FAIRFIELD – Sixty people participated in the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Bike Around the Fairfield Loop Trail Saturday.
The event was organized by a group called Bike Fairfield, which formed within the last year and was planning to conduct three rides in and around Fairfield in 2020.
The arrival of the coronavirus forced two of those events to be delayed until late in the summer and one to be canceled, but the group was pleased with the turnout and enthusiasm for cycling in Jefferson County.
Kayla Ashby, a member of Bike Fairfield and who was in charge of Saturday’s bike ride, said she was thrilled that 60 riders participated, many of them registering that day.
“We had under 20 people signed up at the beginning of the week,” she said.
Ashby said that, before COVID-19 changed their plans, the group had “big dreams” for the loop trail ride. She hopes it’s an even bigger event next year with a band, food trucks and other entertainment for the riders after they finish.
Even with the pandemic scaling back their plans for this year, the group was able to offer a number of amenities for Saturday’s ride. There were five stations set up along the 15.9-mile trail where riders could stop for a snack and learn about local history.
Fairfield resident Sarah Kingsbury and her partner Craig Hennigan rode the trail that morning. Kingsbury said she rides or runs portions of the trail every week, but this was the first time doing the whole thing. It was also the first time for Hennigan, who lives in Kirksville, Mo. The couple stopped at most of the stations along the way, mostly to reapply sunblock and get a drink of water.
One of the stations was on the west edge of town at Whitham Woods, where riders could listen to a volunteer give a presentation on the history of the park.
“I’ve been going there my whole life, and I didn’t know its origins as a tree nursery before,” Kingsbury said.
Kingsbury said she plans to do the ride again next year and hopes to lasso a few friends into joining her.
“I’ll definitely make sure to start earlier, so I have more time to spend at all the stations before the sun gets too high,” she said.
Fairfield resident John La Fave rode the loop trail on a tricycle, which he said is more comfortable than a bicycle because it has a wider seat and because he doesn’t have to lean over the handlebars. The only downside is that it’s slower, and he has trouble going up hills. Fortunately, he just put electric pedal assist on his bike, so he’s not the only thing powering it.
La Fave said he enjoyed hearing volunteer Leon Connelly share the history of the draft horses at Maasdam Barns, one of the stops, and learn about Lamson Woods State Preserve from volunteers Geoff St. George and John Miller.
“I enjoyed the ride in spite of the heat and the slow going [for me] up the hills,” La Fave said. “I’ll definitely consider riding again next year.”
Fairfield residents Burt Chojnowski and Ron Bovard started the ride at 8 a.m. and finished a couple of hours later. They said the weather was perfect, and a gentle breeze made the ride very pleasant. Chojnowski said the ride was part of his “personal triathlon” that day, which included swimming at Waterworks Park followed by a round of golf.
Bovard said he was glad to see that the trail near Chautauqua Park was open for the event, which had been closed due to sewer construction in the area.
“That’s a nice part of the trail, and I hope it stays open,” he said.
Peter Mannisi completed the ride in an hour and a half. He said there were 17 people ahead of him when he started and that he caught most of them by the end.
“This trail is a challenging course overall because it has sharp turns where you have to be careful,” Mannisi said.
Mannisi said he regularly runs the trail and has even come close to running it in less than two hours, like in 2014 when he was just six seconds away from doing so.