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Be Part of the Posse

Featured Photo from Be Part of the Posse

A cycling club that likes to get fit, have fun, and eat – meet The Posse, a spirited and speedy group of middle-to-upper aged cyclists devoted to their thrice-weekly trail rides.

If you happen to be out and about on the Seminole Wekiva Trail on any given Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday morning, there’s a good chance you’ll see a self-described “bunch of old geezers riding bikes” whiz past you in their bright yellow, green, and black cycling jerseys.

Let us introduce you to The Posse.

This spirited group of men and women, ages 48 to 75, has found common ground on the bike trails that connect the Altamonte Springs area to the far reaches of Seminole, Orange, and Volusia counties. Some are hardcore cyclists; some are not. Some are retired; some still work full-time. But they all share a love for cycling, as well as the three Fs that are emblazoned on their jerseys: Fitness, Food, and Fun.

The leader of The Posse which has about 25 core riders and more than 150 members on its Facebook page is “Sheriff” Jim Catlette, a 75-year-old “big old bear,” as he describes himself, who coordinates the thrice-weekly rides of approximately 40 miles each.

“But don’t make this a story about me,” the always-humble Jim tells this reporter several times during our interview. “It’s about the club.”

“We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him,” says Apopka resident Larry Robertson, 66, begging to differ. “Jim has never been a sheriff, but we call him that. He’s this big, huge, tough-looking guy a real loving guy who sets up and organizes our rides. He’s like our mother hen.”

Sheriff Jim, who retired from his job in the beer industry in 2007, never intended to form “The Posse” or any kind of formal cycling group. He had begun taking regular bike rides on the trail with friend Jim Townsend, 72, and one day about five years ago, they met up with John Lowe, 65, when Sheriff Jim was leading a ride for Central Florida’s huge (700+ members) Florida Freewheelers cycling club.

“Jim introduced himself and told me he rides every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday with Jim Townsend,” John says. “That’s how we got started.”

About a year later, it was time to get organized. Sheriff Jim put together the Facebook page, and John who came up with The Posse name designed the jerseys.

“I just kept inviting people to ride with us,” Sheriff Jim says, “and the group got bigger and bigger. Then one day we decided to get some jerseys, so people would recognize us, and it’s worked out real well. People see us, and they want to know what we’re doing. We just tell ’em we’re a cycling club that likes to get fit, have fun, and eat.”

So, when John designed the club’s jerseys, his priorities were to make them brightly colored so the riders would be easy to notice in traffic and display The Posse’s unofficial “Fitness, Fun, Food” motto.

The Posse requires no initiation fee or membership dues; the only cost is the price of the jersey (about $50). The rides start around 8:00 a.m., and Sheriff Jim says he’s usually home by about 1:00 p.m. Many members begin their ride at the San Sebastian trailhead on State Road 436 in Altamonte Springs. They continue on to the Panera Bread restaurant in Heathrow, where they decide which of their many routes they will ride, and just as important where they will meet for lunch.

“As much as I try to coordinate,” Sheriff Jim says, “we’re about as dysfunctional as it gets. Usually, we don’t decide where we’re going to ride until we meet and someone says, ‘Where are we going?’”

In addition to the group’s regular rides, the members also “try to do every charity ride that comes around,” says Rich Pacheco, 48. Sheriff Jim began participating in charity rides in the mid-1990s, particularly focusing on the Tour de Cure, which benefits the American Diabetes Association.

This past February, The Posse surprised Sheriff Jim with the unveiling of a mural on the now-famous stretch of the Seminole Wekiva Trail painted by local “Paint the Trail” artist Jeff Sonksen. Larry ran into Jeff one day on the trail and made the request.

“We were thinking about something we could do for Jim,” Larry says, “because he’s done so much for The Posse.”

The club members loved the idea. They chipped in to finance the painting, and a photo of Sheriff Jim taken by member Bill Szemcsak was submitted to the artist. On the day of the unveiling, The Posse tricked Sheriff Jim into thinking they were going on one of their regular Saturday morning rides. But a member at the front of the pack stopped suddenly and turned his bike upside down as if he had a flat tire. Then all the riders gathered around, and Larry and Jim Townsend pulled the cover off the painting.

“I’ve been riding out here since Jeff’s been painting those things, and I had no idea what was going down that day,” says Sheriff Jim, who was also presented with a $300 donation to the American Diabetes Association. “I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m not anything special. It was a very humbling experience.”

The Posse’s members most certainly will disagree. “He is always doing things for other people, and he never asks for a thing,” Larry says. “I’m glad we were finally able to do something special for him.”

 

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