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Meridian cyclists bond over their passion for the sport

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 11:50 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - When the coronavirus hit, a group of cyclists in Meridian didn’t allow the pandemic to stop them from doing what they love.

“That (cycling) is one of the activities that the governor and other officials said was still allowable,” said local cyclist Emry Kennedy. “It’s not hard to social distance on a bike because you’re going to be spread out and have people going at different speeds.”

Kennedy and fellow cyclist Jerry Whitener have been biking together in Meridian since the ’80s. The pair, along with other cyclists in the Queen City, meet up three or four times a week at different locations around town to bike as a group.

One of the group’s favorite places to assemble for weekly bike rides is on Stennis Dr. near Naval Air Station Meridian.

“It (Stennis) is a good place to park and there’s a lot of signs that say this is a bike route,” Whitener explained. "We try to choose our routes safely and wisely so that we can look out for each other.”

Safety is a top priority for the group. Each cyclist is equipped with bright, flashing lights on both their helmets and bikes. The lights are used to help warn oncoming traffic of their presence while out cycling.

Some cyclists have even turned to technology to help keep them safe while out on the road. Several bikers in the group have radars attached to their bikes that beep and light up when cars are approaching them from behind.

While the group does ride together for safety reasons, they mainly choose to ride together as it makes the experience more enjoyable.

“You know when you ride together the miles pass quicker, the time passes quicker. It’s just a lot more fun than riding by yourself,” Kennedy shared. “Back in the ’80s, a lot of us rode by ourselves but it’s safer to ride in groups. Also, it’s mostly about the fellowship and the exercise.”

Cyclists in the group range in age from their mid-40s all the way up to Whitener, who is the oldest in the group at age 80. To celebrate turning 80 last month, Whitener did something most people at any age could only ever hope to achieve.

“I turned 80 on the 27th of July. On the first of the month I thought, ‘Well, I need to do something to celebrate and do something a little different,‘” Whitener recalled. “I thought maybe I could bike half my age, 40 miles, several times a week. Then I got to thinking, if I can do that four times, that’s twice my age every week...so by the end of the month, I had biked 800 miles. I guess it was kind of a way to commemorate getting old.”

For those who think it is too late to try out cycling or anything else in life, Whitener has a simple message: It’s never too late.

“I tell people it’s never too late to start anything. But, you need to start something you enjoy,” Whitener said. “I didn’t start this (cycling) until I was 40. So here I am 40 years later and I’m still doing it.”

Copyright 2020 WTOK. All rights reserved.

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