Canadian Cycling Magazine
Nova Scotia Ramblers Bicycle Club
Some cycling clubs form when like-minded people with common goals and interests gather and organize. But there are others, such as Vancouver’s Gastown Cycling Club and the Montreal Bicycle Club, that reach back into the past and resurrect old associations. Halifax’s Nova Scotia Ramblers is an organization that revived a club originally formed in the 1880s to ride penny farthings and “pneumatic safeties” around the City of Trees.
The Ramblers’ new i ncarnation is 200 strong and comprises cyclists mostly in their 50s, 60s and 70s. “The group is more than just a bicycle club; we are a social bicycle club,” says club president Tom Pinsent. Some members have come to cycling later in life, while others are longtime vets. “The riding is recreational, with about 70 per cent on the road and the rest on trails,” Pinsent says. “The social interactions are vital, and our connections and friendships run deep.”
The Ramblers hold two weekly rides on secondary paved roads with a little trail thrown in. Saturday is set outside the city for the slightly faster crowd. Tuesday evenings are about exploring the city with the mellower-paced folks. At an average of 20 km/h, Saturday journeys are not exactly rolling strolls, but they allow the Ramblers to take in the seashore and farmland of Nova Scotia at a relaxed pace. Common weekend rides explore Kentville, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg, Truro and Musquodoboit Harbour.
As a social club, the Ramblers ensure that every outing is a café ride, although Pinsent cites restaurants, parks and bakeries as other regular pit stops. One of the highlights of the season is the Oktoberfest ride, a 40-km romp from Herring Cove to Sambro and back followed by a feast of German sausage with sauerkraut and Black Forest cake.
Besides the autumn bratwurst jaunt, there’s the Founder’s ride early in the season, an outing in May to coincide with Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival and the annual barbecue ride, which ends with great grilling in a member’s backyard.
Summer is for multi-day tours. Some expeditions feature as many as 50 Ramblers on the road. Members take turns researching and organizing the trips. In the Maritimes, the club has rolled three- to five-day journeys to Whycocomagh and Isle Madame in Cape Breton, Pictou and Amherst in Nova Scotia, and Charlottetown, Summerside and Brudenell in p.e.i. There have been forays into the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Eastern Townships of Quebec. In what Pinsent calls a club lifetime highlight, 38 Ramblers toured the Bodensee region of Germany two years ago.
Visitors to Nova Scotia should heed Pinsent’s recommendation of the Spider Lake Trail in Dartmouth or the Mcintosh Run in Spryfield for the fat-tire set. Driving west of Halifax will take you to his favourite road ride, a counterclockwise amble around the Aspotogan Peninsula. Closer to the city, there’s the Salt Marsh Trail out to Lawrencetown Beach. You could keep going east to Three Fathom Harbour.
Of keeping active on the bike, the Ramblers’ president says, “We are all acutely aware of the ‘use it or lose it’ rule of aging – both physically and mentally.” Since 2007, the club’s mission has been to encourage older folks to use it.