BROWNSBURG — Count U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita among those impressed by the trail system in Hendricks County, as he was in attendance at this past weekend’s 21st installment of the B&O Bicycle Tour.
Rain chilled temperatures early and dampened the trail, but not the spirits, as many still turned out for an event that continues to be one of the flagship annual showcases of the B&O Trail. By around 9:30 a.m., the rain had somewhat subsided.
The annual tour once again offered ride lengths of 10, 25, 45, and 62 miles with several rest stops for the riders. Diana Virgil, president of the B&O Trails Association (BOTA), said the event is as strong as ever.
“I’m a cyclist,” she said, “and I just love it. You get to see more, but you still get to talk. I’m not a fast rider, just a casual one and I love to go out and see the trees and the birds.”
Carole Terry, president of the Central Indiana Bikers Association (CIBA), introduced Rokita and noted that they had become friends earlier in the year.
“The congressman and I met earlier this year in March, and I spoke with (him) and he graciously came out to be with us,” she said. “Next year, he’s going to ride with us.”
Indeed, Rokita has taken up cycling as a hobby since that time, and echoed to the group that he has a more profound understanding of how valuable the activity can be. He also thanked those in attendance for their time and efforts.
“I’m here to encourage you and thank you for your volunteerism,” he told a packed crowd under the pavilion prior to the race. “I will also say that because of your leadership, I’ve started riding a bike out in Washington, D.C.”
He said he rides at least every other day and generally covers 14 to 18 miles around the city.
“I’m in the process where some days we’re taking out as many as five other congressmen,” he said, adding that he’s getting more of his colleagues involved in cycling. “We’re learning, and we appreciate the value that all of this brings.”
Virgil relayed some of the success of this event and stressed that they cater to both experienced and inexperienced riders.
“We really aim for the inexperienced biker,” she said, noting the excitement a 5-year-old had when finishing the 10-mile ride. “We really reach out to the schools, parents, novices, and want them to learn that bike riding is a really fun experience. We do have the average person that wants to come out and try to ride.”
She invited all in the community to make next year’s tour part of their summer plans, saying the best part of the event for her over the years is seeing people accomplish goals they didn’t think they could achieve when they first thought about signing up.
“I think it’s getting people to ride the 10-miler,” she said of some of her favorite moments. “It’s flat, it’s on the trail. We did it last year, and my best story is that there was a family riding on the trail and then a grandpa and two kids.
“I was telling them last year that there was a family with a 5-year-old, and he had his own bike with tiny tires. He rode the 10-miler (and was so happy when he finished). You can’t get any better than that. So I was telling this family who had three kids and a boy who was also 5, and I said, ‘see, if this other boy can do it, you can too.’”
Virgil says it’s the people that make the trail ever-growing and special, and rides like this only reinforce that notion.
“One couple I got to talk to, this was their first time on (the trail) and they wanted to see what it was all about,” she said. “That is the most important payback.”