For more than a decade, June’s Tulsa Tough has served as the staple cycling event in Oklahoma. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festivities were scrapped for 2020. For event organizer Malcolm McCollum, the decision to cancel and start looking towards a return in 2021 was a painful but appropriate one.
“It was really difficult, because a lot of work went into it and so many people were excited to come,” says McCollum. “We’ve been so fortunate over the last 15 years that not only the Tulsa cycling community, but the broader community across the nation, has embraced the event and made it a part of their yearly calendar. It is a rallying point. But as hard as it is to swallow, it was the right decision because of the concern for the health of everyone involved.”
Tulsa Tough draws thousands of participants each year of varying skill and fitness levels, along with a hoard of enthusiastic spectators. The Tulsa Tough team has already set the date for 2021: June 11-13.
“We hope it’ll be the bang-up event it deserves to be,” says McCollum.
In the meantime, there are still some events on the books for cycling fans this summer, although McCollum warns that it may be a long time before things are completely back to normal.
And cycling can still be an entertaining, healthy and energizing hobby without big events. The Tulsa Bicycle Club, made up of riders who love the sport as a pastime and pathway to better health, organizes frequent rides of distances ranging from five to 100 miles. Founded in 1972, the club has a long history in Green Country.
For club president Gary Pereschuk, a retired educator and 20-year club member, part of the experience is about the social bonds built over rides.
“The [club] has allowed me to absorb some of the daily stories of fellow riders: their humor, anxieties, personal pain, reflections and, of course, kindness,” he says. “These get-togethers offer one of life’s most enduring experiences, connections and conversations.”
For those just getting into cycling, Pereschuk recommends assessing one’s physical health and investing in the appropriate equipment prior to taking your first rides.
“Talk with your physician and ask if biking would be beneficial to your health,” he says. “And always wear an approved helmet. Your local bike shop can help you find one that fits like a glove.”
McCollum says Oklahoma is a great places to ride; there are plenty of wide open spaces for cycling veterans and newbies to enjoy, and enough challenges to keep it interesting.
“We have a perfect confluence of fantastic venues,” he says. “The vibe and energy that we have here in Tulsa and around the state in the cycling community has put us in the conversation with the cool kids in Austin and Portland. I think people who come here pick up on that energy.”