Huntington mayor Fetters is ‘wheel’ man away from the office

Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters stands outside the Huntington City Building with his 1968 Schwinn tandem bicycle, which he rode to work that day.
Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters stands outside the Huntington City Building with his 1968 Schwinn tandem bicycle, which he rode to work that day. Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published Sept. 2, 2013.

Brooks Fetters was an avid cyclist in his youth.

Somewhere in adulthood, he lost his close relationship with the two-wheeled form of transportation.

In 2007, though, he decided to pick it back up.
"I still remember my first ride after having not been on a bike," he recalls. "It was 3.8 miles and I thought I'd climbed Mount Everest."

Today, Fetters isn't a stranger to rides that require riding 100 miles in one day.

Fetters, Huntington's mayor and the former general manager of Myers Funeral Homes, rode his bike often in high school and college and even considered riding across the nation with a group from Taylor University.

"I explored it a couple times after my senior year and freshman year in college and I just didn't do it," he says. "I don't have very many regrets in life, but that's the one I got."

After not being on a bike for several years, Fetters deciding to start riding again six years ago as a way to get in shape and be active. The bike that Fetters took on that first ride, a 1973 Schwinn Traveler he pulled out of his basement, saw many more miles after that initial 3.8.

"From Labor Day of '07 to November, when the snow started flying, I rode 500 miles on that bike," he says.

The cycling bug had bitten him once again. In February 2008, he upgraded to a new Cannondale road bike, which he had custom-fitted. Since purchasing it, he speculates he's ridden it more than 15,000 miles.

Fetters also started recording a mileage log in 2008.
"I think that my highest mileage total in the last six years was 3,653 miles," he says. "My lowest total was 2011. I rode, I think it was, 2,003 miles.

"Typically I like to stay in that 2,500 to 3,500 range. So, right around 3,000 miles a year."

Fetters says he picks up a lot of that mileage close to home, often with the group of 30 other cyclists he rides with.

"Here in the last six, seven years, the major places I ride are all over Huntington County," he says.
"Huntington County is a fabulous place to ride bicycles."
Fetters also ventures into surrounding counties and has embarked on Indiana's RAIN (short for "Ride Across Indiana") event.

"You start on the Illinois line in Terre Haute and you ride U.S. 40 east to the Ohio state line in Richmond," he explains. "That's 160 miles and you got 14 hours to do it. A number of people have done it from Huntington. I've done it five times, completed it twice."

Two times a year, Fetters and a group from Huntington head to his mother's birthplace in western Pennsylvania, which lies by the Allegheny River and rail-trails, which are railroad beds that have been converted into bike trails.

"There are rail-trails and state parks out there and we typically ride a 100-mile ride on Friday and a 70-mile ride on Saturday and it's all along rivers on rail-trails," he says.

In September, Fetters and a friend have a week-long bike trip planned: They'll start in Pittsburgh and ride to Washington D.C.

"That's 70 miles a day, staying in bed and breakfasts and hostels along the way," he says.

Fetters adds, "You just see wonderful things. It's about a 326-mile ride."

If the amount of miles Fetters rides doesn't underscore his passion for cycling, the conditions in which he's willing to ride will.
"If it's 25 degrees or warmer and no ice, I'll ride," he says, noting that he and his group will try to ride at least one day in December, January and February.

Fetters may love riding bikes, but he's also developed a love for the bikes themselves. Four years ago, he started rehabbing old bikes.

"I basically go out to my garage most evenings after I've finished what needs to be done for the day and I don't have a watch on, I don't have any music on, no noise, I just sit out there and I tear bikes apart down to their frame," he says.

The fact that he provides this service has come in handy to friends who have rediscovered their old bikes, as Fetters once did, and need them fixed up.

"They call me up and they bring it over and I'll clean it up and re-cable it and get it all back to proper working order," Fetters says.

For a man who has also spent time rehabbing old Ford Mustangs and houses over the years, it makes sense that Fetters would eventually start rehabbing old bikes.

"The themes of my life have always been serving
God by serving people and taking old stuff and making it look new," he muses. "So, that's what the bikes do for me. They're not rocket science and they're not overly mechanical, but they really are works of artistic engineering."

In his capacity as mayor, Fetters is excited to see more bike trails built in Huntington.

"Right now, in concert with the sewer project that we're doing, we're doing the section along the little river from Elmwood Park to LaFontaine Street," he says.

Fetters says the master plan is to have the bike trail that runs along the forks of the Wabash on the west side of town extend all the way to the Police Athletic League on the east side of town.

"Our trail system is designed to connect our parks, schools, downtown, a lot of our historic neighborhoods, the university, the hospital and points of interest all over town," he notes.

Ultimately, Fetters hopes other people get into cycling and derive as much enjoyment from it as he has, even if their first rides feel like scaling Mount Everest.

"I certainly want people to give consideration to cycling," he says. "We're working really hard here in the city to promote bike routes that are safe.

"I love seeing people out on their bicycles."

Complete caption: Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters stands outside the Huntington City Building with his 1968 Schwinn tandem bicycle, which he rode to work that day. An avid cyclist in his youth, Fetters rediscovered his love for biking six years ago and now rides hundreds of miles each year and rehabs old bikes in his spare time.