Usually cyclists worry about getting their pants caught in the wheels. But for the Englewood Cycling Club, the worry is losing one’s yarmulke to the wind, although the helmets usually solve the problem.
The group of ‘0 Englewood cyclists, mostly members of Cong. Ahavath Torah, takes Sunday morning bike rides together, and will cycle as a team in future charity rides.
David Garber and 19 other Jewish cyclists ride together each Sunday morning, wearing the team logo, which includes the word Englewood written in Hebrew.
"We were riding anyway all together," said Jonathan Sopher, one of the club’s founders and a real estate broker. "Then two guys decided, ‘Why don’t we organize so we can be poised to ride for charity events?’ We noticed there were a lot of non-Jewish teams that rode on Saturday. This was nice to give us our own team, not to the exclusion of others but for our own inclusion."
The group officially coalesced last November, but since it happened at the end of last year’s cycling season, members only got in 10 rides together before the cold weather set in.
"We were previously a disorganized group. Once we put our heads together and said, ‘Let’s put together some funding, some sponsors and make a uniform,’ then everybody who rode wanted to [join]," Sopher said.
Although the club has not officially entered any big rides, individuals have participated in events such as Wheels of Love, which benefits Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem. The ride, which takes place in Israel, attracts a few people from the area, including Dr. Asher Kornbluth, a gastroenterologist. He’s participated twice in the ride, raising a total of $137,000 for the hospital.
"In my mailed solicitation letter, I pledge all donors that I will match at least 14 percent of all raised funds, to cover the overhead of the ride. Most of the donors are friends and many, many patients donating anywhere from $18 to $10,000," Kornbluth said.
Kornbluth plans to attend the next Alyn ride in November and bring as many local people with him as he can including his 15-year-old son, Benji. "[It’s a] great cause, great friends, great country. What could be wrong with that?"
Physical therapist David Garber also hopes to be able to participate in the next Alyn ride. As one of the founders, he’d like to see the club become more active in charity rides.
"The team itself doesn’t provide any specific funding for events at this point," he said. "Everyone pays their own way. There’s certainly a lot of interest [during] the last few years, and we hope we can grow into something for doing good, as well as enjoying cycling. We definitely have the potential, but we’re just getting our feet wet with that."
The United States Cycling Federation is the governing body for official cycling events. The Englewood Cycling Club is not affiliated with the USCF, but Garber said they have applied for affiliation, but that is not a central club goal.
"Mostly it’s just for good times, for guys to enjoy riding, promote cycling, and health and wellness," Garber said. "If we become an entity that can raise money for specific causes, we’d like to do that as well. But we haven’t talked to anybody about fundraising at this point."
Although still unaffiliated with the USCF, the club does have an official logo: "Englewood" is written in Hebrew on the team’s bicycle shorts. Garber’s office, Englewood Cliff’s Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, sponsors the team’s gear. President of the company, Garber also acts as the official physical therapist for the group.
The group of 15 men and five women meets Sunday mornings at 8:30 in Englewood and then rides to Nyack, N.Y., where it stops for coffee and then rides back. While some use the Sunday rides to train for official rides, it’s also a social activity for the riders.
"It’s a good outlet for people to do things informally outside the synagogue or professionals to mingle without the pressure of the corporate environment," Sopher said. "The team is a support group. Whereas people used to have to go train on their own, it’s like a support group for events. On your own you have to find your own way, but here it’s like going as a group."
For more information, visit www.englewoodcylcing.com.