The Altus community may have noticed, there is a bit more traffic of the two-wheeled variety around town as of late.
They are a group of cycling enthusiasts that began riding together in 2015, starting relatively small with only six to eight cyclists last spring and growing to more than 40 men and women today. They call themselves Altus Area Cycling — or AAC.
Gerrid Kendrix started cycling in 2008 following a visit to his doctor where he was told his cholesterol and weight were getting out of control. Couple that with a stressful job as a certified public accountant and Kendrix was in a tough spot mentally and physically.
“I used to joke with people that it was either therapy or a bike ride,” Kendrix said. “Riding has done a lot for me. It does a lot for me physical fitness wise, but I believe the greatest effect is has had on me is mentally. Riding is something we all can do. The point of it all is to get out and do some exercise and enjoy the world God has given us.”
Kendrix did not want to be stuck on medication and knew that exercise would both lower his cholesterol and help him lose weight. It became something he could not live without and he began riding 8-10 miles a day. It was when he met Brad Wenk — who they call the ‘Godfather of cycling’ due to his involvement in cycling since the 1980s — that Kendrix was pushed to increase his pace and distance.
Now, eight years after starting, he has ridden 12,000 total miles and he has no plans to slow down any time soon.
The AAC group rides together weekly and recently completed two group rides in Meers and Muenster, Texas and ride annually in the Hotter’N Hell 100 and other events around north Texas and Oklahoma. Cycling gives riders the opportunity to travel area roads and have a more intimate relationship with nature, allowing the rider to see things they may not see while speeding past it in a car at 70-75 miles per hour. Cycling even provided Kendrix and his brother with one of the greatest experiences in their lives.
“In June 2015, my brother Randy and I decided we wanted to ride across the state of Oklahoma,” said Kendrix. “So we took five days and rode across the state via Route 66 with nothing but a change of clothes and a credit card. We left Shamrock, Texas, to Joplin, Missouri, for a total of 432 miles. You see a lot of great things riding and you also realize Oklahoma isn’t so flat.”
One thing riders are constantly faced with when riding, however, is danger.
Cyclists have to follow the same laws motor vehicles have to follow and therefore are not allowed on the sidewalks. Kendrix says people yell at him all the time about being in the road, but he is following the law as it is written. They also must ride with the flow of traffic rather than against it.
Kendrix spoke of an accident several years ago when his brother was hit by a driver who was texting in Midland, Texas. His brother survived the accident but it is something that sticks with him.
Oklahoma law requires that drivers give cyclists a minimum of three feet when passing, but that does not always happen. Not too long ago, a car tried to squeeze between Kendrix and another vehicle and Kendrix’s jersey was clipped by the driver’s mirror. Kendrix confronted the driver because he feels like most people are not educated on the laws as it pertains to cyclists.
“When you’re driving, it’s important to keep an eye out for cyclists in the area,” Kendrix said. “There are some cyclists and motorists that don’t obey the law, but please don’t hold everyone responsible for the acts of a few. We really appreciate it when motorists change lanes when they pass us because when a vehicle passes at seventy miles per hour and doesn’t move over, it really gets our attention. Don’t forget that a rider is a father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter and so on and so forth. A person’s life and many others will be affected if they are not paying attention when they are driving.”
Kendrix’s goal is to call attention to the dangers cyclists face while riding. He has contancted the city about putting cyclists signs up in areas frequented by cyclists but has not had much luck thus far. He also believes the general population should learn the laws involving cyclists and do their best to obey them.
Cycling is a sport, hobby and to some people, job. Those who do it enjoy it immensely and they ask that others respect them as they go about doing what they love.
Kendrix asks that people get involved.
“Just try it,” said Kendrix. “Get out and ride and see what is all about. We would love to see more people out there riding. There’s a saying, ‘The best cyclists are those that learn to embrace the suffering.’ If you’re suffering, more than likely everyone else is too. There’s just something about giving your all.”
For more information about Altus Area Cycling, contact Kendrix at [email protected], and for more information on Oklahoma cycling and laws, visit okbike.org.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.