Rainy day doesn’t dampen cyclists’ enthusiasm at the Amish Bike Tour

DOVER — An overcast, rainy morning on Saturday seemed to provide the perfect ingredients for people to turn off their alarm clocks and sleep in.

Obviously, bicyclists disagree with that theory.

Despite the rainy conditions, hundreds of cyclists hit the back roads in Kent County as they participated in the 32nd annual Amish Country Bike Tour, with a new starting and finishing point at the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village in Dover.

Katie Kazimir, director of communications and events for Bike Delaware, which organizes and runs the Amish County Bike Tour, said a record 1,344 people pre-registered for Saturday’s event.

She wasn’t sure how many of them backed out due to the wet weather but said in looking at the packed parking lot next to the ag museum that it didn’t appear to deter too many people.

“We got hit by some rain, but it didn’t stop our riders and it didn’t stop us,” Ms. Kazimir said. “The rain was actually a little pleasant because it was a nice drizzle. There were a couple of moments where it came down pretty hard, but for the most part, it was pretty nice.

“We had 18 percent more people pre-register this year and I think if it hadn’t rained we’d have had an even fuller parking lot. Given the rain, I think we had a fantastic turnout.

“I’m not sure how many people showed up, but I think a good amount actually turned out despite the rain.”

Besides the new location — it had started and finished in front of Legislative Hall in year’s past — Bike Delaware offered new routes for cyclists to experience on the tour.

Participants had new routes of 16, 25, 50, 63 and 100 miles through the Amish countryside.

The new Amish Country Bike Tour experience is the result of a creative partnership that was formed in 2017 between Kent County Tourism Corporation and Bike Delaware.

“People are very, very excited about the new courses,” Ms. Kazimir said. “I think that might be one of the reasons that we had a lot more riders sign up early this year. The courses took people further north than before and further west than before without going into Maryland.”

While most 100-mile cyclists took off on their journeys at 7:30 a.m., traditional starter Ben Miller and his Amish buggy led an abundance of 50- and 63-mile participants onto the road at 8 a.m.

“(Ben Miller) starts us out every year and I think that’s something that everyone looks forward to,” said Ms. Kazimir. “It just provides that little extra atmosphere of having the Amish Country Bike Tour to having the buggy lead everyone out.”

The Amish Country Bike Tour is not a race, rather, it is an experience.

Rest stops along the routes included the famous Amish Schoolhouse in Dover, where members of the Amish community and local volunteers served up pie and cookies. Other stops along the way featured healthy snacks, sandwiches and beverages.

Following the bicyclist’s journeys, Dover restaurant Where Pigs Fly hosted a barbecue at the museum, compete with music and muscle-relaxing massages.

Beth Blank and Barbara Tucker, both from Dover, said that Saturday was their first foray into the Amish Country Bike Tour.

“She (Ms. Tucker) said to me, ‘We’re going to do this,’ and I said, ‘No, we hike, and I horseback ride … I do not bike,’” Ms. Blank said. “I haven’t been on a bike in years and she was like, ‘We’re doing it,’ so I was like, ‘All right … whatever.’

“We did the 16-mile course and it was great. I have to say, she was right. It was nice. The rain didn’t hurt at all. In fact, the weather was very nice.”

Both Ms. Blank and Ms. Tucker agreed that they felt safe all along the course despite the wet conditions.

Bike Delaware stressed safety, urging participants not to wear headphones, to obey traffic and bicycling laws, and, most importantly, be aware of cars and crossing intersections on busy roads.

“It was nice,” Ms. Tucker said. “Everybody had a safe distance with the cars going around us, so it was really good. You couldn’t get lost unless you really wanted to get lost. There were markers everywhere.”

Ms. Blank agreed.

“Everything was well organized, everything was well marked, and we really enjoyed it,” she said. “We saw some of the Amish buggies while we were doing the ride, so it was a nice first experience.”

Ms. Blank said she did have something in store for Ms. Tucker for insisting that she ride a bicycle in the rain Saturday.

“Now to get Barbara back, we’re going to do the Bay Bridge hike,” said Ms. Blank.

For the organizers of the Amish Country Bike Tour, it’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s bike ride.

“It takes a year to plan the Amish Country Bike Tour,” Ms. Kazimir said. “As soon as we wrap up this year we will start logistics and planning for next year.

“We coordinate with DelDOT, the Dover Police Department, as well as local businesses and organizations to make sure that this ride is one of the best in Delaware every year.”

It might have been a little bit soggy on Saturday, but this year’s edition of the Amish Country Bike Tour still provided many memories to several hundred cyclists.

 

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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