The bicycling season in the Inland Northwest kicks off in a big way in April.
Hard-core road bikers already have hundreds of miles on their legs by this time, sometimes risking road rash or worse among the potholes and winter traction sand still on the roadways.
But April brings out more road maintenance crews, the biking masses and about eight notable organized events scheduled to greet them, not counting the many lower-key rides assembled by clubs and bicycle shops.
In May, the enthusiasm ramps up to roughly 20 organized rides.
Three major bicycle events are scheduled locally in April, including the annual Spokane Bike Swap and Expo on Saturday. Buy or sell used bikes at Spokane County Fair and Expo Center with proceeds going to the Friends of the Centennial Trail. Bring bikes to sell on Friday. Entry on Saturday is $5; kids under 13 free. Info: spokanebikeswap.com
Mountain bikers kicked off the organized racing-riding season last weekend by ripping down Beacon Hill courses – flying high with soft and sometimes hard landings – during the annual Hub-A-Palooza based at Camp Sekani.
Nearly 400 riders were involved in this year’s three events over Saturday and Sunday, said Josh Tofsrud, organizer with Velo Northwest. The races had men’s and women’s divisions with categories ranging from novice to pros who competed for more than $10,000 in cash and prizes, he said.
The Hub-A-Palooza is part of the All Gravity Series with another three-day festival of dirt scheduled for June 9-11 at Mount Spokane.
Last weekend included the rough and sometimes tumble Double Down Hoe Down downhill event in its ninth year, as well as The People’s Enduro.
The Enduro involves 3-4 timed stages, each ranging 3-10 minutes and including downhill sections and 2,000-2,500 feet of climbing.
The downhill events, as they say, are all gravity.
The courses flow down the rugged Beacon Hill terrain with jumps and technical riding over natural granite outcroppings as well as man-made jumps, ramps and banked curves. The urban riding area has been developed over years by various mountain bikers and groups, Tofsrud said.
Courses lined by cheering family and fans included sections with names such as Bomber, Sidewinder and Hollywood.
“The feedback from riders?” Tofsrud said, repeating the question: “They love it. It keeps growing.”
Although some cyclists crashed on the gnarly courses each day, no significant injuries were reported, he said.
Spokane’s first major road-riding event of the season is the annual Lilac Century and Family Fun Ride on April 30.
Ride 50, 66 or 100 miles starting at Spokane Falls Community College, with food stops and a baked potato feed at the finish, organized by Aurora Northwest Rotary Club. Info: lilaccentury.com
New this year, the 15-mile family ride and the 22 miler will be on the Fish Lake rail trail. “The old family course in Riverside State Park just had too many hills for some kids,” said Jack Worden, Rotary Club member.
The event is sponsored by Aurora Northwest Rotary. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. $40-$50 early. Register in advance for discount, but event accepts same-day entries.
The Lilac Century, like most of the organized bicycling rides, is a fundraising event for a good cause.
Brian Beatty comes on as the Rotary club’s Lilac Century’s director this year after moving to Spokane and riding it for the first time last year.
“Joining the ride was how I got interested in Rotary,” he said. First his attention was captured by the cycling routes north of Spokane. The bike ride is one of two major fundraisers the club sponsors each year to fund several programs including holiday meals for the needy and $6,000-$10,000 in scholarships for high school students headed to colleges or vocational schools.
Beatty enjoyed seeing the families as well as the century riders. “I can’t believe how some of them are ready to easily cover 100 miles this early in the season,” he said.
“We have the rest stops with drinks and food and a chance to socialize. And then there’s the potato feed at the end, which riders really enjoy.”
Cyclists gladly pay a fee for the rides in ordered to be pampered with food stops, support vehicles and the organization that goes into a mass event.
Getting some 600 potatoes and all the toppings prepared to feed hungry bikers is no small chore, Beatty said.
Two men with commercial food preparation experience get the spuds and a team of about eight works to have the Russets ready as bikers return.
“That’s the advantage of staging at Spokane Falls Community College,” he said. “We can use their kitchen and do everything on site rather than cooking somewhere else.”
“It’s a good cause, and a good ride,” he said.