Clay Kind does not plan to slow down.
He will still be pedaling his way around Clark County. But come January, he will no longer lead the way.
The 77-year-old has been a volunteer ride leader for the Vancouver Bicycle Club since the summer of 1976. He still leads as many as four group rides a week, but at the end of this year he intends to step away from the ride-leader role.
To honor his years of service, the club plans a party on Sunday following the regular Two-Bridge Loop Ride led by Kind. The 21-mile ride starts at 10 a.m. at River Maiden Coffee, 602 N. Devine Rd. Cyclists travel east on MacArthur Boulevard, south across the I-205 bridge, west along Marine Drive and north across the I-5 bridge.
The pace for Sunday’s ride will be 14 to 16 mph. These days most of the rides led by Kind average 12 to 14 mph, but he was never focused on speed and often kept a 16 mph pace.
“I’ve never thought about racing,” he said. “I’m a pleasure rider.”
Kind volunteered to lead a ride almost immediately after seeing a VBC newsletter and joining his first group ride. Though he does not recall the exact route of his 1976 introduction to the club, Kind does remember being left behind by the faster ride leaders.
The primary role of a ride leader is to make sure everyone is riding safely and obeying the rules of the road and that no one is left behind.
“That doesn’t seem to work. People still go off and leave me,” a smiling Kind said.
Kind said he has led group rides with as many as 38 riders and as few as three. He has, of course, repaired many a flat tire for fellow cyclists. Legend has it he once repaired a flat with blades of grass, according to friend and VBC board member Jan Verrinder.
He has seen much of Clark County, and notes that cyclists see a lot more than those who travel only by car.
Kind does not know how many miles he has covered on VBC group rides. He said he has ridden as many as 10,000 miles in a year and averaged 8,500 to 9,000 miles a year for many years. He now averages 6,000 to 6,500 a year and has ridden 4,000 miles so far in 2016.
In 2001, Kind cycled from Idaho to his 45th high school class reunion in Moorhead, Minn.
Last year Kind was honored with the Vancouver Bicycle Club’s award for outstanding service, the club estimated he had led at least 3,500 rides. He is credited with promoting safe cycling and increasing participation in group rides.
In recent years, Kind had consistently led rides on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
According to Verrinder the Tuesday morning Tour de Friends ride can vary from 15 to 25 miles.
“The route mostly takes residential streets so people can do what the saying says, Tour de Friends,” Verrinder said. “If you ride ahead of Clay, you risk that he will turn somewhere. He likes a group ride and he likes to bend your ear.”
A native of Minnesota, Kind moved his family to Vancouver in 1964 after briefly considering exploring employment at Boeing in Seattle. He worked for almost 32 years at Boise Cascade, and would often make the 7-mile commute to work on his bike.
Now he is ready to retire again. He wants to ride at his own pace on his own schedule. So after 40 years of leading the way, Kind will be happy to follow other leaders. He is seeking volunteers to lead the rides he has led year-round for decades — except when the temperature dips below 40 degrees.
If nobody is found to replace Kind, his rides will disappear from the club ride calendar. But Kind will still be out there pedaling. His advice for those who want to make cycling a regular activity:
“Learn to ride safely and have a lot of fun.”