By Chris Bateman

For The Union Democrat

How to join the MLBC

The fastest way to join is by going to the Coalition’s website,, click on “support MLBC” and then on “membership.”

Next, fill out and submit the online form, complete with your name, email and address. Then, via PayPal, make your membership donation (minimum $25 a year).

Or, if those new carbon-fiber bikes are as technical as you want to get, send your information and a $25 check via the U.S. Mail to Rob Williams, 8977 Siegel Street, Valley Springs, CA 95252.

I’m a back-in-the-pack-type guy, so I don’t have a lot of practice coming in first.

But I did just that last month: I became the first regular member of the Motherlode Bicycle Coalition. I filled out an MLBC form after slogging through the Old Priest Grade Hill Climb on Aug. 24, and put it in the mail.

It sounded like a good idea at the time.

Then I forgot about it until Rob Williams gave me call about a week later. “You’re our first member, and we want to make a big deal out of it,” said Williams, the Coalition’s chairman and founder.

“So what did I join?” I asked, admitting I was in something of a fog after slogging up the OPG.

Then Rob told me about the Coalition, which already has a board of directors and has been active in promoting local cycling since 2014. But the Coalition, hoping to recruit plenty of new members, wants to do more.

“We’re about everything cycling,” said Williams, a Valley Springs bicyclist with whom I’ve ridden a few times over the years. “We’ll promote bike lanes, Share the Road signs, mountain-bike trails, wider shoulders, cycling tourism and more.”

Not only that, promises Williams, but the Coalition will sponsor the grueling Old Priest Grade Hill Climb going forward. “Can’t give you a date for next year’s climb yet,” he said. “But our plan is to make it an annual event.”

The Coalition covers Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.

So what do you get for signing up? Membership meetings, weekly group rides, regular emailed newsletters and varied opportunities to support and advocate for cycling in the foothills and Sierra.

Plus, the annual dues will help the MLBC realize more of its goals.

Williams, who began cycling and bike racing while growing up in the El Cerrito area, is a retired educator and school administrator who never lost his love for riding. He founded the Coalition five years ago, and recruited a group of talented and energetic cyclists to join him on a board forwarding the interests of local biking.

That board includes Jack Becker of Sonora, former executive director of Bike Bakersfield; Carl Baker of Columbia, a retired Caltrans planner, and Robert Leibold of Soulsbyville, a veteran cyclist and race organizer. Also on MLBC panel are Dwight Follien, who heads the Groveland Trail Heads campaign for more forest bike trails, Nikki Grimes of Groveland, and Calaveras County cyclist Carol Ryder.

For an organization without a general membership, the Coalition has done well:

It organizes the annual Ride and Walk4Art, which benefits the Calaveras County Arts Council’s Arts in Education program. It supports Groveland Trail Heads, a project which won a $30,000 Sonora Area Foundation grant for establishing mountain bike trails on the Stanislaus National Forest’s Groveland District.

The Coalition also works with the California Highway Patrol is putting on safety-oriented bike rodeos for young riders, and supports Tuolumne County’s Christmas-season Bikes for Tykes program.

Yes, the Coalition has accomplished a lot without a general membership. And now is a great time to join up. As an MLBC member, you can work for cycling trails, more and better bike lanes, Share the Road signs on county roads and more community awareness bicycling issues.

Not only that, says Williams, but the Coalition is set to be a key player in a $400,000, multi-county bike tourism grant approved last year.

Administered by the Tuolumne County Transportation Commission, the Caltrans cash will identify bike routes in Tuolumne, Calaveras, San Joaquin, Amador and Alpine counties, recommend needed improvements to state highways and county roads involved in these routes, estimate the potential financial benefits of bringing bike tourists to the area and map strategies for luring them here.

“What I’d like to see is bike tourism companies bringing riders up here to the foothills and mountains for multi-day rides,” said Williams, who is outreach coordinator for the grant. “You see this along the coast and in the wine country. It could work here.”

And who knows more about local bike routes than riders right here in the foothills and mountains? Williams says more than 1,000 bike-club members regularly ride roads here in the foothills, along with several hundred more – like me – who ride solo or with friends.

Indeed, much is happening on the local cycling scene. That’s why joining the Motherlode Bicycle Coalition right now is a good idea.

Not only that, but I could use the company. A few more have joined the MLBC, since I became Member No. 1, but let’s make that first membership meeting a standing-room-only gathering.