The irreverent Honeysuckle Hundred, established 40 years ago to appeal to nature-loving bicyclists, is back on the circuit.

Saturday’s bicycle ride, which begins in downtown Columbus and features rural western Bartholomew and Brown County settings, is a fundraiser for the Clifford Volunteer Fire Department.

Since it began in 1975 with the motto “I brake for possums,” organizers of the Honeysuckle Hundred have enjoyed mixing fun and wit with their marketing efforts.

Revived last year after a lengthy break, it has been billed as the “must-do ride that smells as good as it looks,” jokingly referring to Columbus as Possumville.

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But all humor aside, Honeysuckle Hundred organizers hope to attract bicyclists of all ages to rural, less-traveled roads in the rolling hills west of Columbus.

The popularity of bicycling in Columbus has been growing since the first stretch of the city’s People Trails system was completed 30 years ago. More recently, 90 percent of Columbus respondents to a 2012 survey indicated they wanted to see more bike lanes and sidewalks in Columbus.

With increasing general interest in bicycling, fundraising events that are offering shorter-distance, family-friendly options are seeing the biggest gains in riders and proceeds, said Mark Stewart, president of United Way of Bartholomew County.

But like any charitable event, the amount raised during a bicycle tour can vary due to a number of factors, including reputation and marketing, local bike ride organizer Paul Ashbrook said.

For example, the 27th annual Hope Ride, considered the largest single sports fundraiser in Bartholomew County, earned $30,000 in September after attracting 2,200 riders, Ashbrook said.

A month earlier, the inaugural Moonlight Loop raised $10,000 for animal care medical expenses, event spokeswoman Stephanie Heck said.

The 8-year-old Girlfriend Ride, staged earlier this month, raised in excess of $20,000 for Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, Ashbrook estimated.

However, there’s also a chance bad weather could move in, leave high water on the trail and force organizers to either cancel or postpone. That’s what happened Saturday to the Smart Money Family Fun Bike Ride, Centra Foundation President Lyn Morgan said.

Since the Honeysuckle Hundred will be the fourth local bicycle ride in five weeks, Ashbrook admitted being concerned about the possibility of oversaturating the market with too many rides.

But the difference between success or failure will always come down to how well an event is executed, Stewart said. That boils down to whether riders have a good time and if participants understand how they are benefiting the community, Stewart said.

“As long as the answer to those two questions is ‘yes,’ there’s room for growth,” the United Way president said.

Last year’s low-key revival of the Honeysuckle Hundred raised about $6,000, Ashbrook said.

Participants of this year’s ride will have four lengths, each with a unique name, to choose from:

12-mile Baby Blossoms Tour

26-mile Sweet Smells Tour

36-mile Roadkill CSI Tour

50-mile Possum Trotter

While all tours begin at the Garage Pub & Grill, 308 Fourth St., the shortest route will be round trips on the west-side People Trails, said Lisa Moore, Honeysuckle Hundred co-organizer and Flatrock Township trustee.

The 26-mile tour is to the Grandview and Harrison Lake areas, the 36-mile version moves into Brown County and includes the community of Pikes Peak, while the longest tour involves a round-trip bicycle ride to Story, in southern Brown County near the Jackson County line, Moore said.

While testing out the longest stretch of the current route, Moore said she saw deer, turtles, foxes and other forms of wildlife that “people in the city just don’t get to see.”

Moore expressed hope that Saturday’s event will attract up to 600 riders.

The original Honeysuckle Hundred was tied to a triathlon event called the Mayday Medley, said Susan Fye, who urged Moore to bring back the race — with changes.

“With a mixture of hills and flat lands, the Honeysuckle Hundred was for serious riders only,” Fye said. “Back then, it wasn’t trendy to bring the kids along.”

No matter which tour participants take, all of this year’s riders will be asked to come to Mill Race Park after the event for a cookout and celebration, Moore said.

Although a number of sponsors kept the Honeysuckle Hundred going for more than a quarter-century, the event was dropped due largely to competition from new biking events, said Matt Battin, a former off-road mountain bike racer and co-owner of the Bicycle Station on Washington Street.

In reviving the ride last year, Moore said, she enlisted the assistance of Ashbrook and his wife, Carol. The Hope couple are known for their work in organizing the annual Hope Ride and Girlfriend Ride.

While the Honeysuckle Hundred is meant as a fun event, Moore also expressed a serious intention in reviving the ride — saving lives by raising funds for the Clifford Fire Department.

Although the Clifford volunteers answer close to 200 runs every year, they operate on less than $35,000 a year through Moore’s office.

“While they use that money for insurance and vehicle maintenance, it doesn’t provide enough to buy equipment,” she said. “They’re on a very tight budget.”

“The Clifford department has a stellar reputation,” Ashbrook said. “They are always assisting other departments, always holding fish fries, always there to help.”

Riders who participate in Saturday’s Honeysuckle Hundred have an opportunity to say “thanks” and have fun in the process.

Honeysuckle Hundred

What: Fundraiser for the Clifford Volunteer Fire Department has four choices of bicycle tours (12, 26, 36 or 50 miles from the starting point in Columbus) into either western Bartholomew County or Brown County.

When: Saturday

Where: Registration 7 to 8 a.m. outside the Garage Pub & Grill, 308 Fourth St. After completing their ride, participants are encouraged to attend a celebration and cookout at Mill Race Park.

Cost: $25 for adults; $10 for those 16 and younger

Information: honeysucklehundred.com

Other upcoming fundraiser rides

MOONLIGHT LOOP BICYCLE RIDE, sunset on Aug. 1, Bartholomew County Public Library, 536 Fifth St. Riders will visit many of the city’s well-known architectural sites located along a 19-mile course. Cost varies, and proceeds will benefit animal services. Information: moonlightloop@columbus.in.gov.

THIRD ANNUAL YOUTH TRIATHLON, 7 p.m. Aug. 15, Donner Aquatic Center. For ages 6 to 14. Cost: $36. Register at 812-372-7867. Presented by Foundation for Youth, Columbus Parks and Rec Recreation and Reach Healthy Communities. Information: foundationforyouth.com.

THE HOPE RIDE, 8 a.m. Sept. 19, Hauser High School, 9273 State Road 9, Hope. Scenic bicycle ride has various distances available, some more than 50 miles, through scenic hills and farmland and across rivers, musical entertainment and SAG (support and gear) stops. Cost varies. Information: hoperide.org.

CIBA COLUMBUS FALL COLOR BIKING TOUR, 10 a.m. Oct. 3, JayC Food Store parking lot, Jonathan Moore Pike. Free. Classic bicycle ride of 36 and 50 miles around the Grandview Lake area and beyond.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.