GREENFIELD — It started with just six riders.
A group of cycling enthusiasts began meeting downtown once a week to take long rides through the county. A downtown restaurant offered free snacks after the rides, and more people started showing up. A few people started saying, wouldn’t it be nice if Greenfield were more cyclist-friendly? What if there were a bike tour like the Gran Fondo in Carmel?
It was like everyone had the same idea at the same time.
The city of Greenfield, Hancock Health, several local businesses, including Family Bike Chain and Griggsby’s Station, and ride organizers Chris and Matt Tanner, have combined efforts to encourage residents to enjoy cycling, from short, leisurely rides to competitive racing. The weekly bike rides aim to prepare riders for the inaugural Hancock Flat 50 on Sept. 24, a 25- or 50-mile tour of the county — but those involved plan for the effort to extend well past September.
From Hancock Health’s standpoint, getting county residents to enjoy cycling aligns with the shift in the hospital’s philosophy to preventive health care, rather than solely treating patients once they’re already sick, said healthy communities coordinator Danielle Daugherty.
“All these entities and sectors have come together, and I think it’s really great,” she said. “The collaboration of all these moving parts has been quite beautiful, honestly.”
Daugherty hopes encouraging people of all ages to enjoy cycling will not only increase the health and well-being of the community but also help people from outside the area realize what a great place Hancock County is.
Joanie Fitzwater, city zoning administrator, had become acquainted with Chris Tanner, one of the planners of Carmel’s 100-mile bicycle race, the Rollfast Gran Fondo. Fitzwater and Tanner’s discussions led to the Tanners thinking Hancock County would be a great place to bring a bike tour.
Encouraging cycling fit perfectly with the city’s and hospitals efforts to create a healthier community, Fitzwater said.
Adding trails and improving pedestrian areas in an effort to promote healthy living are several top priorities on the city’s comprehensive plan, and the Flat 50 will provide another avenue for people to get fit, she said.
“From the city’s perspective, community health is important to everyone’s quality of life,” Fitzwater said. “Businesses are hoping to lower health costs, and we want to do as many things as we can do to make a healthy lifestyle second nature.”
Rollfast, the non-profit organization led by the Tanners, aims to create a cycling legacy in central Indiana, said Matt Tanner.
Part of that effort includes encouraging bicycling socially and on county roads, not just on designated areas like the Pennsy Trail, said the 20-year competitive cyclist.
The Family Bike Chain, a Greenfield business that sells cycling accessories, has been promoting the weekly rides and has posted Flat 50 fliers in its windows, said Mitch Doran, the co-owner. The weekly rides have grown from fewer than 10 riders to at least 25, he said, and he hopes it’s partially through his efforts.
Ian Rossman, Griggby’s Station general manager, suspects the owner of the restaurant’s enthusiasm has something to do with it as well. Owner Chris Baggott has encouraged the weekly rides to start and finish their rides in the parking lot of the business and offers free protein plates to riders upon their return.
“I know Chris has always wanted something like the Flat 50 to happen,” Rossman said.
The inaugural Hancock Flat 50 bicycle tour will be held Sept. 24 in Greenfield. Routes are still being confirmed, but the event will offer a short kids’ ride, a 25-mile route and a 50-mile route offered. Registration is $35; the kids’ ride is free. There will be live music and food by Tyner Pond Farm. To register, go to hancockflat50.com.