‘Men of Change’ Group Pedaling By Example
Hopping on a bike for some exercise started out as a family affair for Joe Sparksman. It quickly became an opportunity for people from all different backgrounds to get together, break a sweat and get to know their neighbors a little better.
Since Memorial Day weekend, Men of Change — a group of Ohio Valley residents who banded together to empower, uplift, support, and educate the community — has hosted Saturday morning bike rides. Anyone can join in as the riders start at Heritage Port and head up and down the Ohio River Trail.
Sparksman, Men of Change’s president, said that after one of his family bike rides, he wanted more people to join in.
“I thought about it and I was like, what better way to get people in the community, now that’s it’s warming up, out together and interacting with each other?” he said. “We’re separate in our own neighborhoods. There’s so much division between us, if we can just get a group of people to ride together, you can get to meet your neighbors in your community.”
Sparksman also saw it as a good way for Men of Change to showcase the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. In kicking off its health and wellness initiative, the group didn’t just want to talk the talk. It wanted to walk the walk — or pedal the pedal.
“We can’t expect to go out and talk to our community about being healthy if we aren’t,” he said. “So why don’t we set the example?”
The rides are open to avid cyclists as well as recreational bikers. The whole group sets off at the same time, though some cyclists move a little faster than others. As they pedal, participants can strike up conversations with new acquaintances, discussing anything from college football to hot musical takes.
Men of Change member Isaiah Alford was part of his third morning trip this past Saturday. He was on his purple bike, affectionately called “Purple Rain.” He even played Prince’s classic song from his phone as the ride started.
Alford said the bike rides are a great way to stay in shape and protect his legs from the wear and tear that came with his previous forms of exercise.
“We’re getting these legs going,” he said. “This is the way of staying in shape now. I can’t go play basketball anymore like back in the day. One bad foul, and it’s a wrap for a week. Now I get my exercise in these safer routes.”
Sparksman appreciates seeing people of all ages joining the rides, but he especially loves seeing younger children among the group. Several were part of last Saturday’s ride, zipping down the trail.
“It’s great to see the kids,” he said. “That makes me happier than anything because so many of our kids are at home in front of the TV and playing video games. They’re just vegetating. Now I see them out and it reminds me of when we were kids.”
Sparksman would like to partner with different organizations and agencies for future rides, having different groups join in for a morning. Anyone interested in riding with Men of Change can find updates on the group’s Facebook page. Any organization wanting to join in can contact the group on the same page.