One of Iowa’s oldest organized bicycle rides and one of the only ones to take place in the winter is celebrating a big milestone this year. The Bike Ride to Rippey (BRR) will take place for the 40th year on Feb. 4.
The ride starts downtown Perry, goes to Rippey and back, and is about 24 miles long altogether. The ride, as always, will be held regardless of the weather.
While the BRR has had some changes over the years, but Perry Chamber Director, Bob Wilson, says it is “based on a lot of traditions.” He said he considers the event to be the beginning of the riding season.
“When it first started, it was so unique in a sense that it was the only bike ride in February and that was just absurd,” Wilson said. “It was founded before bike riding in the State of Iowa was even anywhere near as popular as it is now.”
Wilson, who even rode in the event when he was younger, said that it has gotten bigger over the years and they will expect to see around 2,500 total riders this year.
One of the changes that has happened in recent years under Wilson’s leadership is moving the registration area and the start of the race to the downtown area near the Hotel Pattee instead of at the McCreary Center.
“I use this as an opportunity… to showcase the entire community,” Wilson said.
“We bring it downtown so then these people are in the heart of the community, but then part of the registration packet has a day pass to the McCreary Center.”
Those involved in the ride can still go to the McCreary Center and use the facilities, such as the whirl pool and sauna and locker rooms and showers to get changed. Wilson said a lot of people go back downtown to each lunch and dinner and have drinks at local bars.
Bars and restaurants in Perry aren’t the only businesses that thrive during the BRR.
Wenger Auction even saw a spike in business during the BRR last year after owner Rob Wenger thought they wouldn’t get a lot of business from the bikers in town. He said he even gained some repeat customers and plans to participate again this year.
Wilson said that riders aren’t the only ones coming into town for the BRR as some of the riders may bring a spouse or other family and friends who don’t ride, but still take part in the community activities in Perry and that opens up opportunities for businesses other than bars and restaurants.
“We’re going to bring the riders here, but then I want the private sector to kind of really engage them,” Wilson said.
“A lot of times we get that ‘oh, it’s just for bikers and the bars are the only things that are going to see any benefit,’” Wilson said. “The bars do see benefit. The restaurants do, but there’s potential when you bring in potentially 3,000 people to the community.”
For the first time, this year, they will be blocking off areas of from Second Street to First Street along Willis Avenue in front of the hotel and will feature stands where people can buy things, and will include live music and craft beer.
There will be live music from noon until about 5 p.m. on Feb. 4 for people to enjoy when they return from the ride. They will also have live music on Friday, the night before the ride.
Even though the event goes on despite any bad weather conditions, Wilson said that the weather is a concern, especially with the recent ice storms that swept through the state last Sunday and Monday. He said that the only thing the weather will really affect is the registration as people will wait until the last minute if they don’t know what the weather will be like.
“The neat thing is, the City crew has been doing this for so many years, they’re going to make sure all our roads are clear to the best of their ability,” Wilson said. “The other counties, they know BRR. They’ve been around for a long time. We try to give them a head’s up and remind them and see what they can do to help out.
“Rippey is prepared. I talked to the mayor the other day and they’ll be ready for it.”
Wilson mentioned that in Iowa winter, you never know what the weather is going to be like on the day of the event.
“Everybody asks ‘what’s the weather going to be like?’ Who cares?” Wilson said. “We’re going to get them, we’re going to get people and it’s whether or not we get 2,000 or we get 3,000 but they want the badge. They want to say they rode it.”
People can register for the Bike Ride to Rippey by visiting http://www.perryia.org/brr.html and filling out the registration form.
Riders can pick up their registration materials, beginning at 7:30 a.m. and enjoy the Lion’s Club Breakfast at the Hotel Pattee. The ride will begin at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Second Street and Willis Avenue