Club Spotlight: Memphis Hightailers
This article, written by Carolyn Szczepanski, originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of the League’s American Bicyclist magazine.
With growing interest in bicycling from all sectors, Memphis, Tennessee, is becoming more bicycle-friendly — thanks to folks like Tulio Bertorini, a longtime leader with the Memphis Hightailers Bicycle Club. We checked in with him to learn a bit more about his background and the push for better bicycling in the Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
WHAT TYPE OF RIDING DO YOU DO, AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START (OR CONTINUE) CYCLING AS AN ADULT?
I started riding more as an adult to pass the time after school and the joy it gave me riding the trails. I’ve ridden almost all types of bicycles as an adult. I started off with a mountain bike in the early 1990s, and, from there I did my fair share of racing off-road. I even worked at a small shop for a few years. Then to keep in shape when the trails were wet, I purchased a road bike and did some racing with a local team. While racing, I was introduced to cyclocross and now I look forward to it every year. Though I don’t race often, I still see the importance of the racing community to help promote cycling to newer riders. When it’s not cyclocross season I enjoy riding my road bike as much as possible. I love stopping and talking to anyone with a bike and even more so those who don’t ride and hope to give them the bug!
YOU’RE THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL CLUB; HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THE UNIQUE ASPECTS OR THINGS YOU LOVE ABOUT THE HIGHTAILERS?
I’ve always been involved in cycling organizations from my mountain bike days and even organized a handful of races. I joined the Hightailers in 2008 and slowly became more involved, from being the person in charge of our rides, to becoming our Marketing Director, to now serving as our Club President. Something great about the Hightailers is that we have a huge number of our 1,400+ members step up regularly to help the club. Recently we’ve had a big push to make the Hightailers a safer club — not just for our members, but also for those in the local community. We’ve had people step up to become League Cycling Instructors to help educate our members and the greater Memphis area. Our members do great work when it come to making people feel welcome. It must be a southern thing!
YOU’RE ALSO INVOLVED IN OTHER WAYS TO MAKE YOUR COMMUNITY MORE BICYCLE FRIENDLY…?
After attending our LCI seminar, it became evident that we need to do more to help cycling in the Memphis area. Maybe it was the competitive side of me. I saw many other places with Bicycle Friendly Businesses (BFB) and hardly any Memphis businesses were listed. I thought that was crazy, because I knew many local businesses had teams or were very supportive of cyclists. So, I started there and hope to see a major change here locally in terms of more BFBs.
WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT BICYCLING IN MEMPHIS?
The best thing about cycling in Memphis is that it has grown leaps and bounds over the past few years. From our trail system, to our Greenline, to our soon- to-be Harrahan Bridge that will connect Memphis to Arkansas. I look forward to the many out-of-towners the bridge is going to bring to Memphis. I invite them all to come ride with us when passing through Memphis. Our club has even at times offered to drive people across one of the bridges to cross the Mississippi River, because it isn’t safe to cross at the moment. I’m also looking forward to possibly being able to start in Memphis and ride to either New Orleans or St. Louis when they eventually open up the Levee Trail System. Lots of things happening to grow cycling in Memphis!
WHAT’S ONE THING THAT’S ON YOUR BIKING BUCKET LIST?
Ride up Pikes Peak from Colorado Springs. Since they opened it up to cyclists, I’ve had it on my list of things to do. I even thought about organizing a tour for the club where we hit Pikes Peak, then go to Moab and have a trail and road ride.