Meet Up With Granite State Wheelmen Bicycling
Group organizer Dave Topham, took some time to chat with Around Concord about the group, fun memories and how to get involved.
Around Concord: Tell us a little about the Granite State Wheelmen Bicycling, what is the main draw that people reference?
Dave Topham: The GSW was formed in July 1971 as a social and recreational adult bicycling club with the emphasis on enjoyable fun rides, not speed or distance. Regardless of profession, background, or social status, when on a bike we are all equal as the wind, hills, and terrain are the same for everyone. We watch out for each other on rides, follow the rules of the road, and often meet for snacks or refreshments after the rides. Almost all levels of rides are offered except no races or any type.
AC: Is the group active year round? How does the experience change throughout the seasons?
Topham: The primary cycling season is April through October while some “winter rides” are scheduled with an eye on the weather. Some snowshoeing and cross-country skiing activities are scheduled in January and February while other members pedal indoors on trainers or attend spinning classes to stay in shape.
AC: What's something people usually assume about the group? What do people usually assume that's incorrect?
Topham: Some people assume GSW members are “die-hard” racing cyclists because most wear cycling clothes and may ride fairly expensive bicycles. In reality, members wear and ride what is comfortable for them. Bike clothes are a lot more practical, comfortable, and actually safer - because of the visibility factor - on longer rides. The bicycles should fit the type of ride the member want go on. A heavy bike might be fine for short rides or rail trails while a lighter, higher performance bike is desired for distances over about 15 miles. Some members will commonly ride over 100 miles in a day while others are content with 10 miles. It is just a matter of having fun.
AC: What is your personal favorite aspect of the group?
Topham: Exercise outdoors in nice weather, the social aspect of being with others of the same mindset, and enjoying quiet countryside without the noise, pollution, and cost of burning fossil fuel. The efficiency of a bicycle is unparalleled, and pedaling is fun!
AC: What's the funniest, strangest, most unusual thing people have asked you?
Topham: I could probably write a book based on what I’ve been asked in the past 43 years! Here are a few.
- A call at 10 p.m. on a Friday night from an out-of-state cyclist at a Route 93 rest area asking where he could rent a red mountain bike at 9 a.m. the next morning – and the bike had to be red.
- Leading a short loop ride specified with only right turns to have someone leave the group by taking a left, getting lost, and not taking a cell phone or available map/cue sheet.
- Having my home phone number accidentally printed on about 100,000 State of New Hampshire highway maps for info about bicycling. My phone - also my work phone - was very busy with calls day and night for about two years.
AC: Are there any recent or upcoming changes that people should know about - resources, funding, legislation, development, etc.?
Topham: Recreational cyclists may like to know of the progress being made on the network of rail trails around the state. Many people, especially families with kids, want to ride in places that are away from motorists and on nearly level terrain. Over 50 rail trails around the state, some connected, some paved, others “in the woods”, offer the opportunity to get away from motorists. Rail trail advocates are pushing to complete the 120-mile Granite State Rail Trail “backbone” from Lebanon through Concord, Manchester, and Salem right to Lawrence MA. Approximately 60 percent is completed now, the longest section being 58 miles from Boscawen to Lebanon on the Northern Rail Trail. Several sections south of Manchester are paved with the most popular trails in Windham and Derry. See the BWA-NH web site rail trail pages for more info: BWANH.org (See the BWA section for funding, legislation, etc.)
AC: Anything else we should know about you, the group, how people can get involved, etc.?
Topham: Anyone 18 and older is welcome to try our rides before becoming a member. Limited ride details appear on the GSW web site GraniteStateWheelmen.org and our Meetup calendar, but complete rides details and a sample e-newsletter will be sent upon request via email sent to [email protected].
For only $15 a year, members receive the emailed newsletter with ride schedule, 10 percent discount on bike parts, accessories, and clothing at many local bike shops, and have supplemental accident insurance – not that we want anyone to use it. A printed and mailed paper bi-monthly newsletter is also available for $25 a year for those who don’t want the emailed version.
The easiest way to become a GSW member is to visit our web site and “pay by plastic.” Optionally, the web site allows an application form to be printed then sent with a check to the club address of 215 South Broadway # 216, Salem, NH 03079. I volunteer my time to maintain the GSW office. Contact me at 603-898-5479.
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