Written by Kim Barker
Remember when we were kids and rode our bikes all over town? Interestingly enough, that was the same era that terms such as “childhood obesity” and “diabetes” weren’t a part of our everyday conversations—you know, before we took the fun out of exercising and started creating fad diets.
Imagine an exercise regimen that would allow you to enjoy a sense of freedom, adventure, and being on top of the world while toning muscle, building endurance, increasing bone strength, and improving cardiovascular health.
Cycling alone can reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 50 percent and can significantly prolong average life spans. Multiple studies have demonstrated that communities with higher levels of active cyclists boast longevity more so than communities with low levels of people who ride bikes.
Because Kern County has high rates of heart disease and co-morbidities, a small group of people set out to combat community health risks by forming a team that emphasizes cycling as a key component of an overall healthy and active lifestyle. From day one, the impact on our community has been substantial.
Team Go Ride is an all-level cycling team comprised of both recreational riders and a race team who all promote the awareness of heart disease and stroke risk factors. As a proud ambassador of the Kern County Go Red for Women Movement (in support of the American Heart Association), Team Go Ride hosts and supports weekly and monthly rides, time trials, tandem rallies, cycling clinics, mentoring/coaching sessions, local events, and health awareness forums. They also collaborate with other local organizations such as Kern Wheelmen, Bike Bakersfield, and Action Sports to promote cycling safety.
Co-founded by Kim Barker and Joe Petersen in February, 2011, the team quickly grew to approximately 60 members, turning several ordinary citizens into lifetime cyclists. Team Go Ride members dedicate a tremendous amount of time to our greater cycling community, working diligently to inspire others to achieve their goals, mentoring new cyclists, and developing young athletes.
“Team Go Ride is helping us achieve our 2020 goal, which is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent. Prevention is the key and that’s what Team Go Ride is all about,” says Ashley Vorhees, Executive Director of the Kern County Chapter of the American Heart Association. “With a huge percentage of our county’s population being obese, we [Kern County] continue to contribute to the statistic that more Americans die from cardiovascular disease than all form of cancers combined. Cycling is a great physical activity that will help us combat those numbers.”
To say that this team is changing lives is an understatement. After being convinced to buy a bike, Mercedes Thayer began to feel a sense of accomplishment that was somewhat addicting. “I joined Team Go Ride for a personal reason. In 2009, my LDL cholesterol was 248! I was only 31, too young for medication. After reaching 193 pounds and size 18 in 2009, I realized it was time for a change. I changed my diet and worked out faithfully. I’ve lost 50 pounds and my cholesterol is now 138,” says Thayer. “I am in the best shape of my life. Team Go Ride keeps me motivated to ride because they offer group rides and time trials, which is fun because I get to race against myself. I have made amazing friends who keep me encouraged.”
Nicki Gilbert acknowledges the challenge of losing weight, emphasizing that being in good shape really boils down to a daily lifestyle choice. “I am amazed with all the energy and confidence that I now have. I am so much more active with my family and they notice a big difference in my energy levels and happiness,” she said, adding “I have lost 100 pounds, going from a size 24 to a size 10. Team Go Ride has become a family and is a great support system. They have monthly activities for the whole family.”
Co-founder Joe Petersen underscores how levels of activity are diminishing with each passing generation. “One in three Americans have one or more types of cardiovascular disease and, on average, 2,200 Americans die of heart disease every day—an average of one death every 29 seconds. Cycling just 20 miles per week can cut that risk in half.”
Team Go Ride is building a legacy. If you are interested in being a part of Team Go Ride, you can visit its website at TeamGoRide.org or visit its Facebook page by searching for “Team Go Ride Cyclists.”
Photos provided by Kim Barker
Article appeared in our 28-6 Issue - February 2012