Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
While planning a large bicycle ride for the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, Mark Smith, owner of The Ride bicycle shop, wanted to familiarize himself with various trails within the area.
Smith enjoyed the routes and felt comfortable organizing a ride the bicycle shop could host, where he could send riders on various routes themselves.
The Ride began hosting Thursday night bicycle rides in May 2020, when the height of the pandemic had many individuals wondering how they could get outside and remain active while still adhering to COVID-19 regulations.
“It blew up,” Smith said. “Probably because of COVID, it was the right thing at the right time. People were going nuts. It was one of the few things people could do without feeling bad or feeling like they were going to get yelled at. Once the word got out, it really took off.”
There are three different routes on Thursdays cyclists can take, accommodating every skill level. Easy routes are 10 miles, medium routes are 20 miles, while the hard routes are 30 to 35 miles.
The Level-B back road trails are areas of the county many residents haven’t traveled to before, introducing them to new routes and roads.
“They could be three miles from town and be like, ‘Wow, I never knew this was here,’ and I hear that a lot,” Smith said. “We have a pretty great trail system for a small town, and this sort of thing complements it.”
The Jefferson County Trail System spans 30 miles and includes the 16-mile Fairfield Loop.
“Gravel, I think, is a safer experience than road-riding,” Smith said. “It’s quieter, and it’s daunting, but it’s something people of a wider variety can do. They just find their pace because you get out there in the country and tend to enjoy what’s going on rather than thinking of your pace.”
Rides typically end at Fishback and Stephenson Cider House, or at another local restaurant.
“People like having a destination to go have drinks and get something to eat,” Smith said. “It was just an appealing thing.”
Smith attributes most of the success with the weekly rides due to the popularity outdoor events gained during the pandemic.
“Oddly enough, the pandemic, it’s gotten people on bikes,” Smith said. “ … Cycling is one of those things that most people can do. Running is a hard thing to do, walking can be great, but you don’t get to see as much country. It’s a social event to a certain extent, and I think that draws a lot of people as well.”
The weather and how early the sun goes down are factors that impact the ride, forcing it to take place on Sunday mornings rather than Thursday evenings.
Weekly rides take place mid-April to Thanksgiving. Those wishing to attend can meet at The Ride, located at 123 N Court St., at 5:30 p.m. for route information.
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