— By JUDY SHERIDAN
The condition commonly known as road rash, defined by Merriam-Webster as a skin abrasion that usually involves sliding on a hard, rough surface, has zero appeal.
One might expect, in fact, that a club flying a flag like that would have few takers, but in this case, one would be wrong.
Although it’s clearly not for the faint-hearted, Parker County Road Rash — an informal local cycling club started by Galbreaith-Pickard Funeral Chapel funeral director James Plowman and custom clothier Bill Mendrop — has done nothing but accelerate since it geared up late last summer.
The group now claims more than 40 members on Facebook, with posts from both genders, all ages and all walks of life.
It even boasts local athlete Hunter Hinton, a Weatherford High School freshman who competes in the Texas High School Cycling League and raced to the Junior Classification (18-U) Cycling Championship in February at the Iris Stagner Memorial Stage Race in Mineral Wells.
And the name road rash? It’s no misnomer; cyclists earn those stripes when they crash, which is often the result of the actions of agitated or distracted motorists.
“There’s not a lot of people out there who are friendly to cyclists,” Plowman, who picked the name, said. “People will honk. Once I had a truck kick on its engine brake.
“It startled me so much I almost went off the road.”
Plowman said he has been surprised by the number of people who are interested in local cycling and aware of their fledgling group.
“Bill and I were having a brief conversation some time back, and he said it would be neat if we had a Facebook page. So one evening I sat down and created it and invited Bill. It’s grown from there.”
Cyclists check the page to find out where and when others are setting out on a ride, seeking both camaraderie and safety in numbers.
“Prior to this we relied on texting,” Plowman said. “It’s nice to have a page where everybody can go to find a place and not just go out there on their own.
“Especially during the hotter part of the summer you don’t want to have a medical issue by yourself 25 miles from town.”
Parker County Road Rash will soon have its own signature kit — snappy red and black gear designed by Mendrop and Mark Riebe, president of Texas Bank Financial, and emblazoned with the names of Texas Bank Financial and Southwest Ford, the group’s sponsors.
The outfits — still on order — may, in fact, get their first airing in the 12th annual Moritz Ride for Heroes in Aledo, set for Saturday, April 19. The ride offers five scenic bike routes, ranging from eight to 70 miles.
Most members of the cycling club will ride in one of those, Plowman said, helping to raise funds for the Aledo Fire Department, Hudson Oaks Fire/Rescue, Willow Park Fire/Rescue, the Parker County Sheriff’s Reserve, the Weatherford Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association and the Parker County Center of Hope.
“What people from Parker County don’t realize is that they will experience hills on a personal basis,” Plowman advised.
“The Ride for Heroes is a huge deal because it benefits first responders, the groups responsible for our protection.”
Riebe will mark his fourth Ride for Heroes this month.
One of the faster riders according to his companions, Riebe goes the distance — the 70-mile route — averaging about 20 mph and finishing in about four hours.
“I generally stay with the lead group as long as I can,” he said. “Everybody gets spit out the back at some point.”
Keith Warren, executive pastor of North Side Baptist Church, was a runner who became a cyclist when he learned that the events he wanted to be in had both running and cycling components.
He has since upgraded from the 30-year-old road bike discovered in his father-in-law’s barn, he said, and really enjoys how the club binds many different kinds of people together.
“Almost everyone involved is a community leader,” he said. “We see each other in Optimists, Rotary, Noon Lions. Several of us went to Hotter’N Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls last year.”
John Hinton, senior vice president at Plains Capital Bank and Hunter’s dad, hopes to see a local association develop that’s similar to the Fort Worth Bicycling Association.
“They have 600 to 700 members,“ he said, “and they schedule events and parties. They ride a lot, and you don’t have to be a member. The routes are mapped.”
Wayne Kirby, an engineer with Bell Helicopter, is one of the newest members of the loosely-knit group. He has been participating in the Moritz Ride for Heroes since 2010, however, the year he got back into cycling after a 25-year hiatus.
Kirby got hooked as he cycled a 44-mile route in the rain.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I guess I was dressed warmly enough, and it was very relaxing mentally.”
Parker County cycling events seem to be growing on a yearly basis, according to Plowman.
“There’s one in Aledo, two in Springtown, a new ride and two others in Weatherford, a Saginaw ride that goes into Northeast Parker County and one that starts in Mineral Wells and goes into the western edge of Parker County,” he said.