Wolfpack Cruiserz create family-friendly cycling community

"One thing you need to understand about the Wolfpack Cruiserz is that we're more than a bike club," Damien Guyton says. "We're a family."


The Wolfpack Cruiserz organize two group bicycle rides through Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township every week that warm weather permits, going as late as mid-November. But the club doesn't shut down during the winter months. Instead, the Cruiserz shift their focus to casual get-togethers, bike education, and fundraisers or other charity events.


The group began as an Ypsi-based offshoot of Detroit-based Truth Riderz. But in early 2018 Guyton, the group's president and founder, decided to go his own way.

Damien Guyton at the Wolfpack Cruiserz 2019 kickoff ride.

"We didn't see eye to eye on some things, so we decided to split off and do our own thing," Guyton says. "No hard feelings, though. The Truth Riderz are just doing their own thing."


The Ypsi bicycle club has a very different feel from other bicycle organizations in Washtenaw County, bearing some similarities to motorcycle clubs. Wolfpack members wear matching vests with patches, for instance, and trick out their bikes with colorful paint jobs and lighted rims for nighttime rides.

The Wolfpack Cruiserz 2019 kickoff ride meetup at Gault Village.

In addition, the club puts an emphasis on being all-ages and family-friendly. It recently established a youth chapter, with a special patch for youth participants.


"When I started doing this, my motivation was to change Ypsilanti for the better," Guyton says. "A lot of youth today are kept indoors on video games (and) cell phones, or getting in trouble. When I was a kid, my mom would get me to go outside and stop staying inside."


Getting out of the house was a major motivator for Shannon Herrington, an Ypsi Township resident. She'd known Guyton and his wife Jen for a few months, and one day they told her she should come check out the club.


"I decided to try it, and it gives me something extra to do instead of sit in the house after work," Herrington says, noting that it's not only good for the body but also for her mental health, helping her cope with anxiety.


"I bring my daughter with me. It's fun and it's exercise," she says.


The club typically attracts about 20 to 25 riders, including adults and children, for any given ride, though just six or seven hardcore cyclists may show up if the weather is bad. Brian "Wolf" Weltch joined the club in this spring, looking for a more family-friendly option than clubs he'd tried in the past.

Brian Weltch at the Wolfpack Cruiserz 2019 kickoff ride.

"This year I decided to ride with the kids, and a lot of other rides in the community are not so kid-friendly," he says. He sponsors his best friend's child, age 14, to be a club member, and brings his own four children, ranging from age 3 to 15.


"They all ride 10 or 15 miles with us," he says proudly. He says he likes that the club is accepting of all riders no matter what sort of bike they have, from mountain bikes to cruisers.


Guyton brings his own children with him, including Makenzie Guyton, age 4. She has ridden on the back of her father's bike in the past, but these days, she has her own bicycle.


"I ride fast in the street with my daddy," she says.

The Wolfpack Cruiserz 2019 kickoff ride meetup at Gault Village.

Riding around the streets of Ypsi and Ypsi Township provides an opportunity for teaching bicycle safety. Wearing a helmet is optional, but lights are not, and club members make sure to obey the rules of the road. Children also get a chance to learn bicycle maintenance and repair through the group.


The group charges $15 monthly dues, although a 90-day free trial is available for those who want to check it out before they commit. Income from membership dues is used to fund travel to meet with other bike clubs in other areas, or to put on special events.


The club combined charity and education in an event it held in 2018 after the death of 4-year-old Gabrielle Barrett, who was allegedly murdered by her mother and mother's boyfriend in Sumpter Township. Guyton says the Cruiserz sponsored a barbecue, including a bounce house and a DJ, "to help the community heal."


Members of other bicycle clubs in southeast Michigan joined the event, and they planted a tree in Gabrielle's honor. One of the Wolfpack Cruiserz knitted a scarf in the little girl's favorite colors and wrapped it around the tree. The event also included a bike repair clinic.


"We came together with a whole bunch of organizations that donated bikes from kids who weren't using them anymore because they had a flat tire or needed a pedal or had a crooked handlebar," Weltch says. "We donated a little time to fix the bikes and make them rideable. They didn't all end up rideable, but out of 100, we put about 75 bikes underneath a kid that doesn't have one, for free."


That's not where the club's community contribution ends, though. Guyton says he signed the club up to participate in Ypsilanti's Community Cleanup Day May 18 as well.


"I love our community, and we just love to be there to support anyone in any way we can," Guyton says.


Guyton says anyone interested in joining a ride can contact him on his Facebook page, follow the group's event notices on Facebook, or just show up to a ride. Weather permitting, the group generally gathers at 6 p.m. and rolls out at 7 p.m. every Saturday, often starting out from Gault Village in Ypsilanti Township; and every Tuesday, usually gathering in the parking lot of the KeyBank branch on Michigan Avenue in downtown Ypsilanti.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.


All photos by Doug Coombe.