The trio call cycling the perfect sport. Everyone knows how to ride a bicycle. It is great for cardio fitness and to build endurance. You can do it at your own pace. And it is great for all ages. And one more thing: cycling is a great way to see the region up close.

Just a few minutes talking with cycling enthusiasts Richard Larocque, Réjean Denis and Denis Charlebois and you will want to jump on your bike for a road trip. The three men asked to meet with local journalists recently and were clear about the reason why: they want to share this sport and the framework which has been set up as part of the Club vélo Hawkesbury Bike Club.

The club is mostly managed by 70-year-old Larocque and Denis, who is 74. There is no membership fee. About 40 cyclists, ages 20 to 75 years old,  are part of the club, but new members are always welcome.

The pivotal part of the club is, of course, cycling. The group takes bike rides twice per week, starting at 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays and at 6 p.m. on Wednesday evenings. The club members depart from Place des Pionniers in Hawkesbury. The Sunday morning rides can last for three to four hours, while the Wednesday evening rides last for about three hours. If it rains or there is a 60 per cent change of rain, rides are generally cancelled.

The interesting part is how these bike rides are organized. Riders are part of groups. The groups are based on the speed at which people ride their bicycles. There are currently five groups: one group, for example, has an average speed of 15 to 20 kilometres per hour. This group must be able to maintain the average speed for a maximum of 90 minutes. Group 2 has an average speed of 20 to 24 kilometres per hour; group 3 has an average speed of 24 to 27 kilometres per hour, group 4 has an average speed of 27 to 30 kilometres per hour and group 5 has an average speed of 30 kilometres per hour or more. The rides happen on paved roads, according to Larocque and Denis. The groups avoid the recreational trails as conditions can vary.

Members must be at least 16 years old. When it comes time to ride, members choose the group that they feel is the best fit.

And there’s more: there are about 30 maps, with pre-planned routes and the rides range from 20 kilometres to 80 kilometres in length. And each route has a shortcut so there is always an option to do a shorter route.

Members are contacted by email, says Larocque and are sent a route map. Riders are expected to have a helmet, a well-tuned bicycle and to know the Ontario cycling rules of the road.

Larocque and Denis say that the best thing about cycling together is that there is support if you need it. If someone has a flat tire, the whole group stops until the repair is taken care of. Groups stay together and there is a group leader with every group, said Larocque. Riders take turns being at the lead of the line of riders, said Larocque.

The men really want to promote the area as a wonderful place to cycle.

“We have nice roads, not too many hills . . . that is why VeloQuebec is coming here,” said Denis.

But the real secret is to start at your own speed and gradually build up your endurance, says en enthusiastic Larocque.

The club starts the season on Sunday, May 6, departing from Place des Pionniers and new cyclists are welcome. Organizers will speak briefly with cyclists at 9 a.m.; everyone will depart by 9:30 a.m. (Note this start-time is an exception; the usual start-time is 8:30 a.m. on Sundays).

The group meet at the park at 351 Main Street East in Hawkesbury. You will find members in the parking lot, located at the end of the park which adjoins Boulevard du Chenail.

Larocque notes that you can find out more about the group on its Facebook page. If you want to sign up as a member or receive emails from the group, contact Richard Larocque at [email protected]