FLINT, Michigan -- Two years ago, Ronnie Dunn was inspired to look for a way to help community members become healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually.
“It started off at the church I attend, Victorious Road Church on Beecher Road,” he said. “Me and Pastor Rodney Murphy thought if we are gonna work out, we should get other people involved too.”
Out of those conversations came Flint Faith Ryderz, a ministry-focused cycling group that welcomes people of all different cycling experiences, ages, and backgrounds to ride together with the goal of changing lives.
“It’s not about us, it's about the ministry. We are not trying to just get the whole world to get with us, but we welcome people that want to get healthy and want to ride too,” Dunn said.
The board is made up of a team of dedicated members. Annette Walker is the vice president, Derek Ross the safety coordinator, and Cynthia Little the event planner. The group ensures each ride is safe and well thought out. The leaders of this group also teach safety tips and cycling laws. “We don’t deny anyone,” Dunn said in response to anyone fearful of riding due to a lack of experience.
Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday the cyclists meet at Sears outside of Genesee Valley mall at 8 a.m. The group is organized into groups: advanced, intermediate, and beginner. The groups often take trips through the city of Flint, to Shiawassee County, and even Lapeer County.
Dunn is motivated to encourage members to reach personal goals and group goals. During each ride he plays gospel music and is constantly motivating the riders. Every ride is documented on Facebook Live so that newcomers can see the joy the riders are experiencing together.
Alex Sawyer, 72, rides regularly with the group and said, “It’s a great group to be in. They will take care of you. They will make sure to keep everyone back. Eventually you are going to be just as conditioned as they are, and you will be able to keep up! They have a rule. Leave nobody behind. They look out for the people who ride with them.”
Shelly Spivack, 66, is a world-traveling cyclist and a regular rider with the Flint Faith Ryderz.
“What I love about cycling is it gives me freedom and it gives me a release,” she said. “It is a way to see the world and meet people.”
Before the pandemic spread across the United States, Spivack had started her tour of North America. Once COVID-19 began to impact Americans, she ended her trip and returned to Michigan. Still incredibly motivated to keep riding, she joined the FFR for their tri-weekly rides.
Spivack believes that her riding experiences with FFR is unlike any other cyclist group she has been a member of throughout her life. She talked about how the group cycles through the northside of Flint and how those specific rides have impacted her.
“You see the disparities of race, income and social class,” she said. “I think it broadens you as a person to do that. It makes you a better rider. My riding has improved since I started riding with these guys.”
Dunn has worked for the Genesee County Road Commission for 21 years. Because of his background and passion for cycling, the city of Flint has consulted Dunn on improvements for the city.
”I talked to some board members downtown so we can get some bike lanes,” he said. “They want to know exactly where we ride so we can have more bike trails in the city.”
The group has a joyous sense of gratification in their welcoming attitude. The Flint Faith Ryderz want anyone with a desire to cycle to come trusting they will be supported and encouraged. More information is available on their Facebook group page.
“My father instilled this in me, if you do good, positive things will happen for generations,” Dunn said. “I listened to him and after a year-and-a-half of this I told him he was right. This is addictive. People gravitate towards this. This is keeping people alive, it’s keeping me alive.”