Blackhawk Bicycle and Ski Club
The concept of a bicycle club in Rockford grew out of some casual meetings in 1973 of a few bicycle enthusiasts. Foremost among those were Steve Schach, who was interested in racing; Doug Alms, who worked at Kegel’s on State Street; and Phil Mosher, who owned a bike shop on 7th Street. They organized and advertised two rides, the first of which was on Mother’s Day in 1973, but no club was formed at that time. However, on February 6, 1974, at a meeting in the Rockford Public Library of those three, along with some members of an informal group headed by Bob Frithiof, Rick Strader, who represented the city’s growing interest in bike paths and bikeways, and a few others organized the Blackhawk Bicycle Club. A charter was drawn up, and the group became incorporated as a non-profit organization with the purpose of promoting racing, touring, bike safety and bikeways. Phil Mosher was elected the first president, and the first published ride was the Pecatonica Pedal on March 24, 1974, led by Bob Frithiof.
The official monthly newsletter was named Spoke Signals, and has retained this name from the second issue in March 1974, to the present. The club patch, which consists of an arrowhead with a bicycle profile inside, was adopted in February 1974, and the colors green, white and black were used on both the patch and the club jersey. Through the years, the club has increased in membership and activities. From the start, the club organized both touring rides and races. By the second year, a bicycle committee attended city council meetings in an effort to promote favorable bicycle legislation. An early project was to encourage the city to replace dangerous sewer grates. The club was also instrumental in mapping and marking selected streets for bicycle routes. In 1993, an advocacy chairperson was added to the BBSC board.
Another activity was working with the Association for the Blind and providing both tandem bicycles and captains for blind stokers. Then in 1994, the Club formed a tandem group named RAPTORS (Rockford Area Pedaling Tandems On Road Society) because more members were riding tandems.
Both to raise funds for the club and to share the good riding in this area with other cyclists, the Blackhawk Bicycle Club began organizing invitational rides in 1976. The first invitational ride was the Stars N’ Stripes Scenic Sixty, which was held on July 3 and 4, 1976, and started from Page Park School. A total of 106 riders participated, with 50 on Saturday and 56 on Sunday.
The next year, two regular club rides became invitational rides as well. The first, the Blackhawk Metric Century (1977-1993), with choices of 25, 50, 100 metric miles, was held Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend at Atwood Homestead Forest Preserve. The scenic route northwest of Rockford and the famed duck pond rest stop helped make it a popular ride, and the ride was featured in Philip Van Valkenberg’s book on the best rides in the Midwest. The other club ride to become an invitational ride was the Blackhawk Century (1977-1982) from North Towne Shopping Center to Lake Geneva and back. In later years, the Stars N’ Stripes Scenic Sixty (1976-1977) was dropped, and the other two invitationals were replaced with the Stateline Sixty (1994-present) on Memorial Day weekend and first the Haldeman Hundred (1983-1993) and then the Tour of Scenic Ogle County (1994- 2003) during September. In 2004 the fall invitational ride was dropped as a fund raiser for the club. In 2008 the spring ride name changed from the Stateline Sixty to Blackhawk Country Roads and offers choices of 60, 45, 30 and 10 mile routes starting and ending in Rockton, IL.
A special use for some of the funds raised from the invitationals has been the purchase of several bicycles for children at R.E.S.A.Middle School in 2005 and 2006, for the Rockford Police Department, the Rock Cut State Park Rangers and for the purchase of bikes for World Bicycle Relief Fund to be used as basic transportation for people in developing countries. In 1981 the first atlas of Blackhawk Bicycle Club routes entitled “35 Bike Trips Around Rockford” in Winnebago and Boone County was compiled and sold locally and nationally by Fred Kennerly. Following this edition, Gene Bishop compiled an atlas of 30 popular loop rides.
In 1989, the Rockford Ski Club joined forces with the Blackhawk Bicycle Club. The club’s name was changed to the Blackhawk Bicycle and Ski Club, and a Ski Chairperson was added to the board. The board now includes a Ski Touring Chairperson and a Ski Racing Chairperson.
In 2006, with the assistance of knowledgeable local cyclists from the Blackhawk Bicycle and Ski Club, The League of Illinois Bicyclists published a 17” x 22” bicycle map showing preferred routes for getting around the metro Rockford area. The map’s back includes educational information on lane and intersection positioning and side path bicycling. The maps are available at the area bike shops and on-line at www.bikelib.org/rockford