As spring turns to summer in Detroit, it’s common to see groups of cyclists riding around the city. Clad in tight-fitting bike suits, sleek helmets and sunglasses, these riders move as one, ripping through Detroit with efficiency and speed. Some of the cyclists on these rides represent the Team o2/ Cadieux Bicycle Club, one of the oldest bike teams in the Metro Detroit region. The club has over 140 active members, multiple racing teams and organizes various charitable initiatives, but it hasn’t always been this way. On the contrary, the Cadieux Bicycle club comes from much humbler beginnings.
The story of the Cadieux Club starts with Robert (Bob) Devos, a Belgian immigrant who came to Detroit in the mid 50s. Bob, who is remembered as a sociable, outgoing entrepreneur came to Detroit looking for opportunity. In order to support his wife and children, Bob worked as a painter and sold vegetables until he bought the Cadieux Café in 1962. Located on the east side of Detroit, the café is an earnest, working-class bar that celebrates Belgian culture. Still in business today, the Cadieux café is known for mussel dinners, Stella Artois on tap and one-of-a-kind feather bowling lanes.
Along with his family, Bob brought his interests, hobbies and skills to Detroit. One of those was a passion for bicycle racing. Cycling was, and still is, huge in Europe. Bob grew up racing as an amateur in Belgium and still wanted to be involved in the sport in the U.S. Now settled on the east side, which was home to many Belgian, Italian and other European immigrants, Bob was able to spend more time doing things he loved. With that, Bob and his friends, Frank Van Laeken and Al Roels, a former bike racer, started the Cadieux Bicycle Club in 1965.
Starting out, the club was essentially a social club hoping to strengthen their community and spark interest in bike riding and racing in Detroit. Because of Bob’s networking skills and ability to promote events, the newly formed club organized races and sponsored events around the city such rides on Belle Isle, 6-day races at the Cobo Center and an annual race known at the time as the “Debeats Race.” Sadly, Bob died of emphysema in 1978.
Following his untimely death, the club had to rally around each other. One of Bob’s sons, Ron, inherited the café, the bicycle club and other unforeseen responsibilities. While the club continued to ride together and sponsor events, dwindling membership and the absence of Bob’s leadership impacted the overall success of the club. However, over the next 25 years, the club stayed active, leaning on each other and Antoon Huyghe, proprietor of Antoon’s Bicycles shop, as their main sponsor. Antoon emigrated from Belgium in the early 60s, was a good friend of Bob’s and was heavily involved in the club. In the mid 2000s, Antoon decided to retire and close his shop.
With low membership and in need of a new sponsor and a reassessment of the club’s mission, it was time to make a decision about the fate of the Cadieux Bicycle Club. Long time members Mark Cahn and Bernie Clincke reached out to their friend, and fellow cyclist, Brian Hords of o2 Creative Solutions about becoming a minor sponsor of the club. o2 is a Metro-Detroit based creative design firm that collaborates with brands, products and companies around the world. They thought Brian would be a good fit as a sponsor because of his business sense and passion for riding.
After giving it some thought, Brian decided to be club’s main sponsor. “The next day I called them up and said, ‘I’ll be the major sponsor if you guys can commit to doing a fall charity ride, creating community and growing the team and club that way,’” says Brian vehemently.
Mark Cahn also remembers the proposal to organize an awareness ride. The event, “known as the Exhale Ride, is a dirt-road ride around the beautiful forest near Metamora, Michigan,” explains Mark Cahn. “The point of the ride is to ‘exhale’ and enjoy the fall colors as a group one final time before winter.”
The purpose behind the Exhale Ride came from Brian Hords, the newly approved sponsor of the Team o2/ Cadieux Bicycle Club “My daughter has Juvenile Diabetes and I was also looking to do something beyond just throwing money at diabetes research organizations,” says Brian. The Exhale Ride was a chance to raise significant money and give it to the Juevenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).
The Exhale Ride, which will be 13 years old this fall, is a perfect example of how the club incorporates philanthropy and civic duty into an activity they enjoy.
The spirit of strengthening community has always been a part of the Cadieux Club, but it became even more central to the club’s identity when Brian got involved. “[Giving back] really became the backbone of what our belief system is and it attracted a lot more people,” says Brian. “Even being associated with the team and club gives people a sense that they are making a difference in the community.” Almost instantly, Brian knew the Cadieux Bicycle Club was a chance to give back in a substantial way. This was also a way to attract new members.
In present day, the club is thriving because the club has evolved with the times, incorporated philanthropy and fostered a strong sense of community into their value system. From the start, the Cadieux Bicycle Club was about giving back and having fun together. In 2005, Brian Hords understood how to take that to the next level. Throughout the spring, summer and fall, it’s possible to see riders from the Team 02/Cadieux Bicycle Club streak past in a blur of red, black and white. As the team prepares for the next race, they aren’t just riding for themselves; they are also riding for those that call Metro-Detroit home.