BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — They describe themselves as a group of friends riding bikes together. Or “the 70s Club.” Or “a bunch of retired old men chasing each other around Jekyll Island.”
Even without an official name, the cycling group puts in thousands of miles a year on their bikes through weekly rides and cycling adventures like the annual Bicycle Ride Across Georgia, coming up June 4-11.
The riders can be spotted every week somewhere around the Golden Isles, maybe crossing the F.J. Torras Causeway to or from St. Simons Island, zipping down the oceanside paths on Jekyll Island or pushing themselves over the Sidney Lanier Bridge.
The cycling group formed years ago when Fred Collins was looking for someone to join him on his regular bike rides.
“And then about five years after that, Phil (Curry) and I, we met and we were both retired and we began to ride during the week on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” Collins said during a brief rest stop last week at Daddy Cate’s coffee shop in downtown Brunswick. “And now our little Tuesday and Thursday group has grown. Sometimes we’ll have as many as 12 people.”
Each rider lives on St. Simons, but they do most of their cycling on the mainland. And they make sure to change up the routes often, Collins said.
“We ride in McIntosh County, in Camden County, as well as Glynn County,” he said.
The group goes on four organized rides each week that total more than 100 miles. The routes vary, sometimes beginning near the Winn-Dixie on St. Simons, crossing the causeway and taking a rest stop at Daddy Cate’s before heading back or adding the extra challenge of a ride across the Sidney Lanier Bridge.
On Thursdays, the group usually does two laps around Jekyll Island.
“That’s probably the best ride, I’d say,” said Greg Gates, one of the riders. “It’s 29 miles, and we’re pushing pretty hard.”
On Saturday, they do a ride in Darien or another part of Glynn County. On Sundays they take another trip to Brunswick.
The group is loosely organized but looks to Collins as the “de facto leader.” They ride all year, weather permitting, and aim to surpass 5,000 miles by year’s end through their weekly rides. The BRAG adds additional miles to their total.
As the statewide ride approaches, they’ll stretch their daily rides a little, going 40 instead of 30 miles each time, and they’ll add the Sidney Lanier Bridge to their route rotation more often in preparation for the state’s hillier areas.
The BRAG includes more than 1,000 riders of all ages, including a local youth group called the BRAG Dream Team Gullah/Geechee Club.
Collins will ride in this year’s BRAG with four others in his group, including Gates, Curry, Robert Hermann and Gary Larkins.
The ride will conclude on June 11 in downtown Brunswick for the first time since 2017.
Curry, who has participated in the most BRAG rides among his group, said he’s excited to see the ride finish in Brunswick.
Others who have been on many BRAG rides said they enjoy seeing the smaller towns across the state from the vantage of their bicycles.
“The fellow now running BRAG has done a good job of setting up entertainment at night, so it’s kind of fun to get out and socialize after 50 or 60 mile rides,” Collins said.
They enjoy the camaraderie of so many people working toward a common goal. And even though riders are exhausted each night from a day of riding, many will become stronger riders with the passing of each day.
The community will be invited to come out and celebrate the riders, including local ones, who complete the BRAG.