What started as an idea for a small group bike ride in Tatamagouche has turned into one with close to 150 riders this year.
Jim Vance said the idea for the Hippie Dippie Fall Colours Bike Ride emerged in 2014 while he visited the village during a camping and cycling trip to the Wentworth area.
“We enjoyed a great bowl of chowder, discovered Hippie Dippie beer and toured several of the quieter roads in the area,” said Vance, a recreational cycling enthusiast and a hiker, who also likes a good craft beer. “That evening, sitting around a campfire and sipping our Hippie Dippies, the idea camp up for a ride, in the fall to enjoy the changing colours.”
At the time, his brothers-in-law from Cape Breton were his partners in the venture, and even rode in the first bike ride a few short months later. That year, 13 riders left the Train Station Inn – eight of whom were members of Vance’s own family. Vance and his daughter rode more than 140 kilometres, over Nuttby to Truro, and back over Folly Mountain to Wallace, returning along Route 6.
“Numbers were small but the feedback was positive,” he said. “It was decided in future years that we did not need the longer ride, so the plan was to be 35, 50 and 100 kilometre ride options.”
The following year, 35 riders participated, and the number jumped to nearly 60 last year.
“Word was spreading and the comments about the ride and the area were always very complimentary,” he said.
Those two years saw the long ride going from Tatamagouche to Uncle Leo’s Brewery in Lyon’s Brook, and 2016 was the first time Vance made up directional signs to post along the route.
“Some riders were telling me this was the best ride of the year, they loved the area with its quiet, scenic roads and good asphalt and, of course, the hospitality of the town at the end of the ride.”
For this year’s route selection, Vance and his organizers refined the route and decided the longest ride wouldn’t venture so far from the village for a number of reasons, including riders being so far from their vehicles in case of breakdown.
Realizing that the popularity of the ride was growing, organizers were concerned the trail parking lot would not be large enough and didn’t want to interfere with the parking at the Train Station Inn or other local businesses. They relocated to the North Shore Recreation Centre, where all rides began and ended.
Participation numbers this year soared to 141 riders split between three distances – 35, 52 and 107 kilometres – with three rest stops planned for water, fresh fruit and snacks.
“We were caught a bit off-guard by the numbers and ran out of supplies and had some coordination difficulties having miscalculated the range of speeds – and thus travel times – of the riders,” Vance admitted.
Vance likes to keep the ride simple for riders, and doesn’t charge a registration fee. Costs come out of his own pocket, with the help from a few family members.
“Growing as it has may challenge that somewhat and we will have to give future years some thought,” he said, adding one person suggested riders make a donation, with surplus going to a local charity. Note, one comment suggested “passing the hat” with the surplus going to a community charity.
Because of the quick growth of the event, Vance welcomes the opportunity to discuss the future of the ride with local businesses.
“It clearly has the potential to bring a good number of paying customers into the community and, like Clare and Guysborough, these people will spread the word about the community and what it has to offer,” he said, referencing Gran Fondos (big rides) attracting about 1,000 in Clare and 400 in Guysborough.
Those wishing to discuss the future of the ride can email Vance at email@example.com.