Steve Palincsar has been riding since the early 1950s. He grew up in the south Bronx. Steve says he wasn't allowed to have a bike; in fact his parents forbade him to even learn to ride, since a truck had run down and killed the son of a relative in NYC.
However, for two summers, he was on Long Island, and the kids next door taught him to ride. Their method of teaching was to coast down the hill on the younger boy's Schwinn until you crashed on the sand at the bottom of the hill, push the bike back up the hill and go again. After a day Steve says he got it! And then they loaned him a Schwinn Phantom V. These were the bikes with the big spring on the fork and the 2" wide whitewall tires. Steve says they rode all around Sound Beach. They'd ride down to Long Island Sound, go down that long wooden staircase (must have been a hundred steps) and play, and then just ride around.
Back then, there was almost no development out there; it was all forests, narrow chip seal country roads, and bungalow houses on stilts. The town was a road crossing with a church and a general store. It was about as different from Fort Apache, the Bronx, as you could possibly get, and heaven for a grade school boy.
After the summer, Steve says he discovered there was a bike shop a couple of blocks from his elementary school, just down the street from the church he attended, that rented bikes, and it was open on Sunday. So when his parents sent him to church on Sundays with money for the collection, he'd skip out and go to the bike shop instead, renting a bike with the church money. He says he was so eager, his parents thought he had a vocation for the priesthood. He says they never did find out what he was up to, either!
Steve has been a bike owner, since 1964 (for the same money he could have ridden the bus or bought a bike to ride to the University of Buffalo to finish the last 2 courses he needed to complete his BA). The difference was, after the summer, he'd end up with the bike.
Steve has been a member of a bike club since the spring of 1972. Some folks where he worked (and he was riding to work) got together and formed a bike club, the Catskill Wheelmen, in Monticello NY. He's been a member of Potomac Pedalers since 1980.
Steve started leading rides back in the early 70s. He says you want rides; somebody's got to lead. The clubs were small, and everyone took their turn.
"These days, I lead a lot (over 70 rides for Oxon Hill last year). If you want rides where you like to ride and at a pace you like to ride, sometimes you have to lead them. Besides, designing rides is fun -- at times, almost as much fun as riding -- and if you keep making changes on the routes to add variety, the way I do, it's only fair to lead them to keep people straight."
Steve's advice for those thinking of leading their first ride is: You don't have to be a mechanic. You don't have to be a coach. It's OK if you can't fix flat tires. Most of the time the hardest part of a ride leader's job (besides showing up on time with the correct cue sheets) is deciding when it's been long enough at the break.
And a good ride to start with could be any ride you've done and enjoyed. If you really know the route, so much the better. If you're not only familiar with the route but also with all the other roads in the area that the route doesn't go on, better still. What really matters is that you feel comfortable and you like it.
Steve does a lot of bike touring. I ask what was his favorite or the best tour that he had done. He responded, "It's hard to single out a "best" but certainly among the most memorable was the tour Tom Roberson, Joan Oppel and I did in the Black Hills of South Dakota back in 2008. The scenery is not only absolutely spectacular (hunt up some photos of Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road to see what I mean) but it's totally different than anything I'd ever experienced before. I'm an east coast guy; I've ridden in most of the New England states and Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as southern Ohio (which looks just like Virginia). There's a certain look these places all share. Believe me, the Black Hills looks nothing at all like home."
We thank you Steve for all the hours you've poured into the club and for the enjoyable story!