Motorcyclists Turn Out for National Ride to Work Day

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Several hundred motorcycle-riding employees at Nationwide Insurance invited other Ohio bikers downtown Wednesday. It was the second year the Columbus-based company has participated in National Ride to Work Day.

Police barricaded a block of Nationwide Blvd. as motorcycles began lining the street. Columbus patrol officer Doug Shaw rode up on his city owned Harley Davidson, though he says he left the Honda Gold Wing he owns at home.

“Big rains today, big rains,” Shaw said.

“But you’re riding now?”

“I have to now,” he said.

The threat of rain did not stop several hundred Nationwide employees from celebrating Ride to Work Day which occurs the 3rd Wednesday in July. John Holtzclaw, who manages the company library, owns two Hondas and helped organize the event.

“Motorcyclists come in all flavors, all types of motorcycles,” Holtzclaw says. “So this is one of those rare events where you get people who ride cruisers, they ride Harleys, they ride sport bikes, scooters, they all get together and participate and have a good time.”

Nationwide has begun insuring recreational vehicles, including motorcycles, something Holtzclaw says has come in handy.

“I had a little get-off last fall. Anyway, it was covered.”

Russ Dempsey owns a Yamaha R1, a sport bike with a top speed of around 175 miles per hour. Dempsey, an assistant general counsel, says he enjoys it as much on a country road as he does on the race track.

“It doesn’t look very comfortable but if you pick a curvy road it just feels right at home. And the miles just click away,” Demsey says.

An organizer predicted some 200 employees might participate this year. Last year the event drew about 1,000 bikers from around Central Ohio. Nationwide executive secretary Beth McCord says she’s never ridden a motorcycle but she spent some time Wednesday looking.

“It’s not for me but for those who enjoy it, I think it’s great,” McCord said.

Steve Kosman, a systems analyst for Nationwide Financial, owns a 96 Harley Sportster. He says there’s a bit of snobbery among some riders. But it’s something that Ride to Work Day might help to break down.

“Sport bike riders won’t wave to cruiser riders; cruiser riders snub the sport bikes,” Kosman says. “You know I think if you’re on two wheels and you enjoy riding the open road, then everybody should just wave to each other and leave the pretension at home.”Systems engineer Charles Askew says there are other barriers that will have to be broken through. He says he hasn’t convinced his future wife that he should buy a motorcycle.

“She would probably be a little bit more susceptible if I got a cruiser but that still may be a little ways off. Probably have to get married first and then we’ll talk about it. Gotta seal the deal first,” Askew said.

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