Saturday, June 25, 2011
Riders gather for Bike Virginia
People from around the country come to take two-wheeled tours of the New River area.
Photos by Eric Brady | The Roanoke Times
Bill Wagner (left) and Cobbs Nixon of Georgia gear up for the ride.
Amanda Albert of Fairfax sets up her tent at Pulaski County High School, the first base for this year's Bike Virginia event.
Travis Roxlau of Arlington (left) and Marilyn Skrivseth and Bill Barry, both of Wisconsin, prepare to set up their camp at Pulaski County High School.
24th annual Bike Virginia
- When: Today through Wednesday, New River Valley
- Cost: Walk-up registrations are available for the entire five days ($340) or for single-day rides ($75).
- More information: www.bikevirginia.org
Correction (July 5, 2011: 3 p.m.): The executive director of Bike Virginia is Kim Perry. Her last name was incorrect in this article as first posted. It has been updated. | Our corrections policy
PULASKI -- Sports have brought Marilyn Skrivseth to Western Virginia a few times.
But until now she's been on the sidelines.
This morning the retired athletic director from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, which has had sports teams in tournaments in the Roanoke Valley, will be among the roughly 1,600 cyclists who will hit the road as part of the Bike Virginia tour, which will spend the next five days in the New River Valley.
In its 24th year, Bike Virginia moves around Virginia, and hasn't been in this part of the state since 2005.
Skrivseth said a bike tour seemed like a nice way to return to a part of the country she enjoys.
"We've met so many nice people on bike rides," said Skrivseth, a 60-year-old whose group includes tandem riding partner Bill Barry, 64, from Wisconsin and Travis Roxlau, 41, of Arlington.
Bike Virginia Executive Director Kim Perry said riders come for a combination of reasons. But the tour is as much about visiting pretty and historic sites, and meeting interesting people both on bikes and in the community, as it is about the riding itself.
Standing nearby, Dennis Manske nodded.
"I love to see the livestock," said Manske, 64, a retired Army helicopter pilot from Williamsburg who is also a volunteer. "I can sightsee better from my bicycle than I can from my car. I can go as slow as I want and, if I want to, I can stop."
The tour itself is being called the New River Roll Through Time. Riders will tackle routes with names such as the Ancient Valley Loop and the Rolling Meadows Trek.
Distances vary, with each day offering a few options starting with rides in the 30-mile range and going up to two 100-plus milers.
Cobbs Nixon, who has ridden the Bike Virginia tour several times with friend Bill Wagner, said he didn't plan to tackle either of the so-called century routes.
"My goal every year is to ride my age," said Nixon, a 70-year-old from Augusta, Ga. "So far I've succeeded, but it's getting tougher."
Riders will spend two days at Pulaski County High School, where the campus was dotted late Friday with colorful tents. They will move to Radford High School for the final three nights. Nixon said the single move is an appeal of the Virginia tour. A tour he does in Georgia requires a move every day, he said.
Bike Virginia can attract a few locals, but most people travel to the tour.
In a typical year, Perry said, about 1,200 riders camp at the tour's designated tent cities. The rest stay in local motels.
"We have about 400 rooms booked throughout the ride corridor this year," she said.
The event brings a significant economic boost to host regions, she said.
"In 2005, the direct economic impact was $3.1 million," she said.
Friday, volunteers were conducting another survey, asking riders questions such as where they were staying and how much they would spend during their visit.
Among the beneficiaries of the event are community groups, such as churches and Boy Scouts troops, which will staff the rest areas that will be offered roughly every 20 miles along the ride routes. The groups all earn donations, which will total $25,000 to $30,000, from Bike Virginia.
The event includes several entertainment events, such as concerts and a trip to a baseball game at Calfee Park. Part of the idea, Perry said, is to generate among the riders a deeper interest in the community.
"One of our focuses as an organization is to drive tourism, not just with the ride but to connect them to the community," she said.
While they are in the saddle each day, the cyclists will stick mostly to rural routes but will spend some time on main thoroughfares while passing through towns.
Interference with drivers should be minimal. Roads won't be closed to traffic, and riders were all cautioned that they are expected to obey traffic rules while riding.
That's usually not a big problem, Perry said.
"We have some hammerheads," she said of hard-charging riders.
But, with the average age 54, many are, like Skrivseth and Manske, fairly casual.
Stin Lenkerd, a longtime Virginian who moved to Jacksonville, Fla., last year, said he was eager to hit the road.
This is his 16th Bike Virginia, and the 69-year-old said he keeps coming back because the ride is well organized, he loves the state's great scenery and he enjoys spending time with other riders. As he waited to pick up his registration packet he had only one concern.
Had riding Florida's flat terrain prepared him for what he was about to face?
"I guess," he said with a smile. "I'll find out."