Statewide it’s the year of Indiana’s Bicentennial, but locally this is also the Year of the Bike.

After last month’s launch of Columbus’ new BikeShare program, ColumBIKE, and celebration of Bike to Work Day, spring is about to give way to a summer of opportunities to grab a bicycle and pedal for dozens or even hundreds of miles with proceeds helping people in the community.

First up will be the Girlfriend Ride, which has a new community partner to champion, and offers the chance for women to spend the day cycling with hundreds of other women — and no men.

“The Girlfriend Ride was one of those random thoughts that seemed like a good idea at the time,” said Carol Ashbrook, who organizes the ride with the help of her husband, Paul. “It’s about spending time with best friends, riding for a good cause and enjoying tasty treats.”

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The ride itself is unusual because it’s limited to females and promoted as an event that combines the athleticism of bike riding with the comforts of being pampered.

Between 600 and 1,000 women are expected to ride, with some of them bringing along their daughters or granddaughters.

In its eighth year, the event offers the choice of a 22- or 34-mile tour with rest stops along the routes that feature hand massages, games, fun and chocolate.

“Lots and lots of chocolate,” Carol Ashbrook said.

This year’s stops will be at The Greenhouse at Windy Hill, Simmons Winery and the Clifty Creek Golf Course, with the rides beginning and ending at the Columbus Learning Center.

Women may sign up individually or in teams for the race. The route is flat, traffic is light and the scenery on the course is spectacular, Ashbrook said. There are about seven miles between break stops.

Marsha Apsley, a member of the Girls in Gear team, said their participation came out of a group of runners who get together for exercise and friendship.

“We usually get a group of girls together — we’ve been riding for a long time — and just blow through that course,” she said of the Girlfriend Ride.

A big attraction is the focus on chocolate, with Apsley reminding everyone that “you gotta ride in order to eat it.”

The idea of a fundraising bike tour that benefits causes that women care about contributes to the fun of the event, Ashbrook said. This year’s beneficiary, Love Chapel, helps displaced women and their children — especially those experiencing a financial or health crisis, she said.

Next up on calendar

Although the Honeysuckle Hundred bike ride is on hiatus this year, another annual ride is moving up on the calendar.The seventh annual Beer Ride will be Aug. 27 and may finish at the first Columbus Craft Beerfest, scheduled to be conducted the same day in Mill Race Park, Paul Ashbrook said.

Details are still being put together, but the family friendly ride will travel to various craft brewery sites in Bartholomew County, including Powerhouse Brewery and 450 North Brewing Co. A stop at the new Upland Brewery pub at the former Columbus Pump House could also be on the tour if it’s open by then, he said. In previous years, the course has included rides from 12 to 36 miles, and a “0” miles for those who just want to “hang out.”

The ride is normally conducted in late October, sometimes around Halloween, but Paul Ashbrook said moving it to coincide with the inaugural Columbus Craft Beerfest could pull in even more riders.

He is working with Elaine Wagner, a Cummins employee and Columbus city councilwoman who is organizing the Columbus Craft Beerfest, to work out the details.

Wagner said tickets are on sale for Beerfest, which is anticipating a sellout of 3,000 to 3,500 at the event, she said.

Fifty breweries will be represented, with tickets at $50 for VIPs, $35 general admission and $10 for designated drivers. Proceeds are being donated back to the community and the Columbus city parks program.

More information on the Beerfest, and tickets, are available at columbus beerfest.in.

Ending with Hope

Just a few weeks after the beer ride will be the granddaddy of the summer bike riding season, the Hope Ride.It’s an event known not only for the chance to ride 100 miles but also its fascination with the lighter side of Hoosier life.

Known for its whimsical tributes to cow watching, trendy T-shirts and fun rest stops, the 29th edition of the Hope Ride is planned for Sept. 17, Paul Ashbrook said.

The Hope Ride has given away more than $500,000 since it began in 1988 to a range of causes, including Hauser High School Dollars for Scholars, Flat Rock Hawcreek Ministerial Association Poor Relief Fund, Hope Summer Playground, youth baseball and softball, area food banks, basketball programs, local 4-H clubs, Boy Scout troops and church missions.

The format of the ride allows participants to support food banks in their individual communities. The bike team with the largest contingent is awarded several thousand dollars to be donated to the food bank of their choice. There are also awards for second and third place, historically at around $500 each to the food bank of the team’s choice. Any team with at least 20 riders receives at least $200 to be used the same way.

More than 2,000 riders have participated in past years, choosing from courses ranging from 13 to 100 miles. Riders pedal past or stop in at Mennonite homesteads, historic churches, Red Dog’s Petting Zoo, Anderson Falls Park, old barns, and, what the ride is known for, lots and lots of cows.

“It’s all about the cow, it appears as if people really like cows, and I think the feeling is mutual,” Paul Ashbrook said.

There’s even an “Ask a Cow” section on the ride’s website, with all the answers encouraging readers to sign up for the ride.

The cow T-shirts from the each year’s ride are crowd-pleasers. For the ride’s 29th year, the shirt will be an homage to the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper” album cover, but with a Sgt. Heifer theme.

The Beatles cover, a montage of notable individuals, will be replicated on the T-shirt with notable Hoosiers, Paul Ashbrook said. But they will be portrayed as cows, making it a one-of-a-kind tribute, he said.

About the summer bike rides

What: Girlfriend Ride

When: 9 a.m. June 18

Where: Starts and ends at Columbus Learning Center, 4555 Central Ave.

Cost: Online registration before the event, $35 for 35k Pageboy Tour (22 miles) and 55k Home Perm Tour (34 miles); $15 for Girlfriends age 16 and under.

Day of race registration: $50

To register: Visit girlfriendride.org

Benefits: Love Chapel, Columbus

What: Beer Ride

When: Time has not been set, but organizers are considering a day-time ride that ends at the Columbus Craft Beerfest, which is 3 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 27.

Where: The 2016 course has not been set but the ride encompasses visits at Columbus’ craft breweries, from Powerhouse Brewery to 450 North Brewery. Previous rides have offered rides from 12 to 36 miles.

What: Hope Ride

When: 7:30 a.m. Sept. 17

Where: Hauser Jr./Sr. High School, 9273 N. State Road 9, Hope

How much: $25 for those who register early

Rides to choose from: 13, 25, 50, 75 and 100 miles

Where to learn more: hoperide.org

Find Indiana bike rides

To find a list of bike rides around Indiana, visit brinin.org

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.