In what has felt like an eternity of not having any organized sporting events or group workouts occurring on the Big Island since COVID-19, a positive step forward came Saturday as local cycling enthusiasts resumed their popular group rides on Queen Kaahumanu.
The Coffee Talk Riders (CTR) and the Hawaii Cycling Club (HCC), both longtime cycling clubs in West Hawaii, took the opportunity presented by Governor David Ige’s ninth supplementary proclamation and Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim’s emergency rule No. 8 issued on June 12, to resume cycling from Makala Boulevard to the entrance of West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery. A total of 30 cyclists showed up.
“We were entering the Act with Care Phase which allowed gatherings up to a 100 people outdoors,” said Mike Drutar, a long-time CTR cyclist, a 2013 Ironman World Championship finisher, and owner of NextHome Paradise Realty. “I thought it would be a good time to start riding again while maintaining social distancing standards. We haven’t had any official group rides since the middle of March. So, as we got to this new phase, I thought it was a good idea to get back out there and I reached out to the Hawaii Cycling Club because I thought they were feeling the same way.”
A recent county media release issued on June 12 of Mayor Harry Kim’s emergency rule No. 8 stated, “In accordance with Governor David Y. lge’s Ninth Supplementary Proclamation (‘9th Supplementary’), the County and State of Hawaii is within the “Act with Care” phase of the “State Roadmap to Recovery and Resilience.” With the decline of active COVID-19 cases in the County of Hawaii, reopening of more medium risk operations and activities can be allowed.
“Unless otherwise specified in this rule, all businesses, operations, and activities are permitted to re-open June 15, 2020, but remain subject to all restrictions and physical distancing requirements of this rule, the 9th Supplementary and any subsequent proclamations or orders, the State Department of Health Reopening Hawaii Safe Practices, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and industry guidelines.”
In addition, Mayor Kim’s emergency rule No.8 (under section “C. Gatherings”) increases the number of persons allowed at gatherings, depending on whether the gathering is indoors or outdoors.
“Outdoor gatherings of groups of up to 10 persons are permitted with a maximum of 100 people provided that physical distancing and safe practices can be maintained unless a greater amount of people are permitted under this rule.”
As cyclists geared up for their ride wearing helmets, logoed bike jerseys and sunscreen, there was certainly no mistake in the shared feelings of excitement and happiness to be returning to a small sense of normalcy, not to mention, their Saturday morning routine.
“Everyone was happy, people were thrilled as some haven’t seen friends in a long time,” said Franz Weber, HCC vice president, Pay It Forward West Hawaii founder and cycling advocate. “Others haven’t ridden for months because they were insecure riding by themselves, so being able to ride in a group and feeling safe was definitely something new and exciting.”
Drutar echoed Weber’s sentiments. “I think people were more upbeat and happy to be out there. A lot of the people were still riding together on their own, in small groups of two or three people, but a lot of people were happy to see the group together again.
“I think we had 24 people who showed up from CTR which is a little higher during this time of year. Winter time is when we have the most folks show up so it was good for this time of year. And it was like all of our other rides – we start off together but people quickly separate based upon their own skill levels, so it’s not like a giant peloton going down the road.”
Drutar said of importance, was making sure everyone understood and followed social distancing guidelines before, during, and after Saturday’s group ride.
“There were really two ways to make sure we could social distance,” he said. “One, is before the ride and whenever we are at a stop to talk, to maintain the six-foot distancing that we are all pretty accustomed to at this point. But also, to understand that the six-foot distance is to stop the spread of germs from one person to another.
“We also encouraged people to space out a little further, like 10-12 feet behind the rider in front of you so that there would be a little less sharing of the same air space. And to also remember that when you are riding side by side with someone, you need to also be socially distanced while maintaining the laws of the road and staying on the shoulder.”
Drutar explained that the Coffee Talk Riders are not considered a formal group but just “a loose collection of people” who enjoy the social aspect riding brings as well as its health benefits. And unless something changes for the Act with Care Phase, weekly Saturday rides will continue starting and finishing from Makala Boulevard.
“The thing about our group that is different from most other groups is that we are pretty social. We are not the hard-core cyclists going 20 mph – we talk a lot and we hang out. I would say our median age is maybe about upper 50s or maybe even a little higher. We are a group of people who really like being around each other. So just the nature of our group being social, people were ready to get back to riding.
“And CTR is the order we do things — it’s Coffee, it’s Talking, and then Riding. It’s the order of importance.”
For more information about Coffee Talk Riders and to join their Saturday rides starting at 7 a.m., visit their website coffetalkriders.com. Information on the Hawaii Cycling Club can be viewed on their Facebook page.