With spring finally sprung, lovers of long-distance bicycle rides are revving up for all the open air and open road the warmer weather can provide.
They’ll have an excellent opportunity to kick off the bicycling season with a bang on Saturday, April 16, when the 16th Annual Ocean to Bay Bike Tour leads off from the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce just outside Fenwick Island.
The event offers three long-distance courses — 20 miles, 35 miles and 50 miles — to challenge a variety of bicyclists and offer a journey through the sights and sounds of the shore.
According to Chamber Events Coordinator Amy Tingle, the tour gives riders the chance to take a leisurely outing through the countryside of the Quiet Resorts while benefiting charity.
Depending on the length of ride they choose, participants may ride north from the Chamber building on Route 1, up to the Indian River Inlet and Delaware Seashore State Park, then west via Route 26 to Holt’s Landing State Park and on to Assawoman Wildlife Refuge. Each of those locations will serve as a rest stop, with refreshments and restroom facilities available.
Along the way, bicyclists will be able to take in the ocean shoreline, woodlands and bay — all the while pedaling along the flat terrain of the Delaware coast.
Proceeds from the Ocean to Bay Bike Tour benefit the Quiet Resorts Charitable Foundation, which in turn provides scholarships and grants to local students and entities such as the South Coastal Library, Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company, CHEER Sussex County Senior Services and Delaware Warriors baseball team.
While the tour’s routes are generally unchanged from previous years, Tingle noted that a significant change in this 16th year is an emphasis on bicycle clubs.
“This is the first year we’re really embracing the clubs,” she said. Even with more than two weeks left before the event, 15 bicycle clubs from around the East Coast had registered for the event by mid-week, Tingle said — more than ever before.
“A lot of people are doing this as a training ride for longer rides in the summer,” she noted.
Despite the obvious training opportunity for the serious bicycling fanatics, there is a wide variety in the identities of the participants.
Some 400 to 500 bicyclists participate in the tour each year, according to Tingle, with the weather a big factor in the final numbers. Nearly half that many are already registered for the 2005 ride. (While April showers may bring May flowers, bicyclists do indeed have the option of taking the ride rain or shine.)
Tingle noted that many local families — and those at the beach just for the weekend — will decide at the last minute to hop on their bikes and take the ride. Last-minute sign-ups generally comprise a full half of the final number of participants, and riders of all ages are welcome. (Those younger than 16 must wear a helmet and be accompanied by an adult.)
While each of the distances offered on the tour may be far more than the average bicyclist takes on for a leisurely evening or weekend ride, Tingle said it shouldn’t automatically be intimidating.
“We don’t get too many people who can’t finish,” she said, though she admitted it does occasionally happen. (Completion is optional, the registration form points out.)
“It’s not a race at all,” Tingle emphasized, noting that most riders simply take the distance at their own pace.
The event also offers “sag wagons” until 3 p.m., to assist riders who find they simply need to stop, as well as to provide a helping hand for those unfortunate enough to end up with a flat tire. (They can repair their flat or throw in the towel and head back to the Chamber.)
Most riders finish their chosen course by that 3 p.m. mark, according to Tingle. They begin the ride any time between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. that morning, after checking in at the Chamber building on Route 1.
With a handful of hours of biking behind them, participants will then be invited to a finale party, set for 4 to 6 p.m. at Harpoon Hanna’s on Route 54. The party will offer refreshments, as well as a cash bar.
And even after (or perhaps especially after) that long ride, some riders will undoubtedly be looking forward to the event’s big giveaway. The top prize is a new bicycle, courtesy of Ocean Cycle. But there will be a variety of prizes awarded, and raffle tickets will be sold.
Early registration is being encouraged, with riders who postmark their entries by April 11 receiving reduced fees – $30 for the early birds, $35 from the 11th until the day of the event.
The entry fee for those younger than 18 is $15.
Along with the charitable benefit, the registration fee also entitles the riders to a “goody bag” and a long-sleeved T-shirt when the check in for the event. (Those registering later can receive them on a first-come first-served basis.)
Team registration also has its benefit, with the last rider for any group of six or more receiving free entry if they register during the early period, and pay and register together using the same envelope.
For more information about the 16th Annual Ocean to Bay Bike Tour contact Amy Tingle at (302) 539-2100, ext. 15, or (800) 962-7873, or visit the Web site at www.thequietresorts.com. The registration form for the event is available online.