There’s nothing unusual about energetic and youthful members of a bicycle club riding from Playa del Rey along the beach bike path to Santa Monica and back, until you take into account that the oldest member will turn 90 in November and the youngest is 65.
The bicycle club has been in existence for approximately 29 years, and while members have dropped out and new ones have joined, the group remains a cohesive and lively unit.
The members say that what keeps them together is the exercise, the great scenery, companionable lunches and discussions about a myriad of topics.
Opinions in the group are often strong and by no means uniform, but civility prevails, said one of the members.
The camaraderie, fun and energy that the group members share is infectious, and the enjoyment of one another and their deep friendship is the glue that binds them together, they say.
The group members consist of Sid Mendel, Martin “Cope” Copenhafer, Marie Stockstill, Ron Wong, Adam Kliszewski, Betti Richter, Rudy Bosinger, Bernard Cranston, Jerry Coscia and Karin Proell.
Mendel, who will be 90 in November, retired from the assessor’s office in 1979 and is a World War II veteran. He lives in the Granada Hills/Northridge area and said that Cranston and Bosinger met him in a square dance group, an activity they still pursue.
“Sid has a unique sense of humor and volunteers for the Native Plant people,” said Kliszewski.
Malibu resident Copenhafer, 88, is a historian and an accomplished archer. He has been riding the coastal bike path since he retired in 1979 from the assessor’s office and he is also a World War II veteran.
“Our group has ranged in numbers from four to a dozen, and we now have about ten regular riders,” said “Cope.”
“We used to ride the bike path from end-to-end, but now we only ride 15 to 18 miles. We’ve seen the bike path extended and even washed away in the storms of 1983.”
Copenhafer said that a major problem is with sand on the bike path in Venice because it’s not swept very often.
Stockstill, a Torrance resident, said that she retired 19 years ago as a secretary for Pacific Lighting (now Sempra Energy) in downtown Los Angeles.
“When I retired, Sid and Cope insisted I not sit around wondering what to do, so they scheduled my retirement program; hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains on Tuesday, and biking at the beach on Thursdays and in the San Fernando Valley on Friday.”
“This continued for about a year until a couple of non-bikers from the East Coast knocked me off my bike, requiring me to have knee surgery, so now my biking is confined to Thursdays only. Instead of hiking, I started playing tennis, which I still do,” said Stockstill.
“Sid will be 90 in November, Cope will be 89 in January and I’m not too far behind them. Karin (the youngest member of the group), is one generation down from us, but does manage to keep up,” she said jokingly.
Wong is a 77-year-old retired pediatric dental surgeon who lives in Los Feliz near Griffith Park. He said his claim to fame is that he once shot an arrow 897 yards and received a gold medal for best amateur flight shooter in an international competition.
“I ride a recumbent trike (tricycle) which is very stable and fast, and I can view the beach life belly-button high and stop any time and rest seated on my wheeled lounge chair without removing my feet from the pedals or touching the path,” said Wong.
He recalls joining the group at a time when “you could stop and have a French lunch at the ‘Boulangerie’ bakery and café just off the bike path in Santa Monica, bike a beautiful morning and lunch on veal stew and fresh rolls.
“Those were super days,” Wong remembers. “Now the café is gone but we cycle on, although we have lost a few and gained a few riders, but the gang still meets at 10:30 by the south end of the Playa del Rey lagoon.”
Kliszewski, 76, came to Los Angeles from England in 1955 as a 22-year-old Polish “displaced person.” He’s been in Westchester since 1962 and is retired from Xerox.
Kliszewski said he learned about the group from an ex-participant in 1998, when the group was about twice the size it is now.
“For me, the rides are more than exercise and visits to the beach area, they are also about enjoying the company and discussions during common lunch,” he said.
Richter is in her 70s and is originally from Germany. She joined the group after retiring and has lived in Westchester since 1966, where she and her husband, who passed away six years ago, raised two children.
She said that after her children were in high school, she went to college to get her business degree and later worked for the State of California for 20 years as an auditor.
“My friends are very important to me since my husband passed away and my children don’t live here,” she said.
Bosinger, 71, retired in 2001 from Boeing in Canoga Park, where he worked on the space shuttle’s main engine component testing.
“I live in Reseda and have known Sid for many years while in the square dancing group,” Bosinger said. “When I retired, Sid invited me to join the biking group.”
Within several weeks, Bosinger said he was biking with the group and has been ever since. He also bikes along the Orange route of the Los Angeles transit system in the San Fernando Valley about four days a week, averaging 60 to 70 miles per week.
Cranston, 67, lives in Van Nuys. He also joined the bike group members about eight years ago when they were in a square dancing group. One of his hobbies is flying radio-controlled model airplanes off the bike path at Balboa Lake in Van Nuys. The members who live in the Valley say they also bike on Fridays, and when it’s too hot outside, they exercise by “mall walking.”
“The group is great for relieving stress and exercising to keep our health. We talk about the world’s problems and insight of our everyday living,” said Cranston.
Coscia is 71 and has lived in Granada Hills since 1963, raising four children with his wife. A retired accountant, Coscia has a model train layout which his two-year-old grandson loves to watch him operate. He says he’s been riding with the group a few years to get some exercise and enjoys their company. He also rides his bike at Balboa Lake.
At 65, Proell is the “youngster” in the group, say the older members. She emigrated from Germany in the 1960s and still takes trips back there each year to check up on her mother. Proell lives in El Segundo and owned a shop called The Slipt Stitch for over ten years.
She works in jewelry sales and when she isn’t riding with the group, she and Stockstill play tennis, they knit on Fridays, and like the rest of the group, travel anywhere they can.
The bicycle club members encourage anyone interested in joining them to show up on any Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m. at the corner of Convoy Street and Pacific Avenue, by the baseball field at the Del Rey Lagoon off Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey.