line with the State’s, then it truly became possible to host group rides without having to navigate the differing regulations by county. We ran a couple of experimental rides to see how people behaved and the results were positive. So we went ahead with Jersey Rides, which would not have taken place without Secretary Jeff Pekrul’s willingness to host them; the rest of the board was still not ready to gather with others yet. In the meantime like everybody else we had Zoom meetings to keep Spokers in contact.
2021 began on a positive note with the vaccine roll-out. But it took a lot of time for them to be made available to most in the Bay Area. So there was no Ride Leader Appreciation Dinner, usually in January, and our annual Kick Off meeting, usually in February, had to be on Zoom rather than at Sports Basement. But we kept up a low level of activity, a few rides—mainly the monthly Jersey Ride usually led by Jeff Pekrul—and an online workshop on basics of using RideWithGPS led by David Gaus. By April we started to have more rides mainly because Roger H and I finally started to feel comfortable—more accurately, less anxious—about riding with others and, well, we were gonna do these rides anyway so we might as well invite others along!
In June David Goldsmith and Joan Murphy started leading short, before-work morning weekday rides and they really took off. Who knew that some people liked to get up early to ride their bikes? And they continue to this day! The club held its annual Pride Ride and had a huge turnout due to some savvy marketing on social media and a significant change in format. Somewhere around 54-plus people showed up and they had a choice of two routes including a tour of the pink triangle on Twin Peaks. And the free rainbow donuts from Bob’s didn’t hurt! By July it looked like we were heading back to normal—plenty of club rides as well as the first social event of the Pandemic, the annual club picnic, which also had a great turnout. This year we moved the event out of foggy Golden Gate Park and up to Old Mill Park in sunny Mill Valley. The prospect of sunshine, no shivering, and a balmy clime apparently did the trick. Half the group rode up and the other half rode up too…in their cars. But finally we were able to hang out, eat, and catch up with other Spokers. And Benson’s homemade Japanese cheesecake had me spellbound!
Then the Delta variant really hit and we saw a summer surge in Covid cases. That seemed to cut down on rides whether it was due ride leaders’ fear or participants’ wasn’t clear. It also put a nail in the coffin of a getaway weekend at Pajaro Dunes that we had planned for the second year in a row. But we didn’t have to cancel any of our annual social events other than the Orinda Pool Party, which wasn’t because of Covid but due to personal circumstances. The Fall Social was almost cancelled because of Covid but instead was moved to Orinda from Berkeley and became an all-outdoor event. The big surprise was the Holiday Party—a mainly indoor event—took place thanks to the courage of Jeff Pekrul and his husband Lance, and it also had a big turnout!
Besides the record setting number of Pride participants we had a couple of other accomplishments this year. At President David Goldsmith’s urging Club Express, our website software provider, implemented a new pronouns selection for members and non-binary choice in the member profile panel. Who knew we were cutting edge? Our membership number has gone up to over 110. This may not seem like much and it certainly pales compared to our heydey in the early 90s when we went over 300 due to the popularity of the AIDS Bike-A-Thon. But just a few years ago we were down to about 65 members—that’s an 85% increase!! The board has had an eye on growing our membership but it’s happening at a faster pace than we anticipated. Finally we had two members join the board to assume some vacant positions. Tim Oliver took over membership and Greg Mahusay events coordination. Now, if someone would like to take over the reins of ride coordination, that would a great start for the new year!