When the Oxnard Ventura Bicycle Club took off on a recent Saturday morning ride, it was an eclectic bunch.
The two dozen riders included a guy in his 60s who recently broke his collarbone in a bicycle spill, and a father-daughter combo on a specially fitted tandem bike.
It didn't matter. The ride from Ventura to Santa Barbara and back was not a race.
"We're more of a touring, recreational riding club," club President Pat Larson said. The club has more than 200 members, a third of whom--despite the club's name--live in Camarillo.
They ride a lot--every Saturday, Sunday and major holiday. Most treks start at 8 a.m. from Mission Park in Ventura. They're not into racing, but they are into breakfast.
"There is a goal and it's always a restaurant," Larson said. Usually at the turn-around point, the riders take a food break and the slower ones catch up.
The club accepts riders of all abilities. Despite the casual bent of the group, many take their sport seriously. Their equipment is generally sophisticated and many of them have the strength to endure a 100-mile "century" ride.
They classify a short ride as those from 20-35 miles in length, a medium-length ride 35-60 miles, and a long ride 50-100 miles (sometimes it's very hilly).
On that recent Saturday, the group rode to East Beach in Santa Barbara and back, a distance of about 60 miles. Each rider was given a "route slip" at the start with directions.
The route generally followed the bike path along the ocean, the Old Coast Highway, a stretch of three miles on U.S. 101, then onto Bates Road. From there, less experienced riders could take an alternative route through Carpinteria, while the better riders could choose a more hilly course via California 192.
The faster riders, traveling about 19 m.p.h., made it to East Beach in about 90 minutes. But the club has much slower riders who keep a pace of 10-12 m.p.h.
Even that might sound daunting to a novice. So the club offers orientation rides, no more than 10 miles, on the first Saturday and third Sunday of each month. A "coach" accompanies the rider to offer cycling tips.
Sometimes the new riders have just bought a bike, or they've never really understood how the gears or the brakes work. They learn some safety tips.
"There are some parents still teaching their children to ride against the traffic," Larson said. "There is an awful lot to know for a beginner."
Even before they start off on a ride, cyclists should know the basics: wear a helmet, carry water, a tire pump, spare inner tube and a patch kit.
Many new riders never come back for a return ride with the club.
"They get intimidated," Larson said. "They see people take off in a whoosh, in a flash of spokes. And the attire, they may not want to look like a bicycle geek. We do look goofy."
The club is really set up for adults, but family participation is encouraged. The bulk of the members range in age from their early 30s to late 40s, but a fair number are older, with several in their 60s. In fact, an Oxnard couple in their 60s, Udas and Ed Young, started the club in 1990.
Larson, 49, who manages the investigative unit for the Department of Consumer Affairs in Ventura, has been a serious cyclist since 1971. He raced previously and hopes to return to it.
It costs $15 a year to join the club ($19 for a family membership). But the rides are open to non-members for free. Members get a newsletter with ride schedules, and they meet monthly for club business, bicycle technology information, and fun. They also get together for picnics and other social activities.
In addition to the rides from Mission Park, the club schedules rides from other locations too. They go all over--Ojai, Santa Paula, Channel Islands Harbor.
"We really like to ride out by Somis," Larson said. "There is some pristine rides by the orchards out on (California) 118."
* WHERE AND WHEN
WHAT: Oxnard Ventura Bicycle Club, a non-competitive, recreational organization.
WHERE: Club rides usually depart from the parking lot at Mission Park between Santa Clara and Main streets in downtown Ventura.
WHEN: Rides are planned every Saturday, Sunday and major holidays. Departure is 8 a.m., but participants should be there at 7:45 p.m.
COST: No charge to ride. Club membership is $15 a year, which entitles members to other club perks.
FYI: Helmets are a must. For information, call 650-1794.