A women's cycling club was the brainchild of Westfield triathlon enthusiast Lisa Braddock and Hilltop Bicycles owners Thomas Dunn and Sam Cooper, in the Fall of 2013.
Not knowing other women who rode at a beginner level, Lisa sought approval from Tom and Sam to establish a women's beginner (D) ride on Wednesday nights out of Hb Cranford. The 10-mile-long, mostly flat ride, traversed through Cranford, Westfield, and Mountainside with a few small hill climbs.
As the ride attendance grew in popularity through spring and into summer 2013, on occasion, women with lesser cycling abilities expressed a desire to participate. To provide an opportunity at their level, Lisa created a 4-week series called 'Cycling in the Park' (E) ride, which took place at Oak Ridge Park in Clark. On this ‘E’ ride, women strove to cycle four 2.5-mile loops in 15 minutes each, the starting ability required to join the D ride.
As Lisa's own riding ability approved beyond the D ride, she established a 12 to 15-mile group ride to incorporate one large hill climb up Deer Path and New Providence Roads in Watchung Reservation. This ride became known as the D+ ride. In parallel, Lisa backfilled the D group ride leader with two enthusiastic cyclists from Tri-women, Kelli Cusano and Lora Kaprowski.
At about this time, Lisa had the idea of organizing a women's cycling club, seeing that there was a definitive need and interest in the community. It would be free to join and would provide multiple levels of rides to support the progression of cycling ability, from beginner to advanced. Most importantly, it would provide a supportive and friendly atmosphere to welcome all levels of women cyclists. Lisa pitched the idea of a club to Tom and Sam of Hilltop Bicycles. As it was in line with their own vision to support women in cycling, Tom and Sam pledged support for the idea.
On a Fall day in 2013, approximately 30 women attended an informational meeting to gain support for the idea at the Hb Cranford location. With excitement from all involved, and plenty of willing volunteers signing up to lead group rides and organize clinics, a women’s club became a possibility! A Facebook page was established by Tom, and Lisa began organizing how the club would operate including securing League of American Bicyclist membership and purchasing the club’s insurance policy. The name Hilltop Bicycles Women, or HbW for short, was chosen by the founding members to reflect their affiliation and appreciation of Hilltop Bicycles owners and staff for the support of women in cycling. The club's logo, a pink W added onto the existing green Hb logo, designed by fellow member Sue Rotondi, was created.
HbW established a mission to provide a supportive, friendly and encouraging environment for women of all cycling abilities to have fun, meet new friends and improve their cycling skills. HbW was officially launched on January 1, 2014. It was also agreed by all that the club should be free to join and open to all women. Those lending their talents on the HbW planning board since inception included Sharon Zydney, Claudine Gimblette, Carmen Mak, Kelli Cusano, Yee Jao, Jamie McCabe Dunn, and Jessica Orr.
HbW grew from 30 members to approximately 175 members during its first year of operation.
In January 2015, Tom and Sam asked Lisa to help organize a co-ed cycling club out of several existing and highly-attended co-ed group rides offered through Hilltop Bicycles. Lisa accepted the challenge and worked with Tom and Sam to plan an Interest/Launch meeting. In February 2015, Lisa proposed the idea of a co-ed club to overwhelming support of approximately 30 men and existing HbW members. With volunteers pledging support to lead rides, Lisa proposed to the HbW planning board to operate one club with two divisions: HbW, and a co-ed division, named Hilltop Bicycles Cycling Club (HbCC). The club would be led and operated by the HbW planning team with added representation from HbCC. Summit cycling enthusiast, Mike Lorditch, would be invited to lead this new co-ed division. Board members adding their talents included Phil Lichtenwalner, Karl Reilly, Troy Doll, Jennifer Burke, Sasha Deieso, and Rich Lavine. Many existing board members remained, such as Sharon, Claudine, and Kelli. During the 2015 operating year, under Lisa and Mike’s leadership, the club offered approximately 16 weekly group ride offerings and membership soared to 250.
In late 2017, the club was registered as a 501c7 non-profit sports club and bank account established to house club funds. Lisa became Board President and Michael Lorditch became Vice President/Treasurer. Jen Docherty and Kelly Harnett joined as new board members around this time; existing board members either continued to stay on or returned to members-at-large. With approximately 400 members and 25 weekly group ride offerings, the club continued to grow.
At the end of 2018, after 5 years leading the club, Lisa stepped down as Board President to focus on her career and family. Michael Lorditch succeeded Lisa as board President for 2019 in coordination with several returning and new board members. The HbCC/HbW website, designed by Board Director Kelly Harnett, launched in late 2018. Draft bylaws were adopted by the 2019 Board of Directors. I am amazed to see what can be created when many come together to support an idea and lend their talents!
HbCC/HbW is led and operated by a volunteer board and volunteers who generously donate their time to facilitate group rides, lead cycling-related clinics, and organize social rides events. Since 2014, membership has been free thanks to the funds generated by our club’s annual ride event called Cycletta Fondo, an annual cycling event for women based out of Madison, NJ. In addition, donations are accepted from members during the annual club registration process. Hilltop Bicycles continues to be an anchor for our club, recommending new members, hosting Cycletta Fondo out of their Madison location, providing Cycletta Fondo QOM prizes and hosting various club Events including ride leader training, various cycling-related clinics, and open meetings at their retail establishments.