Amish Country Bike Tour brings record-breaking crowd

DOVER — In its 29th year, the Amish Country Bike Tour brought a record-breaking crowd to Legislative Mall in Dover on Saturday, as the tour has become an annual tradition for participants.

Newark resident Mike Novak, 65, said he looks forward to the event every year.

“I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now,” Mr. Novak said. “It’s great exercise for me. I enjoy riding, especially when there are organized group rides like this one. I like it a lot.”

The tour enlisted 2,850 participants, topping last year’s total of 2,800.

Cindy Small, Kent County Tourism executive director. continues to be excited about the event’s growth over the years.

“It’s really interesting this year,” Ms. Small said. “We’re going to call it the International Bike Tour. We have people in Canada that have shown up to ride this time around.

“It’s an early fall ride because a lot of cyclists don’t ride in the Winter. This is one of the first organized rides for the fall, which is why I think we’ve continued to see our numbers increase each year.”
With such high registration numbers, Home 2 Suites, the designated hotel for bikers is completely sold out.
“We have a lot of new people this year,” Ms. Small added. “That’s our goal to get them to come to Delaware. They are staying in our hotels bringing business back to Dover.

The tour, designed for all ages and abilities, started and stopped at Legislative Mall and included 15-, 25- 50-, 62- and 100-mile loops through the flatlands of Delaware’s Amish farmlands.

Townsend resident Reggie Smith was excited as a first-time participant

“I’m coming back next year,” Mr. Smith said. “Everyone is out here having a good time. It’s a very diverse crowd. I love diversity.

“The way it was set up when we first started in Dover I knew I wanted to be a part of this again. I was talking to different cyclists as we were riding. It’s a friendly environment.”

Ms. Small said the number of first-time participants increased this year as well.

“We had over 600 new people,” Ms. Small said.

David Gondeck and his family, who have participated in the event for the past three years, said they always look forward to the tour.

“We sign up as soon as it comes up,” Mr. Gondeck said. “It’s equivalent to going to Disneyland to us. It’s our annual event that we do as a family.”

Rest stops include the “Pie Stop” at the Amish Schoolhouse, where members of the Amish community and other volunteers serve locally baked pies and cookies.
Cheryl Kerr, of Byler’s Country Store, said the store baked 250 pies of different varieties, including pumpkin, apple and cherry.

“I think they started baking in the beginning of the week and finished baking them on Friday,” Ms. Kerr said.

“They refrigerate the pies to keep them fresh. It would be great if we can bake them all in one day, but that’s kind of impossible.”

Mr. Gondeck said the pit stop gives him a boost of energy to keep going.

“The pies are delicious,” Mr. Gondeck said. “The sugar rush helps get you through the last heat. It’s extra motivation.”

Kenneth Louis and the Bikin’ Blazers Cycling Club out of Philadelphia said the Delaware flatlands are what draw them out every year.

“We’ve been doing this for about 12 years,” Mr. Louis said. “It’s a nice flat scenic ride. We do events like these all summer and most of them have a lot of hills, but that’s never the case when we come out here.”

Mr. Novak loves the tour because everyone can ride at their own pace.
“It’s not a race at all,” Mr. Novak said. “Occasionally you may pass some buggies on the hill and then they may pass you.

“Sometimes that feels like a race because you can hear the horses behind you gaining on you, but I use that as motivation.”

By late morning, riders who completed one of the two shorter legs, started to return to the Legislative Mall area and began attacking the barbecue stand with food provided by Dover-based When Pigs Fly.

“That’s the best time,” Mr. Louis said. “After that long ride it’s a great replenishing station to unwind, talk to other cyclists and then head home.”

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