HANCOCK COUNTY — Some came ready to race; others, for a more leisurely ride on an unseasonably hot autumn day.
About 400 riders strapped on their helmets and pinned on their numbers to take on 25- and 50-mile routes throughout Hancock County during Saturday’s Hancock Flat 50, an event organized by city officials, local businesses, healthcare leaders and Rollfast, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a cycling legacy in the Hoosier state, said Rollfast cofounder Chris Tanner.
As the rider registration line grew, organizers were pleasantly surprised to see more than double the number of people turn up to participate in the second event compared with last year.
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Organizer Amanda Everidge attributed the increase to boosted efforts to advertise and spread the word about the ride. A grant from the county tourism commission helped leaders advertise on the internet with promotional videos, she said. And volunteers from the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Department and local businesses helped the event run smoothly, which she hopes will spread the word for next year.
“Hopefully, people had a good time,” she said. “We want to keep building the cycling community year after year.”
Indianapolis resident Andy Whitehurst joined the race last year and found it well-organized and fun, the kind of event he decided was worth revisiting.
And so, Saturday, he set off the on trail again. The overall atmosphere of the Flat 50 is one of its lures, he said.
“There are good roads out here, not a lot of traffic,” he said. “There are friendly people and a little party afterwards.”
The ride — though it’s not a race, the event is timed — highlights Hancock County’s agrarian roots as cyclists tour county roads from south of Greenfield all the way to Fortville.
After the ride, participants coasted into the North Street Living Alley, where they had the option to get massages in a Hancock Health-sponsored recovery tent, eat lunch provided by Tyner Pond Farm and sip local brews at the annual Woodfest at Wooden Bear Brewing Co. next door.
The event attracted seasoned cyclists and novices alike to explore Hancock County.
Pat Cooper of Fortville completed the 25-mile route, her first bike race, she said.
She ended the route with a sense of accomplishment.
“It was harder than I thought it would be, but I’m glad I did it,” she said.
Meanwhile, West Lafayette resident Sarah Gardner enjoyed riding alongside other cyclists for the 50-mile trek.
The Flat 50 was her third cycling event, and she completed the 50 miles faster than she ever has before, she said.
“It was a lot of fun doing a mass start, having other people to ride with to push the pace,” she said.
Vince Mathews’ family took part in several different aspects of the Flat 50. His son tackled the 25-mile ride through Hancock County, while Mathews and his wife took their grandchildren on the 1-mile ride down the Pennsy Trail, escorted by a Greenfield Police Department officer on a bicycle.
His family seeks organized rides like the Flat 50, because they’re safer than riding alone on county roads, Mathews said.
Amenities like food trucks also improved Saturday’s event, with food and drink — and, in his case, a quick fix for a last-minute problem.
When Mathews discovered his granddaughter’s bike chain was rusty, he turned to the Joesippi Mobile Cafe for some canola oil.
“It came in handy,” he laughed.
Flat 50 evolved out of a group of like-minded community members wishing for more cycling opportunities in Hancock County. Cyclists began meeting downtown weekly for long rides, and then a local business began offering free snacks to them after their rides.
Last year, the city of Greenfield, Hancock Health, local businesses including Family Bike Chain and Griggsby’s Station and ride organizers Chris and Matt Tanner combined their efforts to create the Flat 50, a play on the name of the popular Hilly Hundred, an annual two-day bicycle tour through Morgan, Monroe and Owen counties in south-central Indiana.
Last year, almost 150 riders traveled more than 5,100 miles throughout Hancock County and raised nearly $4,500 to go toward this year’s effort.
The tradition of weekly rides continued into this year, and the events, which meet Wednesdays at Family Bike Chain, 109 E. Main St., will continue as long as the weather is mild enough, Everidge said.