PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Staying in shape is a core requirement for the Air Force. For some, the requirement comes easy. For others, it can be a challenge.
But for some members of the 920th Rescue Wing
's Maintenance Squadron, it's just like riding a bike. Literally.
The MXS started a cycling club in 2011, and it has members not only from maintenance but from the operations and aeromedical staging squadrons, as well as a small group of retired 920th Airmen. The group meets after duty hours to train and socialize.
"We have our group rides on the weekends," said Master Sgt. Mike Monopoli, an aircraft production control specialist with the 920th MXS. "We meet at a restaurant, bike 30, 40 or 50 miles, then come back to point A and have breakfast. It helps build camaraderie."
The team rides for fun. But they also train to participate in community charity rides.
"We couldn't find events that were competitive, so we decided to participate in charity rides," said Monopoli. "We are doing all these miles, so why not put it to good use?"
Their charity rides include biking for breast cancer awareness and the annual Tour De Cure, which benefits the American Diabetes Associated and includes 70 miles of spinning metal spokes, rolling rubber wheels and turning handlebars.
"We've done the Tour De Cure every year for three years, and it is one of the challenging ones," said Senior Master Sgt. Juan Maldonado, superintendent of the 920th Maintenance Operations Flight. "We have always had people deployed during the time of the ride. But this year we should have 10 to 15 riders. We hope to make it a big event."
The group gets sponsorships from local restaurants and pubs, and also hosts fundraising events. They've raised $10,000 as a team.
Aside from charity events, the bikers participate in community events such as the Rocketman Florida Triathlon, which is sponsored by Air Force Reserve.
"We are looking forward to doing the biking part of the Rocketman," said Monopoli. "We are going to reach out to the group and see if we can start a few teams. It'll be fun to be on different teams and gunning for each other. If my team loses, I'll never hear the end of it."
The Rocketman Florida Triathlon is scheduled for Oct. 12, and Monopoli says it'll be great training for other big rides they have coming up, the three-day, 375-mile ride they plan to do in Puerto Rico this January.
"The key to train for big races is to just ride and ride and gain mileage," he said. "Right now we average 100 miles a week. So by that time we should be hitting 250 to 300 miles a week."
While the group trains for rides around the community, there is another benefit to adding mileage on their bikes - it helps keep them fit to fight.
"Biking has greatly improved my run time," said Maldonado. "My time has decreased by 20 to 25 seconds. To some people that may not be much. But for me and my age, a 25-second difference is big." For Monopoli, the benefit is more mental than physical.
"If I can endure the grueling conditions of being on a bike and riding that long, I feel I can handle a PT test of 20 minutes of exercise (omit "of exercise)," he said. "For me, I still get nervous before test. But I always think in my head, 'if I can sit on a bike in the blazing heat, wind, sometimes rain, all these nasty conditions - I can do the run."
Biking is also therapeutic for these maintainers.
"You're on the bike and its freedom," said Maldonado. "You forget about everything. It's a great way to decompress. It clears your mind."
Whether biking for charity, biking for fitness or biking for Zen, these Air Force Reserve bikers push themselves to always strive for excellence in all they do.