They may be seen in pairs or in groups riding around Minot or on the highways outside of town looking like competitors in the Tour de France, but the cyclists are most likely members of the High Plains Shifters Cycling Club.
The group was started in 1994 by local cycling enthusiasts, mainly by member Bob Darby. According to cycling club member Dave Orem, it was Darby's vision, and the first meeting was at the Sweetheart Cafe on Main Street. The group decided to focus on road riding rather than mountain biking at the time, Orem said. The plan was simple - have a group where people could share routes and rides, he said. There would be no dues or strict organization, and if you say you're a member, then you are. This philosophy has migrated over the years from word of mouth to a web page to Facebook, Orem said.
There are no plans to turn the High Plains Shifters Cycling Club into a formal club with dues and officers or regular meetings, though. They've been successful in keeping the group active and don't want to stray from Darby's vision, Orem said. It's also the only cycling club in Minot, he added.
Two members of the High Plains Shifters Cycling Club visit with other members before their weekly group ride. The cycling club gets together every Wednesday, weather permitting, at 6:30 p.m. in front of Val’s Schwinn Cyclery. Membership into the club happens by personal declaration and there are no dues, officers or regular meetings. Interested cyclists, recreational or competitive, are invited to join the group.
Members go on rides just about anytime, whenever people are available, Orem said. Rides or social gatherings are usually announced by email or on the Cycle-Babble link on the High Plains Shifters website, by a phone call, or a time and place is arranged and agreed upon by individual riders. According to the website, the flexibility of the club is one of its strengths, along with the enthusiasm of its members. In effect, it's mainly about people who share a passion for recreational and competitive cycling.
Orem said it's hard to tell how many members are in the group since membership is by personal claim.
"But we do have over 60 riders who follow on Facebook," he said. "We have anywhere from the upper teens to 50s or 60s."
It's not too noticeable when new cyclists will join the group, either. There are a lot of new faces, Orem said, but they're used to that with the military always bringing in new people.
"This is great for us because they bring in new ideas and experiences," he said.
The club changes as new riders bring their energy and ideas into the group, which helps influence the club.
Sometimes members will participate in group rides, like the week-long Cycling Around North Dakota in Sakakawea Country - also known as CANDISC - or the Prairie Rose State Games.
"There are many interests by the members, not just one event we all focus on," Orem said. "There are some who like racing, touring, or just riding for the sake of riding."
He said some other events that members have participated in have been the Burleigh County Cup; Bike the Border, a two-day bike tour in Missoula, Mont.; and sanctioned races in western North Dakota and Minnesota.
On their bike rides around Minot, members will pedal on just about anywhere the roads are passable, Orem said. Destinations and loops depend on how far the members want to ride. Short rides can be around town or out to Burlington, while longer rides can circumnavigate Minot or be loops from Minot to surrounding towns like Velva, Berthold or even Max, he said. Mountain bike rides are usually at the Bison plant, Black Butte, the Maah Daah Hey trail and the state parks, Orem added.
During the winter months when riding outside isn't as much of an option, however, Orem said some of the members will use spinning classes or indoor trainers that they put their bikes on. There are also some members who ride outside year-round, he added.
Getting the word out about the High Plains Shifters relies mostly through word of mouth, or people will share ride times on the Facebook page, Orem said.
"The cycling culture can be unique," he said. "As you come across other riders there is a tendency to ride together for awhile and compare notes. Share the ride times or Facebook page and next thing you know there is someone else available to ride."
For people interested in joining the cycling group, Orem encouraged them to "like" the group on Facebook. "Find posts of rides that interest you, or post a ride you would like to do and see who else can make it," he said. "It's a great way to make connections and can be addictive. You may find yourself riding more than you intended."