Getting on a bike for exercise started out as a family affair for Joe Sparksman. It quickly became an opportunity for people from all walks of life to meet, sweat and get to know their neighbors better.
Since Memorial Day weekend, Men of Change – a group of Ohio Valley residents who have come together to empower, uplift, support and educate the community – have organized bike rides on Saturday morning. Anyone can participate as runners start at Heritage Port and make their way up and down the Ohio River Trail.
Sparksman, president of Men of Change, said after one of his family bike rides, he wanted more people to join us.
“I thought about it and thought to myself, what better way to bring people into the community, now is to warm up, go out together and interact with each other?” he said. “We are separated in our own quarters. There are so many divisions between us that if we just manage to get a group of people together, you will be able to meet your neighbors in your community.
Sparksman also sees it as a good way for Men of Change to showcase the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. In launching their health and wellness initiative, the group didn’t just want to talk. He wanted to walk or pedal.
“We can’t expect to go out and talk to our community about being healthy if we are not” he said. “So why don’t we lead by example? “
The rides are open to avid cyclists as well as recreational cyclists. The whole group leaves at the same time, even if some cyclists go a little faster than others. As they pedal, participants can engage in conversations with new acquaintances, discussing everything from college football to catching hot music.
Men of Change member Isaiah Alford was on his third morning trip last Saturday. He was on his purple bicycle, affectionately called “Purple rain.” He even played the classic Prince song from his phone at the start of the ride.
Alford said that bike rides are a great way to stay in shape and protect your legs from the wear and tear caused by previous forms of exercise.
“We put those legs up,” he said. “This is the way to stay in shape now. I can’t play basketball anymore like I did back then. A serious fault, and it’s a wrap for a week. Now I exercise on these safer roads.
Sparksman enjoys seeing people of all ages joining the rides, but he especially enjoys seeing younger children in the group. Several were part of last Saturday’s hike, coming down the trail.
“It’s great to see the children” he said. “It makes me happier than anything because a lot of our kids are at home watching TV and playing video games. They just vegetate. Now I see them coming out and it reminds me of when we were kids.
Sparksman would like to partner with different organizations and agencies for future hikes, bringing different groups together for a morning. Anyone interested in riding with Men of Change can find updates on the group’s Facebook page. Any organization wishing to join can contact the group on the same page.