Cycling alongside 15 of his closest friends, Reed Burggrabe, a Soldier with 3rd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment, rides in a formation where the front wheel of his bike is between 6 inches and 2 feet away from the person in front of him.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Burggrabe said. “The fastest you can run is about 10 miles per hour. On a bicycle you can cruise at 15-20. On a possible downhill, you’re up to 35-40 miles per hour.”
Now that spring has arrived, Burggrabe and the group he rides with each week have hit the perfect time of the year for cycling. It’s neither too cold to be burdensome nor is it hot enough to be pouring sweat, said Daniel Jakubiec, a Canadian liaison officer.
“You’ve got great weather here and you can ride all year long,” Jakubiec said. “And the roads are great here. On the weekend rides, you can go out deep into the training area on well-maintained, paved roads that you can do an 80-mile ride on.”
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Jakubiec and Burggrabe have been riding on Fort Benning with the same group, coordinated by Brent Cummings, commander of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, for about a year-and-a-half. The group meets early every Tuesday and Thursday early morning and rides about 25 miles on roads that lead out to Griswold Range or Fryar Drop Zone.
The group welcomes anyone with an interest in cycling, said Phil Cowley, who works for Clark Realty on Main Post, but he warns about the ride initiation.
“The first ride you do with the group, the group goes really hard and tries to drop you,” Cowley said. “That’s not actually the way the group is. It’s a friendly group. People of all different abilities can come out and ride.”
When Burggrabe became hooked on cycling in 2009, joining the group allowed him to learn from riders with decades of experience. He said people would be surprised at the talent level some of the riders on Fort Benning have.
“There are guys riding on post here in the Army that are a sponsorship away from being a pro rider,” Burggrabe said. “Those guys are amazing to ride with.”
For people like Jakubiec, who spent much of his early military career running, cycling is much less burdensome to the legs and feet.
Despite the benefits of cycling as an exercise, any cyclist should be aware of the potential hazards that go along with the sport.
Jakubiec said wearing a helmet, no matter the skill level, should always be the priority. On Fort Benning, helmets are required for all riders.
“You may think you’re the best rider and you’ve ridden since you were a little kid, but it takes just one time of inattention, hitting an obstacle like a rock in the road, one gust of the wind when you weren’t expecting it,” Jakubiec said. “If you have a wipeout, serious injury can occur. Wearing a helmet is the first thing.”
Jakubiec also suggests cyclists wear bright material, with yellow being the most preferred color, especially while cycling in the evening or early morning. Mike Douglass, who also works at Clark Realty, said it is important for cyclists to always maintain focus and pay attention to the riders in front when riding in a large group, as the space between the wheels of the bike is close.
“Ninety-five percent of the time you’re drafting off of somebody,” Douglass said. “When you’re drafting off somebody, you’re staying within 6 inches to 2 feet away from wheel to wheel. If a guy slows down a little bit and your front wheel is overlapping his back wheel, he might veer a little bit to miss a pothole and you touch wheel. When you touch wheels, the guy behind him falls down; he’s toast. And then everybody behind him falls down as well.”
Motorists will often distract cyclists and could be another factor causing disruption in the group formation.However, the group believes Fort Benning is an ideal place for cycling because drivers are considerate of riders.
“I know friends who have ridden out in Alabama and they had beer cans thrown at them and cars try to swerve at them, even from the other lane,” Burggrabe said. “A lot of people like coming to Fort Benning just for the reason that they know it’s a fitness culture here and people accept bike riding. You don’t have to worry about getting run off the road.”
Cowley said anyone looking for a group activity they can maintain constantly throughout the year should look no further than cycling. After their morning ride on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the group can always be found conversing over a cup of coffee at Java Café on Main Post.
“This is a group of folks who all have different jobs that spend about 6 to 10 hours together per week,” Cowley said. “We wind down after the ride, shoot the breeze, talk about the next ride. You fellowship with a group and get a good, strong workout in the morning before going to work, which sets you up in a good mood for the day.”
Anyone interested in riding with the Cummings cycling group should contact Brent Cummings at Gery.firstname.lastname@example.org.