The rain held off and the scene was set for a lovely Sunday bike ride up A1A – with 750 or so of your closest friends. The 24th Frank Stark Ride, billed as “the hottest ride in Florida,” a reference to July temperatures in South Florida, started at Boca Raton City Hall and headed north for either 30 or 62 hot miles. Some riders turned around at the Boynton Inlet rest stop, the rest pushed on to West Palm Beach.
The ride is named for a former airline pilot and member of the Boca Raton Bicycle Club, who had to retire after two heart attacks and quadruple bypass surgery. Stark celebrated his birthday every year by riding a mile for each year of his age. Friends from the club began to join him. After his death in 1999, the club started the ride, a nonprofit effort that raises money for charity.
The ride is known for its tone of relaxed bonhomie. Even though some of the bikes are breathtakingly expensive and sleek, there is plenty of chatter along the way, which mostly hugs the Atlantic Ocean coastline. There was one six-bike pile-up that sent a rider to the hospital. That was caused by a rider in the “fast group” texting at 25 mph, said ride co-chairwoman Tamara Savage.
Barreling up A1A, Janet Van Kleeck, at 77, is doing her 10th Frank Stark Ride. She remembers Stark from her days with the same bike club. She talked her friend Ginny Powell, who is only 60, into riding the full 62 miles with her.
Barbara Cambia, from Boca Raton, got a gentlemanly pat on the behind from Ron Fetters as they rode north. Some riders will do this when they see a fellow rider struggling on a hill, Fetters explained. Recently moved from Philadelphia to work at Lynn University, Fetters was joining the Stark ride for the first time.
Regarding the “hottest ride” tag, Fetters commented, “My friends in Philadelphia are telling me that it’s hotter up there right now. I told them to come here and get the sea breezes.”
Apple-cheeked 12-year-old Nikolas Figueroa stood out from the sea of baby boomer riders. He was there with a ZMotion training group from Plantation, with his 68-year-old grandpa Raul Figueroa. Since this was the younger Figueroa’s first Stark, they stuck to the 30-mile route, but Raul Figueroa said that he thought his grandson could be ready to ride 62 miles next year.
“Are you kidding?” said Nikolas Figueroa, mopping his brow. “You kicked my butt!”
Savage went to bed Saturday night praying that the solid wall of rain that day would abate, at least for the start of the ride. Her prayers were answered, and the weather held for the whole ride. She estimates that the ride, the club’s only fundraiser, made $20,000 for a variety of charities.
“The cycle gods were on our side,” said Savage.