On Friday evenings, as the Nogales Little Mercado winds down on Morley Avenue, a pack of cyclists begins to form. The group, called 0S3 (pronounced “cero estrés” in Spanish) is led by Edgardo Muñoz.
0S3 began six years ago, Muñoz said, when he and two friends began riding around the city, often along Western Avenue.
At the time, Muñoz wasn’t sure if there were any other cyclists in Nogales, but he decided to make a Facebook page and invite anyone who was interested to join them.
For that first ride, two other people showed up.
“Then we put a rule,” he said, “if you’re going to ride, you need to invite two more people.”
Things started to pick up. “Suddenly we (went) from being three, (to) sometimes we have rides that we have been 80 or 90 people,” Muñoz said, adding, “I never expected it to grow so fast.”
In total, he said, the group has 120 active cyclists of all ages.
The Friday Night Ride is 0S3’s signature event, a family-friendly affair that takes cyclists from downtown Nogales, up Morley Avenue towards the Safeway on Mariposa Road, and then back downtown. “The Friday Night Ride is to build cyclists, people that are starting,” Muñoz said.
Over the years, 0S3 has grown from organizing a single weekly event to hosting rides most days of the week and catering to different abilities.
When cyclists start turning up on Fridays, Muñoz will encourage them to join for longer training sessions.
“They say, ‘Oh my God!’ 30 or 40 miles?” Muñoz said of the initial reactions when he suggests new cyclists join for longer distances. “But then we tell them, if you keep it up, you will be in Rio Rico with your bike, and then coming back.”
0S3 now boasts men’s, women’s and youth cycling teams, as well as a summer bike camp.
For those who want to ride but don’t have a bike, 0S3 has equipment to lend. “They always say, ‘I don’t have a bike,’” Muñoz said, “so we have a bunch of bikes there now. And then they say, ‘I don’t have helmet,’ so we have helmets, and ‘I don’t have lights,’ so we have lights. We have everything ready so you can ride a bike with us.”
The group’s members have also worked with local officials to make Nogales a more bike-friendly city, such as setting up bike repair stations downtown.
In one of their most ambitious projects, 0S3 members are working to bring a recreation path and single-track mountain bike trail to the Monte Carlo neighborhood.
But Muñoz is also pleased with some of their smaller-scale achievements, like a successful campaign to place “share the road” signs on Morley Avenue. “That was a big thing for us,” he said.
“I think the success of 0S3 is the people. The people from the community, they are very, very active,” he added.
Although Muñoz has emerged as an outspoken cycling advocate in the community with 0S3, he started off as a bike skeptic.
He said he was first introduced to cycling by a friend in San Diego when he took a trip to the California city.
That was eight or nine years ago, Muñoz said, and at the time he was struggling in his personal life, was overweight and was experiencing knee problems.
His friend in San Diego told Muñoz that they were going for a ride. “I thought he was a little bit crazy!” Muñoz remembered.
But he went on the ride, and quickly got hooked.
Returning to Nogales, cycling became a way for Muñoz to deal with some of the problems he was facing. “I saw the bike like a way to get out of it and escape, and it really helped me,” he said.
When his car broke, instead of fixing it, Muñoz said, he decided to start using his bike for his daily transportation.
At that point, he began to see bicycle skepticism directed at him. “People saying, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s doing really bad because he’s now riding a bike.’”
“The mentality of a Nogalian is: have a car and drive,” he said, adding that he’s hoping that 0S3 can start to change that. “Making Nogales a friendly city for cycling and pedestrians, that’s our main goal.”
Over time, Muñoz said, he has begun to notice other cyclists in Nogales riding alone or in small groups that aren’t part of 0S3. He said that they would be welcome to join, but he doesn’t mind if they keep pedaling on their own.
“If they are riding their bikes, we are happy,” he said.