Shifting Gears: The San Angelo Cycling Community


SAN ANGELO, TX – The city of San Angelo boasts a vibrant community of cyclists and at its center is 60-year-old Mike "OB" Larson, a dedicated paint contractor and cycling enthusiast. With a wealth of experience and insight, Larson shared his thoughts on cycling safety, community dynamics, local cycling clubs, and invaluable tips for newcomers eager to embrace the two-wheeled lifestyle.

Bicycling is a widely embraced outdoor exercise in the nation, offering the joy of riding through Texas trails both on and off road. Despite its popularity, it's essential to remember that biking involves both benefits and hazards. Nationwide, bicycle-related deaths have increased by 10% in the last year, with Houston and Austin being named two of the most dangerous cities for cyclists in 2017.

Bicycle Safety Essentials:

Helmet Usage:  Wearing helmets has proven to prevent 70% of serious head injuries during bicycle accidents.

Visibility in Low Light: To comply with Texas Department of Transportation regulations, cyclists must attach a white headlamp to the front and red reflectors to the rear of their bicycles when riding at night. Additionally, reflective clothing can enhance visibility.

Sharing the Road: Bicycles are entitled to the same rights on the road as motor vehicles. When there is no designated bike lane, cyclists should ride in the right lane as close to the curb as practical, following Texas law.

Traffic Rules: Bicycles are subject to the same traffic laws as motorists. This includes stopping for red lights, obeying stop signs, and yielding to pedestrians. Riding in the same direction as traffic and refraining from biking against traffic or abruptly crossing lanes is crucial for safety and legality.

 To enhance safety, he recommended riding in single file formation, staying as far right as possible unless blocked. Larson acknowledged the local love-hate relationship with cyclists and urged mutual respect between cyclists and drivers.

When people ride side-by-side and take up entire lanes, it's kind of “not cool" said Larson. When cyclists fail to ride single file, vehicles are more likely to strike riders since they take up more of the lane. Larson continued, 

“As a cyclist myself I try to be as aware and cautious as possible. I'm not going to ride that line and risk my safety to allow a vehicle to come around me. I am going to take the lane, meaning taking the right tire line within lanes." Larson explained, “We take that because there's a ton of debris on certain roads. There is a long strip of concrete near Country Club Road and I love that concrete because I can go faster. The problem is all the chip-seal that loosens as drivers drive over it, creates more debris and more of a hazard for cyclists.”

Addressing the concern of debris on certain roads, Larson discussed the strategy of "taking the lane," where cyclists ride along the right tire line within lanes to avoid hazards. He highlighted the need for awareness and caution, emphasizing that the community generally allows cyclists to enjoy their rides safely.

Reflecting on the evolution of San Angelo's cycling community, Larson acknowledged a shift in demographics, with older individuals comprising the majority. Expressing a desire for an influx of younger riders, Larson attributed the decline to various factors, including the preference for virtual activities like video games.

“In the past, the local cycling community was much bigger. The community consists of mostly older folks now. We would love to see an influx of younger riders but I guess they prefer doing it virtually with video games.”

Larson estimated the average age of cyclers in the community to be mid to late 40s. He said that most of the people who ride with them consistently are in their 70s.

He mentioned the sole local bike shop, Randy's Bike Shop, and the primary cycling club, SABA, as essential components of the community. Larson outlined different rides, such as the Loop Group, Loop Group WE (Winter Edition), and the Dam Ride, each offering unique experiences for cyclists.

Local Cyclists on a Ride

Local Cyclists on a Ride

(Credit: Randy's Bike Shop)

Randy's Bike Shop Gang

Randy's Bike Shop Gang

(Credit: Randy's Bike Shop Website)

SABA and Rides Offered

The main cycling club is the San Angelo Biking Association (SABA). Larson said, "All of us who cycle are members and involved in the local club." Larson listed and explained the different rides available,

Loop Group Ride

The Loop Group has been around for a long time. Cyclists begin at Knickerbocker and the Loop out over the bridge towards Wall and then catch Paint Rock Road. They then return using Schwartz Road into town. Larson said,

"We started changing it because the tracks down by Mcoys are so bad that people were damaging their bikes. It can cost $500 after blowing out a tire and a wheel and most of these bikes are expensive. We decided to change the route to avoid riding over those tracks. We have been doing that for the past 6 months."

Loop group usually runs from time change to time change starting at 6 P.M.

The Loop Ride is every Tuesday and Thursday.

Loop Group Ride WE (Winter Edition)

Loop Group Winter Edition meets earlier at 4:30 P.M. The only difference between Loop Group and WE is the time of year and start time. 

Dam Ride

The SABA also has the “Dam Ride.” Cyclists meet out at the southern end of the O.C. Fisher dam, right off Mercedes Avenue at headquarters, and ride across the dam and back which is approximately 13 miles. It's the one ride without any traffic since it's the dam.

The Dam Ride is every Sunday morning at 8 A.M.

Out and Back Rides and the "No-Drop" Rule

Larson was adamant about mentioning that "All of the rides we do are referred to as  “Out-and-Back” rides. In other words, we cycle out for a particular distance or destination and then return back, completing a round trip. Also, we are what is called a “No-Drop Group,” meaning that we don’t just go off and leave and people. We make sure to put at least one experienced cyclist with those who require a slower pace. We don't just leave them to their own devices. "

SA Cyclists

SA Cyclists

(Credit: Randy's Bike Shop FB Page)

San Angelo Races

San Angelo Races

(Credit: Randy's Bike Shop FB Page) 

For those venturing into cycling, Larson advised against opting for a Walmart bike, emphasizing the importance of a custom-fit bike for a comfortable and enjoyable experience. He recommended well-known brands like Trek, Giant, Specialized, and Cannondale, with entry-level bikes typically priced between $300 and $400.

As part of the supportive cycling community, Larson highlighted the willingness of senior members to offer guidance, making the experience more enjoyable for newcomers. The emphasis on a "No-Drop Group" approach ensures that cyclists of varying paces are supported and included in the community.

In closing, Larson encouraged aspiring cyclists to invest in a bike that fits their size and to explore the welcoming and diverse cycling community in San Angelo. As the cycling landscape continues to evolve, the passion and camaraderie within the community remain unwavering.

Road Biking Outskirts of San Angelo

Road Biking Outskirts of San Angelo

(Credit: Randy's Bike Shop Website)

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