In the News story about MIT

Mennonites in Tights Continues to Grow

Written by Kevin Geisheimer on Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Mennonites in Tights

MIT riders meet at the Steinbach water tower for their weekly Saturday morning rides.

A local group of cyclists called “Mennonites in Tights” continue to see their numbers grow.

Mennonites in Tights are a group of female and male road bike riders who meet informally every Saturday by Steinbach’s water tower to ride the roads in southeastern Manitoba. The group started in 2003 and have seen considerable growth since.

One of the Mennonites in Tights founders is Steinbach City Councillor Jac Siemens and he says it’s amazing how many people want to get out and ride a bike. “We had visions of getting 10 or 12 riders. The first ride this year we had 20 riders.”

Neil Thiessen has become a regular over the years and says he’s pleased to see the group continue to grow. “When I first started there weren’t many regular riders. Over the years lots of people have joined in and the rides have gotten a lot faster as everybody improves their fitness. Friendships have formed and it has been really good.”

The shelter along the walking path by the water tower has become the group’s regular meeting place. They meet every Saturday morning at 8am in preparation for their 60 – 100 km ride. The group will ride to Woodridge, Richer, Deacons Corner, Dugald, St Malo, Winnipeg, Grunthal, Kleefeld, New Bothwell, and Landmark.

Oddly enough, their main goal isn’t about getting physically fit, but to find a good breakfast. “It’s always about the breakfast. It’s about the stories along the way and the breakfast at the other end and then the ride home,” says Siemens.

Travelling 50,000kms on a vehicle in a year is quite an accomplishment, but how about doing that on a bike? Siemens says that is the group’s goal. “We will easily surpass that mark because we are adding new riders all the time.”

Thiessen says the spandex isn’t one of the drawing cards but it does stir good conversation. “Usually people are stunned and say ‘you wear spandex? Ewww!’ After they get over that, they say it’s great that we ride.”

It isn’t a common sight to see a Mennonite in tights, so the name has attracted a lot of attention. Siemens says the name was given to him one winter evening. “My daughter walked by and said ‘you’re a bunch of Mennonites in tights.’ The name has stuck ever since.”

The group is welcoming new riders all the time. All that is required is a road bike, helmet and a tight pair of spandex. One of the group’s rules is to travel as fast as the slowest rider. Siemens does recommend new comers join in the spring because over the course of the year, as people get more physically fit, the rides get faster.

Check out the included video report on YouTube:

MIT ride makes front page of The Cavalier Chronicle

Here’s the front page from the October 8, 2008 issue

Cavalier Chronicle features MIT CanAm ride

Cavalier Chronicle features MIT CanAm ride -- click on image to download fullsize PDF (2MB)

Subject: Hello from Guelph

Sent: Friday, October 19, 2007 11:39 AM

Hi MIT: congratulations on the little Sawatsky; a rider in the making. Just to let you know that I am at Guelph this year and was disappointed to find that the Speed River Cycle Club here doesn’t ride into fall, so I was left alone. Carved out a nice 20 km road circuit, west from Guelph, along gorgeous winding, treed, 2 lane highways, but because we live just minutes from Speed River, I more often take a $99 mtn bike (the one in the photo) along the fast flowing, rapid-strewn Speed River, thru forest and vale, rocks and wild flowers, a trail that goes 20 kms to Cambridge, and if this is what the scriptures mean by ‘streets paved with gold’ then I am all for it.

Here is the website that gives you a fuller story. Okay, I’m sure that you have too many friends, and I essentially sentimentalist, so I am writing to say hello even tho you ignored my last salva, plus making myself vulnerable by directing you to this website!

Make sure you at least read the last sentence of the story; trying to spread the word.



Royden Loewen

Chair in Mennonite Studies

Department of History

University of Winnipeg

Roadies Ride for Fun

The Carillon News — August 3, 2006 — Editor: Terry Frey

Members of the MIT Roadies cycling club leave Steinbach early Saturday morning for a 68 km tour to Richer and back.Membership to this recreational cycling club is wide open. Called the MIT Roadies, all are welcome.MIT stands for Mennonites in Tights although Mennonite affiliation is not necessary to belong to this august group. In fact, there is a Lutheran or two along for the ride. Others, such as Steinbach lawyer Marcel Jodoin, have nary a discernible shred of Mennonite in them, but are still welcomed into the fold.Last Saturday morning 16 riders marshalled near Steinbach’s water tower at 6:00 a.m. for their Saturday morning excursion. Spandex ruled on this day, as it does on every ride.The one common thread amongst this group of avid cyclists, apart from the spandex of course, is quite simply the love of cycling, a form of recreation that provides exercise and camaraderie among the riders.Saturday morning’s ride was 68 kilometres to Richer and back. According to unofficial MIT Roadies coordinator Jac Siemens, it took 2 hours and 38 minutes to complete, “which included a stop for porridge in Richer.”The local group has grown steadily since it began in 2003 when Rudy and Sue Nikkel from Steinbach began training for a cross-Canada cycling tour. About a half dozen cyclists, including Siemens were part of that group. Now Siemens says there are about 30 people on his email list that participate in the club at any given time, including Shannon Sawatzky, who is training for the Ironman Triathlon in Penticton later this month, returning to the competition where she met husband Dale a few years ago.The Roadies ride Saturday and Sunday mornings from spring until fall, with about 10 or 12 cyclists per ride, although Saturday’s contingent of 16 was the most ever. Generally the Saturday rides are longer, up to 100 km, while the Sunday rides are shorter in duration, about 50 km.Siemens notes leaving at six at seven in the morning seems to work best because it is cooler, especially with the heat this summer, also the traffic is lighter and the wind calmer. The benefits of riding are numerous says Siemens, a production manager at Loewen in Steinbach, “it improves physical fitness, reduces blood pressure, controls cholesterol and for some, weight loss.” In his case he says he has lost 30 lbs since he got back on the bike in March and notes that the average rider burns about 30 calories per kilometre.Generally they ride about 30 km/hr staying, only on paved roads. They ride in a pace line, with the lead rider blocking the wind for the riders behind travelling in the leaders draft. The bikes are 10-18 speed road bikes, ranging in price from $500 to $4,000.Destinations differ by weekend, with the longer rides to Woodridge, Richer, Deacons Corner, Dugald or St Malo. Shorter rides may include Grunthal, Kleefeld, New Bothwell or Landmark. The Saturday rides generally includes a stop for coffee and waffles in Kleefeld, pan fries in Woodridge or oatmeal in Richer.Siemens says their last ride of the 2005 season came on November 11 on a trek to Winnipeg and back. “We ride in most weather conditions, whether it be cold, hot or heavy rains.” In spring the rides are shorter, such as Kleefeld (36 km) and grow in length as the season progresses.Some of the participants of the MIT Roadies use it as training or as a springboard for other events such as triathlons, run/bike events, MCC ride, MS ride or the Muddy Waters Century (100 mile) ride.Depending on time commitments, in a season the cyclists will put on anywhere from 2,500 km up to 7,000 km, as Paul Harakal did last year. Siemens cycled 5,900 km last year but has already logged 4,000 km this year and expects to surpass his 2005 total this season.Siemens suggests there are numerous hazards along the way such as, “stones thrown by passing vehicles, vehicles passing to close or drivers just not paying attention, rubbing wheels with the rider in front of you, bugs getting into eyes, ears and nose, and spandex that is ready to let go.”All the riders carry tubes to fix flats, small tools and air pumps and everyone stops to assist when some repair is needed. There are few rules, although all riders must wear a helmet, obey the rules of the road and in general travel as fast as the slowest rider.Last week, in addition to the Saturday and Sunday rides, there was also one on Thursday. Siemens, who rode in all three, admitted he was a little sore on Monday.”The best part about riding as a group,” added Siemens, “is the friendships that are built with people outside our normal peer/age group as we ride along side by side. We have solved many world issues along the way.”

Hammering the Pedals

The Winnipeg Sun August 27, 2006 Written by Katie Chalmer-Brooks

Carpenter cycles his way to healthy bodyPaul Harakal was stuck in a rut. The carpenter had a new role as supervisor so he no longer burned extra calories wielding a hammer. His waistline swelled and the scale crept up to 215 pounds. Harakal’s daily diet didn’t help. By the time he climbed into bed at night he had smoked two packs of cigagettes, drunk 15 cups of coffee, gobbled up a Big Mac Meal for lunch and two Tim Hortons doughnuts during most breaks.”It got to the point that I was literally out of breath reaching over to tie my boots in the morning. I knew I had to do something,” says Harakal, 38.The father of two smoked his last cigarette five years ago, kicking a nasty habit that followed him around since the age of 16. He climbed on the elliptical machine in the basement of his Steinbach home and burned off 20 pounds.Eager to get outsideCome summer, he was eager to get outside so he bought a used mountain bike he found in the Buy and Sell for $40. He started small, easing himself into cycling slowly by puttering around just one block.”As I got stronger, I just kept going a little further, maybe three or four times around the block.”He grew bored of riding in circles and pushed himself harder. Before long, he was covering 20 to 40 kilometers per ride. His weight continued to drop – at a rapid pace.In spring, 2005, Harakal weighted 190 pounds; by fall he had lost 42 pounds and was replacing his size 34 pants with size 30. At 5 foot 8, his weight has since settled around 155 pounds.Friends who han’t seen him in a while assumed his shrinking size was a sign of some dreadful disease ravaging his body, Harakal recalls. He reassured them his only affliction was an addiction to cycling, a far healthier habit than inhaling junk food and tar.Now, when his nerves get wound up, he hits the bike. This weekend, he took part in the 170-kilometre MS Bike Tour for the third year.”The endorphin rush is just huge,” says Harakal, who admits his love for cycling has taken on a life of its own. “I had no intention of getting into it as much as I have.”He upgraded his battered mountain bike to a light weight road model and rides 81 kilometres two evenings every week. He joins Steinbach-area cyclists on the weekend for a couple of treks that total 100 to 220 kilometres.Since adopting a healthier lifestyle, Harakal no longer craves greasy burgers. When eating out, he’ll grab a tuna wrap instead. After suffering excruciating leg cramps, he also learned how to keep his body better hydrated.“It got to the point that I was literally out of breath reaching over to tie my boots in the morning. I knew I had to do something.” – Paul HarakalHarakal has logged more than 14,700 kilometres since his transformation began. During the winter months, he puts his bide on a trainer and pedals indoors for 30 to 60 minutes, three times each week. The routine is tedious, he says, but necessary to keep his body in shape for summer cycling.”It’s like torture,” he says.Harakal figures the appeal for riding a bike outdoors goes back to his childhood when he’d scoot around the neighborhood on his three-speed.”As a kid, when you rode your bike it was like freedom. You get on your bike and just ride. You’re off in your own little world.”He stills views cycling as a “cleansing process.” But it’s not always easy to find the energy after an exhausting day at work. Harakal forces himself to climb on the bike, knowing a couple of kilometers into the ride any negative energy will dissipate.”Cycling is a funny thing, ” he says. “It’s not something you can push on somebody. They have to find it themselves.”Paul Harakel - then and now.

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