Nancy Baumann used to bike as a kid all over the West Side at a time when families without cars were more common in Buffalo, but the days of rolling through the streets ended when she got married and started a family of her own.
They resurfaced around her 70th birthday.
Last spring, after reading a Refresh story about the Big Wheels Bicycle Club, she went to an open house and joined the group. She and her husband, Richard, four years her elder, also started going on Slow Roll rides in the city every week last summer, and she joined GObike Buffalo.
“My children, who are all married, think I’m getting a little addicted to this biking thing,” she said.
Baumann, 71, who lives in the University District, hopes others will follow her lead this weekend, when Big Wheels host its latest open house from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday in Zion United Lutheran Church of Christ, Koenig Circle at Parker Boulevard, Town of Tonawanda. For more information, visit bigwheelsbikeclub.com.
Adult bikers of all ages are welcome to join the club. Bike helmets and other safety features are required. Bikers of almost all abilities are welcome to join and no biker is left behind on trips that generally stretch across the Northtowns and sometimes into Canada.
The newfound biking enthusiasm is only part of what helps Baumann keep fit, she said. The retired secretary also eats right – most of the time, anyway – travels extensively, and has volunteered at Roswell Park Cancer Institute for the last two decades.
She’s worked in the Roswell gift shop, as a “friendly visitor” with patients, and in recent years at the Donor Center, where she also donates her platelets every two weeks or so.
This year, she and several other members of the Big Wheels Bicycle Club have created their own team for the Ride for Roswell, and will make a 34-mile trek as part of the June fundraiser.
The way she and her husband have embraced retirement also has been a blessing for their three children and five grandchildren.
“My children just think it’s awesome,” Nancy Baumann said. “My kids have never thought of us as getting old because we’ve always been active.”
Q. What kind of bike do you ride?
I went down to Rick’s Cycle Shop on Allen Street and the owner, Tom Azzarella, suggested a performance hybrid bike. I bought a Raleigh Alysa. It’s an easier bike to ride. It just flows along. I had an old mountain bike but I bought something newer. My husband still rides a mountain bike.
Q. How often do you go out with the club?
Usually three to four times a week. We go anywhere from 20 to 27 miles each time. They have a schedule for every morning and every evening. Not everybody rides every single day. I pick and choose the mornings I’m able to go when I’m not busy doing other things. ... When they say they’re leaving at 9 o’clock in the morning, you’d better be there at 9.
Most of the people riding in the morning are pretty much retired. People riding in the evening generally aren’t, so that’s a good thing for them. And people also can ride on the weekend.
Q. How have you stayed healthy over the years and how has biking changed that equation?
I like exercising. Biking is the best thing ever. I love being outdoors. I used to walk all the time and in the wintertime go on the treadmill. I used to do a fast-paced walk. Then I had a tear in my meniscus in one knee and had surgery, and then a tear in my meniscus on my left knee, and the doctor gave me a shot in the knee and he said, “OK, you have to choices: swimming or biking.” I decided I’d go back to the biking. I’ve had no problem with the knee since. My health is good. I’ve been very fortunate. I haven’t had any health issues and don’t really take any medication. I just exercise and try to eat healthy. I’m just fortunate to have good health.
Q. Talk about your first ride.
I thought the first time I rode, “I’m never going to make this,” but they don’t leave anyone behind. Halfway through the ride we stopped at Tim Horton’s for iced tea or coffee. A lot of people bring a protein bar or fruit in their bike bag. That helped a lot. Sometimes we meet (to start) at the Brighton Golf Dome and sometimes we meet at the Ellicott Creek dog park.
Q. What has been your favorite spin with the Big Wheels club?
I’ve really loved going over to Canada, going over the Peace Bridge. Once we get over there, there’s a bike path from Fort Erie to beyond Port Colborne. One time we went as far as the Bay Beach area and stopped at Tim Horton’s in Ridgeway on the way back. I grew up on the West Side, so I also love being near the waterfront. We’ve taken a trip that goes down near Canalside and I just love being downtown. I’m a Buffalo girl. Other than that, I’m a follower. Some members know all these roads, how to get here and there. They’ve been biking for 30 years or more.
Q. Talk about the Slow Rolls.
Slow Roll (slowrollbuffalo.org) is not part of the bike club but it’s another wonderful outlet. It’s a great social thing. It’s about 10 miles. It’s always at 6:30 every Monday night. They meet at a different place every week. It starts in May and goes all the way into October. I’m waiting for the schedule to come out. My husband and I do that together. He’s going to be 76 this summer. To be out and exploring all the different neighborhoods in our city is just amazing. I’m from the city but there’s parts I hadn’t seen. We’ve been on the East Side, West Side, out near the Botanical Gardens in South Buffalo. We’ve been all over. They do a head count and one night last year there were 1,400 riders.
Q. You also rode the SkyRide last year. What was that like?
It’s awesome to ride over that Skyway with no traffic. Going over that hill was just like, whew. (This year’s ride is May 21; find out more here.)
Q. How has Big Wheels added to your health?
It keeps me young to be outdoors and seeing so much. I keep up with my grandkids, and my husband and I do a lot of things. We’re in very good health. We keep ourselves active so we can do the things that we do, including travel. I come home from a bike ride and I’m not out of breath. I feel great. We have a man in our bike club, Bruno Perfette, who’s 86 and he’s amazing. He’s my hero. He had some health issues way back but he kept on riding. If you have a flat tire, he’s who you want to be riding with. He’s very good at changing flat tires.
Q. What will the open house be like?
We usually have snacks – fruit and Tim Horton’s coffee – there are pictures and posters that have information, and members of the club will be there to answer questions about riding, how far we go. If people would like to come, they can ride a couple times to see what they think. If they like it, they can get a membership which is only $18 for individuals or families.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon