September is becoming the month of the bicycle in the Inland Northwest.
A cycling event of some sort for a wide range of abilities is scheduled every week through the month and into October.
On some weekends cyclists must choose from one of several tours, races or fundraisers on a single day.
“Bicycling has caught on in this region,” said Bill Bender, a Spokane physician and director for the SpokeFest event that debuted last year with 1,255 riders.
The events this month range from one-mile loops through Riverfront Park to a lung- and thigh-busting tour de pain over Cascades mountain passes. The variety offers cyclists of all abilities a ride worth joining for prizes, exercise and two-wheel camaraderie.
Many of the tours are fundraisers that feature great food, with cyclists happily donating to charitable causes in return for the pampering of a well-oiled event.
SpokeFest aims at being a celebration of cycling, not just a ride, Bender said.
Participants have two options:
A 21-mile loop from downtown into Riverside State Park and back, complete with two food stops, starting at 9:30 a.m.
A kid-oriented bike rodeo and series of one-mile loops safely away from traffic in Riverfront Park. The kids will be motivated by musicians, jugglers, the Rogers High School Step Team, cheerleaders, the Bubble Man and other attractions, starting at 10 a.m.
Everyone in SpokeFest gets a T-shirt and water bottle. There’ll be music on the trail and two bands will be playing at the finish area, where several food vendors will be set up, Bender said.
With more riders expected this year, the pre-event breakfast has been scrapped and the start will be moved to Spokane Falls Boulevard where cyclists will stage themselves in groups according to their riding speed.
“We’ll have much more police support to block off more streets just for cyclists as we get in and out of town,” Bender said.
Photos will be snapped at the finish and available for free downloads off the Mountain Gear Web site.
“We’ll be encouraging people to sign up early and pick up their T-shirts and packets the day or two before the event at Mountain Gear,” Bender said.
“The point is to have a good time and keep increasing the participation in bicycling,” said Bender, a member of the Spokane Bicycling Advisory Board. “We believe that if you build it they will come, and when you get more people participating they will build it – that is, it will help us get more bicycle funding and facilities in Spokane.”
The centerpiece, he said, should be a big community bicycle ride that’s not just for dedicated cyclists but also for people who haven’t thought a lot lately about riding a bike.