Hope Ride invites cyclists to take a spin through September scenery

HOPE — The largest single annual sports fundraiser in Bartholomew County, the Hope Ride, returns to take a spin for the 29th time on Saturday.

“It’s the granddaddy of bike rides in central Indiana,” said Paul Ashbrook, co-founder and primary event organizer.

While threatening weather conditions cut participation in half last year, the 13- to 100-mile bike tours have been known to attract up to 2,200 riders. Rain is also in the forecast for this year.

Since 1987, the Hope Ride has raised more than $475,000 for area food pantries and youth outreach programs through entry fees, T-shirt sales, donations and sponsorships.

Efforts have been made over the years to create a festival atmosphere surrounding the event, starting with the FunBunch Pancake Breakfast presented this year by the Hope Volunteer Fire Department, Ashbrook said.

During the ride, bicyclists may find themselves being treated to live music during a rest stop, or irresistibly drawn to the critters at Red Dog’s Petting Zoo.

Riders who tackle the longer tours often laud the scenic back-roads that feature unique Mennonite homesteads, windmills, Anderson Falls Park, unusual barns and historic bridges.

“Our low-traffic roads, lack of traffic lights, great scenery … all adds up to a great ride,” said Ashbrook, who said riders welcome milder mid-September temperatures, such at the low 70s forecast for Saturday.

For more on this story, see Wednesday’s Republic.

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