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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2005

Weeklong bicycle tour converges on Findlay

BY JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Some 500 bike riders parade down Findlay's Main Street to mark the opening of the weeklong Great Ohio Bicycling Adventure. The tour, which begins today, attracted 3,000 riders who will travel from Findlay to Tiffin, Port Clinton, Elmore, Upper Sandusky, and back to Findlay next Saturday. Some 500 bike riders parade down Findlay's Main Street to mark the opening of the weeklong Great Ohio Bicycling Adventure. The tour, which begins today, attracted 3,000 riders who will travel from Findlay to Tiffin, Port Clinton, Elmore, Upper Sandusky, and back to Findlay next Saturday.
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FINDLAY - Almost a week ago, a pair of large boxes arrived at the Bike Shop of Findlay. One was from Illinois, the other from Colorado.

Roger Davis, the store's owner, decided to leave the boxes and their contents alone. "I don't want to assemble them too quickly, in case they get damaged in the store," he said. "I'm assuming they're quality bikes."

The bicycles needed to be ready yesterday, when 3,000 cyclists converged on Findlay to ride in the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure, an annual weeklong tour through part of the Buckeye State. Riders from 43 states plus Canada were in Findlay for the 350-mile tour that will stop in Tiffin, Port Clinton, Elmore, and Upper Sandusky, before returning to Findlay.

A bicycle parade with about 500 cyclists riding down Findlay's Main Street kicked off the event. Mick Gould, the president of the Hancock Handlebars, a local bike club, pedaled a turn-of-the-century high wheel bike during the parade while dressed in knickers and suspenders.

"They are very hard to ride, very hard to get up on," he said. "Basically, it's a dangerous bicycle. There are no brakes on them. You have to backpedal to slow down."

"They're no good on hills or in the wind," said Del Nichols, who rode a Defiance-made high wheeler in the parade.

Fortunately, for anyone riding 19th-century bicycles, this year's tour is comparatively flat. "The biggest hill is the highway overpass," said Mr. Nichols. After the parade, the riders returned to the Hancock County fairgrounds, where many of them stayed in tents and campers. A group of city employees known as the Civil Surfers was hired to play surf rock 'n' roll.

Barbecues, concerts, and other events are scheduled for each night of the tour. There will also be a layover day in Port Clinton and a bus trip to Cedar Point.

This week's tour of Ohio marks the 17th such ride for the organization. This week's tour of Ohio marks the 17th such ride for the organization.
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"It's actually a vacation on two wheels," GOBA Director Julie Van Winkle said. "A lot of people come on this tour as their summer vacation."

Mrs. Van Winkle said the tour started in 1989 and it takes 16 months to plan each one. She said that towns must have scenic roads with light traffic.

The Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure can help a community's economy, Mrs. Van Winkle said. She estimates that riders spend up to $100,000 per day in each town they visit.

But, the ride's logistics can be overwhelming. "It will actually triple the size of our town overnight. We're only 1,400 people," said Brian Koenig, who coordinated the event for Elmore. "We don't have to worry much about traffic."

Local nonprofits must be contacted to provide meals for riders. Trash needs to be hauled from the campgrounds where riders sleep. Doctors must be ready in case of an emergency.

A small fleet of semi trucks drives to each town. Some of the trucks carry luggage. Others contain shower facilities.

"Imagine it like an airport terminal with luggage just getting dumped and dumped," said Bo Loeffler, an attorney who coordinated the event for Port Clinton.

Mr. Loeffler said jail inmates with community-service requirements will help unload the luggage. But rainstorms are his chief concern. "Hey man, we're praying for good weather," he said. "We don't want to have to house these people for two nights at Port Clinton High School."

Riders said that even bad weather does not subtract from the fun. "It's a good family adventure," said Jack McClain from Granville, Ohio.

Mr. McClain has ridden the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure 16 times and ran the Columbus marathon last year. His wife, Jeanne, bought him a Peugeot bicycle for Christmas in 1975, the first year they were married. She drives their car camper during the tour.

Mr. McClain, a modest 84 years old, said he enjoys meeting new people while bicycling at GOBA. "I see young families with children, young singles, and older seniors like ourselves."

Contact Joshua Boak at: jboak@theblade.com or 419-724-6168.



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