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New life sought for Salmon Arm community cycling event

Bike For Your Life Century Ride organizers may look to disperse assets
Riders set off from the starting line at Blackburn Park for the 100-kilometre Bike For Your Life Century Ride in 2017. (File photo)

More than 260 people took to the road in Salmon Arm’s Bike For Your Life Century Ride in 2018.

That was the 20th anniversary for the community event through which $30,000 was raised for the Second Harvest Food Bank and the Shuswap Trail Alliance. It may also have been the event’s finale.

Local road construction projects contributed to the cancellation of the 2019 event, held in the second weekend of September. The Covid-19 pandemic did away with the event the following three years.

Organizers of the event leading up to 2019 are now looking for other people to take it on. Otherwise, they’ll be passing along their assets to other community groups that could use them.

“We just wanted to reach out and say, if you’re interested, we can share what we’ve got in terms of our knowledge and assets… and if there’s no response, we’ll continue on with dissolution,” said George Zorn.

The event began as Bike for Your Life in 1998. Ian Wickett, one of its organizers, said the idea for it came from Leen van der Meulen, who was a professional cyclist in Europe before coming to Salmon Arm. Van der Meulen sought to start a cycling event in Salmon Arm similar to what occurred in his hometown, a day in the year when the whole town, about 3,000 people, would go for a bike ride together. It was not a race, but a celebration of cycling and community.

“I thought it was a great idea too, just a neat idea,” said Wickett. “For many years we did lots of things to encourage young people, to encourage families to participate.”

In the event’s first year, participants could ride 10-, 30-, 70- and 115-kilometre distances. A 200-km ride was added the following year, when more than 200 people took part. Bike for Your Life continued to see more than 200 riders annually until 2004.

“Ian carried it from 1998 to 2011, and then we kind of reconfigured it with a 100-km distance and a lunch and gradually added live entertainment,” said Zorn. In 2012, interest in the event, and road bike riding, took off, and Bike for Your Life, which became the Bike For Your Life Century Ride, became a big draw for riders from outside the community. At its peak, in 2015-16, more than 600 riders took part.

Read more: Bike For Your Life marks 20th year cycling the Shuswap

Read more: Kudos to organizers of Bike for Your Life event

“They were mostly elite cyclists and a few people clinging to the old idea,” laughed Wickett.

After 2016, though the ride continued to draw well over 200 riders, interest in road biking began to dwindle, with riders opting for mountain or gravel bikes.

“One of the things that caused that trend is road bikes turned into gravel bikes – people weren’t buying road bikes, they were buying gravel bikes, to either to augment their road bike or to replace it, because it can do both,” said ride organizer Jim Maybee. “Now there’s all these gravel events starting to pop up. There’s one I saw in Crowsnest Pass with 100-, 200- and 300-km distances; they’re just epic. So people are looking, I think, for a different thing.

“I think people are maybe looking more to that. They bought a gravel bike and want a reason to ride it. Providing an event around that might be a possibility in the future.”

Zorn said he and fellow ride organizers met in March and it was decided to see if there’s any interest in the community in taking the event on before dispersing items that were acquired to run the ride.

“We have a lot of equipment,” said Wickett. “We were making money and we have equipment for marking roads and marking off stuff, and I’ve got tons of first aid stuff and signs and flashing lights to go on top of a pilot car. There’s all kinds of stuff that can be used to put on an event and it’s going to be available for a month or two.”

While trends may have changed, the love for cycling, be it on pavement or dirt, continues to flourish, and Zorn sees opportunities and room for more successful riding events in Salmon Arm and the Shuswap.

“If people are looking for a destination to spend a week and enjoy bike riding here, there’s lots of opportunities,” said Zorn. “Shuswap Tourism has published a cycling touring guide since 2009, I guess, which shows 35 different cycling routes as a start and over 1,500 kilometres of paved roads. It’s great here.”

Anyone wanting more information may contact Wickett at 250-832-4484.
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