When sophomore Emma Noverr, president of the Endurance Sports Club, messaged Assistant Swim coach Laura Peter asking if she wanted to go for a bike ride, she wasn’t expecting Peter to invite her to dinner, or to become her club’s future coach.
“I used a cycling app to stalk people who rode bikes in the area, and only one person replied. That was the coach that I have now. I asked her if she wanted to go for a ride, and she replied in about two minutes and said, ‘Why don’t you just come over to my house for dinner tonight?’”
Initially a team of two people, the Endurance Sports Club now has 10 members. Though the club did not at first have the resources required to race according to U.S. Cycling rules, the team now has uniforms, donations, and even a budget within the club to help pay for races.
Instead of holding a formal recruitment process, Noverr said she has grown the club by just finding people who love the sport.
“It’s not something that most people are typically drawn to. You just suffer on an uncomfortable seat for hours. We got a booth started at the source, we started an Instagram page,” Noverr said, “and through word of mouth, we found people who were interested in cycling. At its core, it’s ‘I like to ride my bike, I like to have the freedom of that,’ and here are some people that can kind of relate to that.”
Peter said the increase in club participation is notable.
“90 percent of the growth is just getting people to go on bike rides on a regular basis, and then another percentage of it are those who are actually going to go out and do races,” Peter said. “We have to build the people that are riding first, and getting regular participation doing rides before they race. And also too, there’s a love for it. Everything starts from that.”
In order to build a stronger community and initiate more riding, junior Joe Toates, vice president of the club, said the team has gone on regular Saturday morning rides. According to Toates, these rides have helped foster a community of “adventurous spirits.” Junior Maddie Brilsky said that the new freshmen has given her a fresh perspective on community.
“Having so many people joining the team reminds me of the fact that ‘yeah there are new people on campus,” Brilsky said. “It’s a reminder that new people are just as important as the friendships I’ve had here over the last few years.”
Because of the variant skill sets, Peter said she hopes to train the racers based on what they want.
“If they want more specific training and they want help devising a plan or actual training time, I can help them with that. Last year I worked extensively with Joe and Emma,” Peter said. “Some people are riding somewhat recreationally and just beginning, so I just give them general advice.”
Though the club has regular rides, Noverr and Toates said most training is individual. Whether they are stretching, speed training, or lifting, the training ranges from person to person. Toates said the self-training has been invaluable to his personal growth.
“Training on your own teaches a lot of self discipline. Everyone who’s in it really really loves it, you either really want to do it or you won’t do it,” Toates said. “If you don’t like the training and the practice, it’s very hard to be in the sport.”
Throughout the entire year, members have the opportunity to participate in a variety of races. “Gravel races,” or mass start races that take place on dirt roads, are most popular during the fall season. They can range from 20 to 60 miles and are “welcoming” to a lot of beginners, according to Peter. Noverr has placed second in the “Lowell 50” gravel race as well as second in the “Iceman Cometh Mountain Bike Race.”
Prior to this semester, all races were self-funded. Noverr said all students had to pay out of pocket for the race fees, ranging from 35 to 75 dollars per entry. But USA Cycling granted Noverr a scholarship that is now a part of the club budget.
“Now we can pay for registration through our team fund,” Noverr said. “Now races are so much more accessible to everyone and there’s less of a barrier to be able to participate in races.”
Peter said Noverr’s “energy, attention to detail, and ideas” are what keep the team up and running. Toates agreed.
“Emma kind of makes the whole thing happen. This club wouldn’t exist without her going out and doing it. She takes us out everywhere and coordinates everyone’s schedule,” Toates said. “She put this whole thing together. It’s really admirable how much work she puts into it.”
In the last month, the club has initiated a community service project alongside the Hillsdale United Brethren church. Collecting the abandoned bikes on Hillsdale’s campus, the team is hoping to have them refurbished by Thanksgiving. The bikes will be given to kids living in the Hillsdale community for Christmas.
“I think there is a space here between the college and the community that can be easily filled but is also easily overlooked,” Noverr said. “Every kid remembers riding their bike. That was their first taste of freedom. You could get anywhere you could dream of without your parents. I really want to share that with kids here who have a tough life, and I think our team is very capable of doing that.”
Noverr said cycling is a helpful way to relieve stress and to get away from normal everyday activities.
“I want people to go out in Hillsdale,” she said. “Most people are confined to a four-block radius and they don’t see the beautiful sunflower fields and old bars. There’s a lot of beauty in the simple things of life and I think that sometimes gets lost in the complexity of the deep philosophical roots of Hillsdale.”