For more than 10 years, Karen Meserve has wanted to take advantage of the wonderful trails around Libertyville, but she didn't want to just walk the trails alone. She wanted to breeze through them on wheels and share the beauty with other women.
“I grew up in this area, so I know all kinds of places," Meserve said. "We have a great area here with such wonderful trails. People need to be using them – they’re free.”
In the spring of 2011, Meserve's vision finally came true when she launched Women on Wheels, or W.O.W., a women's cycling group.
“When I showed up for the first ride this spring, there were like eight women unloading their bikes and already talking to each other,” said Meserve, the fitness supervisor for Libertyville Sports Complex. “My heart skipped a beat.”
Safety in Numbers
Meserve says riding in numbers adds safety and a social aspect that encourages women to dust off their bikes.
“I was looking for women who like to ride but just don’t have any motivation to get out on their bikes or don’t know where to go,” she said.
Information about the group was posted in the Parks and Recreation Department's spring brochure and Meserve started telling Sports Complex patrons about the group.
Since spring, Meserve's group has grown to 30 women, with an average of 12 women showing up for each ride.
“I got instantly hooked,” said Diane Skurski, W.O.W. member. “Everybody’s got such an interesting story, and they’re doing such different things. We’ll ride and talk and all of a sudden, you’ve ridden 20 miles and you’ve hardly thought about it.”
Riding Together Increases Motivation
The women range in age from 20 to 56 and most joined without knowing any other riders. W.O.W. women say they formed a bond that makes it hard to miss a ride.
“I love it. I’ve learned a lot from all of the ladies,” said Cori Clark, the youngest W.O.W. member. “I first did it to spend time with my mom and to be outside, but I really like the group and I look forward to it every week.”
The group rides six times per month in the evenings and average between 15 to 20 miles per trip.
“We go at a decent clip, but we don’t leave anybody behind,” Meserve said, adding that they take occasional stops to regroup and check on members.
Meserve tries to make each ride different. One ride ended at during one of its evening concerts. Meserve surprised the women with wine, cheese, and music as the sun went down.
More than Just a Bike Ride
Before the summer ends, Meserve hopes to have an overnight ride where the women will bike to a campsite, spend an evening hiking, having dinner, and playing games, and bike back out in the morning.
“I want to open their eyes,” Meserve said. “A lot of people don’t like the winter, and don’t like it when it’s really hot. But you’ve got to get out. It’s God’s country out there. I feel like I have turned these women on.”
Meserve says many group members have discovered new areas in Libertyville that are right near their backyards. And it's this ability to see more than meets the eye that helps her stay competitive in the fitness.
“You have to make yourself different," Meserve said. "We’re the Cheers of health clubs. We’re small, clean, efficient, and everybody’s happy. We’re all about relationships.”
Meserve says the dynamic of the W.O.W group sets it apart from a lot of fitness groups, and that they already have talked about expanding into other outdoor sports, including cross country skiing and dragon boats.
“None of them has cross country skied before, so I’m determined to keep them together over the winter on skis,” she said of the W.O.W group. “There isn’t anything we won’t do.”
Now, Meserve is onto another cycling-related goal. She wants to see a bike path extended to the Sports Complex.