Links to route maps and registration information may be found at http://amishcountrybiketour.com/.
This year’s 32nd Amish Country Bike Tour will be a mix of the new and the old, the novel and the familiar.
And it still promises to be a blast.
The most noticeable change is the starting point, Bike Delaware spokeswoman Katie Kazimir said.
For the first time, it will not be at Legislative Mall in downtown Dover. The new locale is the Delaware Agricultural Museum and Villages on U.S. Route 13.
“Part of the reason we started doing that is the ambiance of the agricultural museum,” Kazimir said. “It coincides with the rural countryside theme of the tour.”
Another benefit is centralized parking. Riders will be able to use the large field by the museum, a spot often used during NASCAR races.
Riders familiar with past routes through western Kent County will find they’ve all been redesigned.
“We wanted to take riders on less busy and safer roads,” Kazimir said. “We worked with the Dover Police Department to map out the routes to get people out of town and avoid the downtown area, which is congested and not as safe.”
Bike Delaware board of directors president Marci Drees redid the routes based on her own experiences riding through Kent County.
“The prior routes had not been changed for many years, and we knew there were a few sections where the road conditions weren’t great, where there was a lot of traffic,” Drees said. “So I took this opportunity of re-planning the tour to choose some of my favorite roads to ride on, roads that are safe, have low traffic, have pleasant scenery and are in good condition.”
A few small sections take riders on busier roads or where they cross a busy road, but those could not be avoided, she said.
Past cyclists will note the former 15- and 62- mile routes now are one mile longer, a logistical necessity because of the new venue.
The bike tour takes cyclists over 16-, 25-, 50-, 63- or 100-mile routes. And this year, the 100-mile route has been modified to avoid crossing into Maryland, Kazimir said.
The two longest routes are “century rides” that qualify as club-sanctioned rides. Many cycling clubs hold rides of 100 miles or 100 kilometers (just over 62 miles), which qualifies as a metric century.
Discounted registration for this year’s ride began in 2017, and riders may sign up online at $60 each until Friday, Aug. 31. Day-of registration at the museum will be $70.
Those who signed up early will pick up their bibs at Grotto Pizza on North Dupont Highway between 5 and 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7.
Cyclists can bring their bikes to Grotto’s for safety checks and mechanical support, Kazimir said.
As in years past, an Amish buggy will lead cyclists for a short distance as they begin their rides, Kazimir said.
The courses are flat and well-marked, making it almost impossible to take a wrong turn. Each rider will get emergency contact information and teams from the state’s emergency management division will be on hand.
Each route has prepositioned pie stops, where riders can fuel up for the rest of their ride, Kazimir said. This helps cyclists avoid an effect known as the “bonk,” or “hitting the wall,” which affects riders who need to take a break, drink water and snack on high-carb foods.
“They’ll be more toward the middle of the route for the 16- and 25-mile rides,” she said. “Before, the stops were more toward the end, and this will help riders pace their breaks better.”
A new rest stop on the 63-mile course is at the Painted Stave Distillery in Smyrna, she said.
Each stop will have first-aid supplies and be manned by Wesley College nursing students to take care of any health problems.
Sag wagons for emergency assistance will be available, and help to repair flats or make mechanical adjustments to bikes.
Back at the agricultural museum, tuckered-out riders can enjoy music from a DJ, a rubdown from a licensed masseuse, and a picnic lunch included in the registration fee. Catered by Where Pigs Fly, for the first time it will offer meatless fare.
“People have told us they wanted to see a healthy, satisfying vegetarian option,” Kazimir said.
Also for the first time, riders will be able to relax with a cold one following their exertions.
“We’ll now have beer and wine waiting for riders,” Kazimir said. “That’s something riders in the past have said they wanted to see.”
Drees believes the changes in venue and courses will provide something new for the well-established tour, which in 2017 drew in more than 1,400 cyclists.
“I think people who have ridden the tour in the past will appreciate the change-up, and those new to tour will really enjoy seeing these rural parts of Kent County,” she said.