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SpokeFest draws cyclists from miles around

If kids today are afflicted by inactivity, there was no evidence of that Sunday at Spokane’s Riverfront Park.

Tots, tweens and teens were well-represented at SpokeFest, the cycling celebration that offers riders four course options ranging from 1 to 47 miles.

Dr. Bill Bender, a neurologist who founded the event six years ago, stood at the end of the popular 21-mile ride and marveled at how many young kids took on the challenge.

“They were beaming when they came across the finish line,” Bender said. “And I’m talking about little bikes.”

About 1,900 riders checked in for SpokeFest, down slightly from last year’s turnout. The weather was cool and cloudy, and the finish lines fed into a small festival with bike and food vendors and the soothing sounds of a marimba band.

Brothers Samuel Kennedy, 8, and Jonas Kennedy, 10, completed the 9-mile Spokane Falls Loop, which follows much of the Bloomsday route, on their 21-speed Trek bikes. The two even liked the hardest part, “Doomsday Hill” on North Pettet Drive.

“We sort of ran-biked up it,” Jonas admitted.

At the top they paused to enjoy a snack of cookies and fruit handed out by volunteers.

“It was fun,” Samuel said, “because I got to eat.”

The brothers, who attend Cataldo Catholic School on the South Hill, said they’re ready to tackle the 21-mile loop next year.

“I think they should keep this going,” Jonas said. “It’s a really good event.”

For real young tykes on bikes, a 1-mile ride within the park included a rundown on the basics of bicycle safety and rules of the road.

That’s where Cort Souther, of Mead, took his son Nicholas, 6, while his wife and mother-in-law rode the 21-mile loop.

“He was ready just to ride,” Souther said. “He had fun.”

Nicholas learned to ride earlier this summer, his dad said, and the kindergartner quickly mastered the basics on his Mongoose.

“He just started riding that one and I think he’s outgrown it already,” Souther said.

This was the first year Kim Meyer, of Spokane, signed up for SpokeFest, and she took on the 21-mile ride.

“It was awesome. I rode with three friends, and it’s so much easier with a group,” Meyer said.

She said she rides her Trek bike a fair amount, including commuting to work a few days a week.

“It’s nice for Spokane to get the biking community all out,” Meyer said.

One group of avid cyclists pedaled over Saturday from North Idaho but didn’t do any of the course loops Sunday.

Four members of the Lake City Flyers, which gathers monthly for a long ride, soaked up the mellow atmosphere of the festival before starting the 30-mile return ride on the Centennial Trail.

Most of them ride antique bikes. Tom Morgan, of Hayden, may have had the oldest at SpokeFest – a 1938 Colson.

“It was quite a wreck when I found it. It took me a while to make it rideable again,” Morgan said.

In what he describes as a hobby-turned-obsession, Morgan has collected a couple dozen bikes built between 1910 and 1950. He gets them in working order and has sold a few.

On the Colson he added a few period-correct accessories – a leather saddle bag, a speedometer and a horn that quacks like a duck – and kept the look rustic, including the rigid metal seat.

“If it weren’t for these gel pants I’m wearing …” Morgan said with a smile.

Bender, who rises early to ride 20 miles before work every day, said he intended for SpokeFest to encourage people to ride for fitness and fun.

“It has become everything we wished it would be,” he said.



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