Many a student on EMU’s campus can be seen cycling during the school year, a routine that comes as no surprise to a community that emphasizes environmental sustainability and green energy. The scene that was set at Park Cabin last Friday evening, however, was contrary to that of the typical recycling bicycles or students commuting to and from class.
Over fifty students gathered at the trails behind the Parkwood Cabins, adorned in costumes ranging from dinosaurs to Star Wars characters to election ballots for the “Cyclocross Circus” in the spirit of Halloween weekend. Ryan Swartzentruber, President of the Cycling Club at EMU, came to the event decked out in purple gloves, green pants, and face paint as Mermaid Man from the cartoon Spongebob Squarepants.
“We decided we needed to do a big event that was accessible to everyone: the Cyclocross Circus,” he remarked, “The event was aimed at bringing out the competitive spirit in folks but also keeping things light and fun with costumes, obstacles, and food.”
There was a plethora of food and laughter to be shared at the relay with participants and spectators alike. Even those who didn’t cycle themselves were able to stand on the sidelines and cheer on their fellow students as they navigated obstacles like traffic cones, hurdles, and eating saltine crackers as quickly as possible.
Teams of three raced with an incentive of gift cards to Little Grill for those who finished first and second, though it was clear that the main objective of the Cyclocross Circus was entertainment and fun with friends. Pumpkin pies and a warm fire pit awaited the racers at the end of the event, a nice respite from the chilly fall weather.
EMU’s Cycling Club and the Bike Co-op have been an integral part of the university’s history, offering students the opportunity to rent bicycles for a semester, learn about repair and mechanics, and purchase custom cycling clothing. Next semester, Commuter Cycling: History, Advocacy, Maintenance is a course being offered for those who wish to learn more about local and nation-wide bicycle and pedestrian advocacy.
When asked what inspired Swartzentruber to be a part of the Cycling Club, he stated, “I wanted to bring the glory days back to the club! My brother has all sorts of stories of cool events that had happened in the past and I thought it was a shame that nothing has been going on recently. We rent out bicycles and it takes a lot of work to keep those maintained, but we just needed someone to come along to breathe a little life back into the event side of things. With the help of some friends we started doing some rides and gauging interest.”
For those who might be new to the cycling scene and might feel intimidated about joining the club, Swartzentruber offers his advice. “Get out and ride. The Shenandoah Valley is beautiful to ride through almost any time of year. You don’t need to go a certain distance or speed. I started out exploring back roads in the area and just loved the scenery.
“Once you get out a couple of times you become more confident on a bike and start getting in shape, and then you can aspire to be the next Lance Armstrong. Or you can just search for the next back road and take an hour to forget about life and enjoy the scenery.”
Written by Rachel Cardwell, Staff Writer