Saturday, December 9, 2023

Toledo Area Bicyclists Celebrate Oldest Member with Annual Ride

They say age is only a number, and the members of Toledo Area Bicyclists (TAB) are living proof. Just this past October, the local biking organization held their annual bike ride for the birthday of their oldest member. Hubert J. Backes has been a part of TAB since around 2000, participating in rides as often as he can, which is almost every single day during the group’s normal season of May-September. It’s hard to believe that just this year he turned 84.

A mile per year ride to celebrate Backes’ birthday has been an ongoing event. Twelve years ago, a few members of TAB realized that Backes was their oldest member, and to top it off he was faster than many of the younger members. Rick Metcalf, Backes’ friend and a former president of TAB, remembers every ride, saying, “This guy is exceptional, he’s outriding people far younger than him…. There’s probably not more than 100 people in the entire country that could do that.” 

Backes’ passion for cycling and his commitment to the organization deserved some major acknowledgment. And so the birthday rides began; except for a few years, they’ve never stopped and Backes himself seems like he is barely slowing down, too. He rides his bike six days a week when TAB is in season, and then climbs on and rides, even in below zero weather, on Saturdays during the off season. Cycling has also taken over his spare time, and he can often be found at P.B. Automotive Enterprises in an office crowded with tools, tires, and gears, fixing up any bike that comes his way.

84 for 84
For the birthday ride this year, the group looped around Whitehouse. “A lot of people ended up showing up on a morning that didn’t look like a very nice day… they came out and did about half of it,” said Backes. The group rode out, making a stop at Providence park to visit the memorial bench of Rob Rausch, a member of TAB that passed away this year. As they were leaving the park, they noticed that a bald eagle was flying overhead. 

Though the wind was against them for the first half, it didn’t stop them. “It’s always a good time except when you’re riding and you get tired and wonder, ‘Why am I out here?’ Then you forget about it, and you just keep going,” said Backes. After finishing the ride, the remaining smaller group who had completed the full loop all went out for lunch.

Rick Metcalf (left) and Hubert Backes (right) on their Loaded Tour, September 2021, after dipping their tires in the lake.

Though 84 miles is nothing to scoff at, it seems pretty small compared to the Loaded Tour that Hubert and Rick went on in September this year. As you’d expect from the name, the tour consists of cyclists pedaling with a little more extra weight on their bikes, somewhere around 60-70 pounds more.

“We rode from Whitehouse, up to the lake trail in Michigan. [We] rode to Lake Huron, dipped our tires in the water, then went over to Lake Michigan and dipped our tires in the water, and rode home. It was 747 miles in 10 days,” explained Metcalf. TAB has been constantly growing, with almost 400 members now. Backes’ energy and enthusiasm for biking is something so rare to find, and he doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.

If you’re interested in joining the TAB community, you can learn more on their website or visit the Facebook page. All photos courtesy of Rick Metcalf.

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