By Christine Schaefer

GREENFIELD — Heather Denger loves to ride her bike, but the hobby often takes her far from home.

She strapped on her helmet for the Ride Across Indiana (RAIN) and the two-day Hilly Hundred in the Bloomington area.

But she was thrilled when she heard about the Hancock Flat 50 — right here at home.

The second Hancock Flat 50 bike ride departs from the corner of Pennsylvania and Depot streets at 9 a.m. Sept. 23. Sponsored by Hancock Health as part of the Healthy365 movement, the event accommodates riders of all skill levels with three route options for participants: the 50-mile, the 25-mile or the 1-mile kids’ cruise, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

Denger considers herself a serious biker — she and husband Tony ride between 10 and 50 miles a week, but it wasn’t until the Flat 50 she found a chance to compete without heading out of town.

“I’ve made it a part of what I enjoy doing in my free time,” Denger said. “It’s not hard on your body, like running.”

Registration for the event remains open for those wanting to participate at hancockflat50.com/register. Registration is $5 for the kids’ cruise, $35 for the 25-mile ride and $40 for the 50-mile ride.

The registration page also offers the option of purchasing a T-shirt for $20 or an official event jersey for $95. Walk-in registration is available beginning at 7:30 a.m. the day of the event at the Pennsylvania and Depot Street location.

Riders who have pre-registered may pick up race packets the day before the race from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. or from 7 to 8 a.m. the day of the race at the Family Bike Chain, 109 E. Main St.

Both the 25-mile trek and the 50-mile trek guide riders out into the rural areas of Hancock County. The event’s website offers detailed information about the routes, including a map, location of aid stations along the way, topography and altitude of the route at any given point and location of areas where bikers should be cautious of traffic.

The one-mile family ride follows the Pennsy Trail out and back to the starting point.

Rest stops are positioned along the way. Depending on whether riders choose the 25-mile route or the 50-mile route, rest stops will offer a break, water, snacks and a restroom. The 50-mile loop stops at the Fortville Nazarene Church. Both routes offer stops at Roy and Susan Smith’s farm and Tyner Pond for shade, food and an optional visit with the farm animals.

In conjunction with the Flat 50, the Wooden Bear, 21 W. North St., hosts Woodfest — the third anniversary of the establishment — following the race. Tyner Pond, one of the ride’s sponsors, will be serving free hot dogs and sausages to the ride participants.

Amanda Everidge, Healthy Community Manager for Hancock Health, is part of a team committed to improving the health of Hancock County residents by creating tools and opportunities to connect people with healthy life choices. In brainstorming for fitness-friendly activities, Everidge and crew observed that the community had plenty of walks and 5Ks — but not a lot of bike rides.

The team determined that one of its goals would be to make cycling more common in the community.

With that in mind, the Hancock Flat 50 was born. The group also organized weekly training rides — every Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. departing from the Family Bike Chain.

Like the Hancock Flat 50, the training rides offer three options: a 25-mile ride at a fast pace, a 25-mile ride at a moderate pace or a 13-mile ride at an average speed.

In its second year, the Hancock Flat 50 already has more than 100 participants registered, on track to surpass last year’s total of 155 riders.

The ride draws casual bikers and offers chip-timing for serious, more competitive riders. Results will be posted on the Hancock Flat 50 website following the event.

For last year’s event, she, Denger’s husband and a group of friends from her fitness group at a local gym registered for the ride together.

Denger’s work schedule will keep her from the course this year, but she assures participants the event is worth their time and energy.

“You can take your time or race to the finish if you want,” Denger said. “Everybody can do their own pace.”

cschaefer@greenfieldreporter.com