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Thursday, July 28, 2016

The 2016 Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour should be the biggest and best one yet

The 2016 Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour should be the biggest and best one yet
By:  Michael Lander

The Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour is one of Memphis'
most popular and family-friendly bike rides that draws
thousands of participants to it each year.  Part of the fun for
many, besides the ride, itself, is the chance to compete as
the best in blinging yourself and/or your bike.

Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour and Lunar Festival is one of the biggest, the best, and one of most fun cycling events, before and after midnight in Memphis, and this year may be the greatest one yet.

Meritan will be hosting its 17th family-friendly annual Midnight Classic Bike Tour, beginning at midnight, Saturday, August 6, at Tiger Lane, (450 Early Maxwell Blvd).  The Lunar Festival, which precedes the midnight ride, will begin at 10:00 p.m.

It would be impossible to come up with a better way to spend a Saturday evening and an early Sunday morning than to take a midnight, 15+ mile ride around Memphis with your family, friends, neighbors, and 1,200 or more people from in and around Memphis.

The Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour and Lunar Festival
are very family-friendly events that draws many families
and people of all ages to it.

The event is made all the more fun with live music, a bling-your-bike and bling-yourself contest and, beginning this year, Meritan is also offering an opportunity for riders to go to a pre-event party.

Those who register early for the ride can pick up a VIP wristband with their registration packet at Meritan’s office, on 4700 Poplar Ave from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. between 1 – 5 August. 

This will allow participants to come together for any pre-event parties and to take advantage of food and drink specials at
Memphis Pizza Café, Celtic Crossing, Local on the Square, Young Avenue Deli, Lafayette’s Music Room, Café Ole, The Slider Inn, Bar Louie, and Blue Monkey.

Part of the fun of the Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour
is dressing up and, because of that, you just never really
know what you are going to see.

As for the Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour, itself, it is a leisurely, non-competitive bike ride that is open to all of those who love to ride, regardless of age or abilities.

It can best be described as a party on wheels that's meant to be a ride for those just looking for fun with family, friends, and fellow Memphians and seeing Memphis in a way that only comes once a year.

One of the greatest things about this event is that it also brings people in our community together.  You will find both young and old, cyclists of varying skills and abilities, and those who are from all walks of life and across the entire socio-economic spectrum.

A bike with a floral design, flowers in a basket, and a bubble-
machine was popular with the judges in the 2015 Meritan
Midnight Classic Bike Tour, which was awarded a prize last
The common thread that ties all of them together is the desire to ride, to have fun, and to do something that will benefit a good cause. 

The Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour event provides an evening of fun for those who participate and, from the proceeds of this, Meritan is able to fund senior care, home healthcare, foster care, care of intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals and other vulnerable members within our community, along with skilled nursing care services.

In addition to the thousands who ride in the Meritan Midnight
Classic Bike Tour are dozens of those who are working or
volunteering at this event to include some from several
bike shops who help with any quick and easy maintenance
repairs that might be needed before the ride.

Meritan is one of the city’s largest non-profit health social service agencies in Memphis and was established in 1961.  It is a private, not-for-profit agency classified as a 501(c)(3) organization.

“The Meritan ride is our largest fundraising event, which we like to refer to as a friend-raising event.  Many people learn about Meritan from doing this ride,” Elise Bone said.

Bone is the Marketing and Development Director at Meritan.

“Meritan is a nationally-accredited private, not-for-profit organization that’s been serving…. people of special needs for over 50 years.  It has more than 300 employees, board members, and volunteers who assist over 5,000 individuals across four states," Bone said.

Prior to the ride at midnight, there is a live band that performs
during the Lunar Festival, which begins at 10:00 p.m.  The
Liberty Bowl and the blue-lit fountain make beautiful
backdrops for those on stage.

"The programs that we provide include in-home care for frail seniors, specialized foster care for medically and emotionally fragile children, employment training, and job placement for seniors 55 and older, home health care, and services for the intellectually and developmentally disabled,” Bone added.

The route for the Meritan Midnight Classic this year is approximately 15.6 miles long, with Memphis Police Officers and volunteers stationed along the route for safety and to help guide you in the right direction.  It takes you through the Midtown, Cooper-Young, Vollintine-Evergreen, and University District neighborhoods. 

The Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour is approximately
17-miles long and takes cyclists through some of the most
recognizable and popular parts of Midtown Memphis.
There is little else that is better than riding through those

You begin the bike tour on Tiger Lane, (around the Fairgrounds Youth Athletic Fields), you travel south on Parkway to Young Ave., north on Cooper St., west on Poplar, north on Stonewall St., east on North Parkway, south on East Parkway N., east on Poplar Ave., north on Tillman, east on Walnut Grove Rd., south on S. Goodlett St., west on Central Ave., south on Zach Curlin St., west on Walker Ave., north on Patterson St., and west on Central Ave.

Cyclists will have until 3:00 a.m. to finish the ride and they can be picked up if they are unable to complete it.  To help make everything go a little bit smoother, participants will start the ride in waves with the more experienced, and faster, cyclists encouraged to leave out first.  Those interested in going at a slower, more leisurely pace should move toward the back of the start line.

The Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour is popular because
it is a non-competitive event that many people like to do
with their friends, family, and 2000 or more of their
Memphis area neighbors.

Organizers of this event make every effort to make this a safe and enjoyable experience for those who participate and so, for their own safety, they require that all participants wear helmets.  They also encourage them to have lights on the front and back of their bicycle.
Click on this link for additional safety tips.

For those who haven’t pre-registered for the ride, registration begins at 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 6. 
Click on this link to register. 

Registration is $35 for adults and $20 for children, students, and active and retired military personnel, (with proper identification).

Meritan has hosted 16 previous annual midnight rides that
many participants look forward to doing each August.
All participants must be registered, will need to sign a waiver, and must wear the rider number that is provided to them in their rider packet.

Some of the changes for this year's midnight ride include the early packet pick-up, numbers being assigned to the individual riders, no beer being offered to adults participants after they finish the ride, a slightly different, and shorter route, spray-painted markings on the street showing cyclists where to turn, and a change of the date of the ride, which is usually later in August instead of the first weekend of the month.

In conjunction with the ride, Meritan is also hosting an online auction with 99 items up for bid, (at  The organization hopes to raise at least $10,000 and the auction ends at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7.

For those who would like to follow news about Meritan and their Midnight Classic Bike Tour, you can find them on facebook, at

Friday, July 15, 2016

Revolutions Bicycle Co-op is a revolutionary bicycle ministry in Memphis

Revolutions Bicycle Co-op is a revolutionary bicycle ministry in Memphis
By:  Michael Lander

The Revolutions Bicycle Co-op is located
in the First Congregational Church
building in the Cooper-Young
neighborhood of Memphis.
Revolutions is a ministry for the
church, which opened its doors as a
community bike shop in 2002.

Revolutions Bicycle Co-op…… there is no other bicycle shop quite like it in Memphis and, as its name would imply, it really is quite revolutionary.

Sylvia Crum is the executive director of one of Memphis’ most popular and well-known co-ops, which is located in the Cooper-Young neighborhood, inside First Congregational Church at 1000 Cooper St.

She is the first paid executive director at Revolutions and she has served in that position for the last two years.

Prior to her arrival, Revolutions had changed from being a community bike shop to being a co-op and, with that change, it has been able to broaden what it offers local area residents with retail and other benefits.

“We have really expanded our offerings in recent years and we have sought to engage people and to connect them to one another through bicycling, and by providing even more educational programs, and to be a valuable resource for everyone in our Memphis area community,” Crum said. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of a
co-op like Revolutions, it basically looks like most other conventional businesses, but instead of enticing its investors with profits, it rewards its members with things that come from the revenue that is generated.

Sylvia Crum is the current executive director
at the Revolutions Bicycle Co-op and she
has been in that position for two years.  She
is one of two employees who are currently
employed at Revolutions.
Essentially, a co-op can be seen as being a more democratic approach to business that can benefit the co-op, its members, and the community for which it serves.

Since it first began as a community bike shop, the Revolutions Bicycle Co-op has been, and continues to be, an extremely innovative, unique, and a revolutionary
community outreach ministry for First Congregational Church. 

“This ministry helps the Cooper-Young area church to carry out its mission of caring for people, the community, and the earth, itself, while providing a less expensive and an alternative form of transportation that can help all of us to become more connected to each other,” Crum said.

Those who wish to support the Revolutions Bicycle Co-op can do so by becoming members. 

“We currently have about 250 members with a majority living in the Midtown area, but as far away as West Memphis, Ark. and into Northern Mississippi,” Crum said.

“The cost for membership is $30 each year and those interested in joining can sign up for it online,” she added.

Click here for the link to become a member.

One of the biggest benefits of membership is having extended access to the bike shop with help from the shop’s experienced mechanic,
Doug Dubose.

Doug Dubose (on the left) is the bicycle mechanic employed by
Revolutions Bicycle Co-op who is always readily available to
assist those who need help or who might have questions
about repairs to their bikes.

The shop hours for members are on Sundays from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., Mondays from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., and Thursdays from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Having people join Revolutions is also one of several ways that it is able to bring in some additional revenue that enables it to provide its much-needed service to Memphis and the surrounding communities. 

For the most part, most of what Revolutions provides is free to its members and there are many activities that they sponsor that are either free or reasonably priced for non-members.

“We offer everything from group bike rides like our ‘Bike to Dinner’ that includes some restaurant owners and works who come along, bicycle safety classes for children and adults, and a women’s bike chat, (which meets on the third Sunday of each month at 2:00 p.m.), to discuss bicycle issues followed by a short bicycle ride,” Crum said.

“In addition to all that, we also have educational programs like our bicycle overhaul classes, “How to Ride on the Streets” classes for adults, a bicycle assessment class, “How to Fix a Flat,” a
Wrench & Ride Bicycle Summer Camp, and projects like our Bicycle Ambassadors at Peabody Elementary,” Crum added.

“We are pretty unique in that we offer training to both children and adults whereas other places focus more on working on bikes for kids,” she said.

The Revolutions Bicycle Co-op has hundreds of bikes for
children and adults that have been restored, many of
which are available for purchase at a low and
affordable price.

For non-members, Revolutions also has open shop hours, with the shop’s mechanic, Doug Dubose, available, if needed.

 The open shop hours, along with retail, service and rentals is open on Sundays from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m., on Thursdays from 2:00 to 9:00 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Revolutions also has a used parts warehouse that is open to all and they only ask for monetary donations in return.

Other services that Revolutions offers are
bicycle rentals with family cargo bikes for $45.00 a day and 3-speed city bikes with baskets, which can be rented out for $25.00 a day.

There is also a
Cycle Lodge available to cyclists who are traveling, on a limited budget, and who want to stop for a night or two in Memphis.  For $15.00 a night, they can get a bunk bed with a place to safely store their bike and a way to get what they need, to include parts, if needed.

While finding a myriad of ways to help meets the needs of those who ride, Revolutions also never loses sight of some of the other things that are also important to them, which includes the world in which we all live.

Aside from bicycles, the Revolutions Bicycle Co-op also has a
wide selection of bicycle parts and accessories, which can be
a treasure trove for those who are seeking older model, or
hard-to-come-by items that are not available in most local
area bicycle shops.
And being environmentally-conscious as they are, very little at Revolutions ever goes to waste.

“We take donated bikes, overhaul them, fix them up, or strip them down for their parts and recycle them.  Almost nothing gets thrown out.  We try not to send anything to the landfill.  After we salvage and restore a bicycle, we then offer them to people at an extremely affordable and reasonable price,” Crum said.

“We also give people a chance to become more involved in their own community by not only joining us as members, but also coming to work with us as volunteers,” Crum added. 

“After all is said and done, our overall aim at Revolutions is to come up with ways to encourage people to ride, to be a resource for them, to show them how to use a bicycle as a means of transportation, to provide them with basic riding skills, safety information, and give them what they need to have with them, how to do maintenance, and how to even lock up their bike,” she said.

Through Revolutions, Crum would like to help remove the barriers that prevent people from riding a bike, to get more people out from the bubble of an automobile and on to a healthier mode of transportation.

Revolutions Bicycle Co-op has bicycles that people can rent out
and other ones that they can purchase if they are looking for a
used, but an affordable and low-priced bicycle.

With this, she also sees a potential for the Memphis area to have a more livable community where we can connect with each other and a chance for Memphians to see and meet their neighbors.

Having more people on bikes, she believes, will also help decrease the amount of carbon dioxide that comes from automobiles, and with more cyclists on the road, it can help to slow traffic and to make the roads safer for everyone.

As Revolutions seeks to help serve the community through cycling, it is also looking to the future to see where they will need to go from here.

“We are currently in a strategic planning process and, with that, we are seeking to build a more inclusive community and getting more people on bicycles, and connecting people within our Memphis area community.  We are trying to do all this as we attempt to become more financially self-sufficient since First Congregational Church is currently having to subsidize most of what we are doing right now,” Crum said.

Revolutions began as a community bike shop with Anthony Siracusa in 2002.  When Siracusa left, Kyle Wagenschutz stepped in and took charge until he needed to focus his time and energy as the Bike/Ped Manager for Memphis.  Following his departure, there were various individuals who served as interim leaders until Crum came on board in 2014.

Members of Revolutions Bicycle Co-op frequently participate
in local group bicycle rides.  Sylvia Crum is leading this
group, followed by her husband, Teddy, from a Bikes on
Broad event in August 2015.
As Revolutions is continuing to evolve, Crum sees Memphis as doing the same with bicycling over the last decade. 

“I know that Memphis has really come a long way even before my family and I came here.  The amount of bicycle lanes was a great selling point for what we wanted in coming here and I know it has and will continue to be for many others in the future,” Crum said.

“As for the future, I feel positive about the direction that Memphis is going in.  More bicycles will attract more people to our city, providing economic growth, jobs, and even more things to our area to include better health for those who live here,” she said.

As Memphis continues to grow, to evolve, and to adapt to bicycling, Revolutions will continue to do the same and to be there for those who ride or who are open to the idea of eventually riding, themselves.

As we see Memphis go through a revolution that will ultimately transform it into a city that is known for its cycling, the Revolutions Bicycle Co-op will be one of the catalysts that will most assuredly help spur this revolution along.

To learn more about Revolutions,
click on this link for other stories.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team is riding again in 2016

Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team is riding again in 2016
By:  Michael Lander

Jon Tweel, Richard Nix, and Mack Gilbert are three of six
members of this year's Tennessee Air National Guard
Cycling Team.  The team was first started in 2009 with
the main focus on supporting charitable causes in the
Memphis area.

There are only eight of them, but they represent thousands of what some might say are some of America’s finest.

The thousands are those who have served, or are currently serving, in the
Tennessee Air National Guard in Memphis.  The eight are members of a cycling team that, for three of the past seven years, has proudly represented this Air Guard unit in our river city.

Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team started in 2009 and, for the third time since then, its members will be participating in various charitable bike rides in and around Memphis throughout 2016.

One of the members of this cycling team rode in the
Mid-South Transplant Foundation’s Ride for Life on June 26, 2016, and one or more will be riding in the Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour on August 6 – 7, 2016, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Team Relay Bike Ride on October 21 – 22, 2016, and all six will be riding in the 2016 FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150 on September 10 – 11, 2016.

Mack Gilbert is the team captain for the Tennessee Air
National Guard Cycling Team and he has participated
in charity-related bike rides that have included the
FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150 and the Meritan Midnight
Classic Bike Tour.

MSgt Malcolm “Mack” Gilbert is the team captain for this year’s cycling team.  MSgt Gilbert is assigned, fulltime, to the 164th Civil Engineer Squadron and he has been in the military for 33 years with seven years of that on active duty at McChord AFB in Tacoma, Wash. 

Gilbert also happens to be a huge fan of the
Seattle Seahawks, and those who know him, know he is, and will always be, “the 12th man.”

“Besides being the 12th man, I am also very proud to be the team captain this year for our cycling team and for the chance to lead those on our team in getting out and riding for as many great causes as we can,” Gilbert said.

“I really want people in our community to see us out riding and to know who we are and why we are doing these rides,” Gilbert added.

Mack Gilbert revived the Tennessee Air National Guard
Cycling Team this year and he is one of three who were
on the team when it was formed in 2009.

Along with raising money and awareness for various causes, Gilbert sees these rides as giving him and others on the team a way to improve their own health and fitness and to promote that in the community-at-large. 

Of the rides that one or more of his team will be doing, the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150 may be the one that means the most to him.

“I have several friends who have multiple sclerosis (MS) and I will be dedicating my ride to them.  I have done three MS-150’s so far and this year will be my fourth,” Gilbert said.

One of the other seasoned cyclists on the Air Guard’s cycling team is TSgt Jonathan Tweel.  TSgt Tweel is assigned, fulltime, to the 164th Maintenance Squadron.

For years Tweel has been known as “turtle,” but it is a nickname that doesn’t quite fit him when it comes to cycling, since he has been known to move a lot faster than his name would seem to indicate.

Jon Tweel and Richard Nix and others on the Tennessee
Air National Guard Cycling Team have taken advantage
of every opportunity that they can to train for this
year's charity bike rides, especially the 150-mile
FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.

“I joined the cycling team because I love to ride bikes and I thought this would be a great way to represent the Air National Guard and to let people know that we are in the community,” Tweel said.

“I also think that the charity rides that we can do as a team can help us to raise money and awareness for some very good causes, while helping us to become better friends as we come together as a team and they enable us to leave a positive impression of our unit within our community,” Tweel added.

As in past years, Tweel plans to ride in this year’s Meritan Midnight Classic and to do the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.

“I always enjoy the Meritan Midnight Classic.  It really is a blast.  I also like doing the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150, but I always worry about climbing “
The Wall” on the second day of this 150-mile bike ride.  I have done four of these rides so far and this year will be my fifth one,” Tweel said.

Paige Stivers enjoys challenging herself
and, even though she has been a runner,
she is looking forward to taking a break
from it by cycling, which will also give
her an opportunity to represent the
Tennessee Air National Guard in any
charity-related cycling events in the
Memphis area.
One of the newcomers to the cycling team is MSgt Maria “Paige” Stivers who is assigned, fulltime, to the 164th Fire Department as the Deputy Fire Chief and Assistant Chief of Operations.

Even though MSgt Stivers may be new to the unit’s cycling team, strenuous physical activity is not anything that she is unaccustomed to because of her career in firefighting and in what she just loves to do in her own free time.

“I love to run and I participate in 5k’s, 10k’s, and other physically challenging events.  I have also completed the dragon fly triathlon, which was a sprint triathlon at Sardis Lake in 2009,” Stivers said.

Stivers in an ardent promoter of health and fitness and she has a Bachelor of Science in Education with a concentration in Physical Education and Health.

For Stivers, being on the cycling team has a tremendous potential for her, the unit, and the Memphis area community, too.

Richard Nix and Mack Gilbert, in the foreground, have been
training together on what will be part of the route for the
FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.

“The cycling team helps to build a better community by connecting those in our city to those in our military unit.  The fundraising for charitable organizations, like the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, also helps to foster education and awareness and the development of a relationship of caring, inspiration, and hope from those within our organization,” Stivers said.

“I will enjoy the opportunities to represent the Tennessee Air National Guard as part of its cycling team.  Building relationships between members of the community and military members is important and it helps to promote our image as minutemen and women and that we are ‘always ready, always there,” she added.

MSgt Richard Nix is assigned to the 164th Civil Engineer Squadron and he, too, is new to the cycling team.

While Nix may be new to long-distance bike rides on a road bike, he is not exactly new to cycling, itself.

Darin Day is the only member of the Tennessee Air National
Guard Cycling Team who hasn't ever been a member of the
Air Guard unit.  The cycling team, however, is open to all
current and former members of the unit, their families, and
friends.  Day is a close friend to the team captain - Mack

“My cycling experience has been predominantly centered on mountain bike and trail rides, but when I was asked by the team captain, MSgt Mack Gilbert, about joining the Memphis Air National Guard Cycling Team, I thought about it and gave him a ‘sure, why not,’ response,” Nix said.

Even though it has been a challenge for him, he is training hard, riding two to three times a week with distances of 15 to 20 miles that include some of the same roads and hills that will be on the route for the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.

“I joined the team as a way to help myself with better health, but I know that my riding will also help with some good causes and for those in need and I am looking forward to the opportunity to give something back to others,” Nix said.

Darin Day is new to cycling, but he has been very active
in it since taking it up three years ago, which he does
on a Bacchetta Ti-Aero recumbent bicycle.

Unlike Nix and the others, Darin Day is not in the Tennessee Air National Guard, but he is a friend and fellow church-goer of MSgt Mack Gilbert and he found his way on to the team that way.

Day works in the Air Ops division at FedEx and he has been very active in cycling, particularly when it comes to supporting charitable causes.

“I have participated in the
Great Cycling Challenge for the Children’s Cancer Research fund, and will be participating in other charity rides, also.  Every year, for the last three years, I did a bike ride in memory of a friend who died from cancer to raise money for the ministry that she was so devoted to as well,” Day said.

Of the rides that the Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team will be doing, Day is looking most forward to the FedEx Rock-n-Roll MS-150.
Michael Lander has been a cyclist since 2007.  He has ridden
for many charitable causes and has raised in excess of
$15,000 for them in his nine years of riding.

“My aunt died from complications of MS and she’s often on my heart and mind and I will be dedicating my ride to those who are now fighting the disease, themselves,” Day said.

Day is relatively new to cycling, having only started three years ago, at the age of 47, and he has found that he really loves it.

“My only regret is not discovering it even earlier,” Day said.

“Cycling is a form of expression that I may have only recently discovered, but I’m looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities of ministry to others that it brings,” he said.

The three remaining members of the Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team are Dawn Stivers, Michael Wener, and me, Michael Lander.  To learn more about me,
click on this link.

The Tennessee Air National Guard Cycling Team represents a small fraction of a unit that has had a long and distinguished history of men and women who have been committed to a life of service and sacrifice on behalf of our community, our state, and our nation.

Michael Lander has participated in eleven 150-mile bike
rides for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and
this year will be his twelfth one.
They have long availed themselves, whenever called upon, to help during emergencies or natural disasters, assisting with humanitarian efforts, by providing airlift support, and by working with and alongside their active duty counterparts to protect and secure our nation’s assets and interests around the world.

It may be that, through cycling, our Memphis area community may come to know a military organization that is, and will always be there for them, whenever needed.