After relocating to Waco four years ago, it was a pleasant surprise to find Waco’s largest bicycle event attended by 1,500 enthusiasts.
I spent 12 years in central Michigan and bicycle-friendly Wisconsin, and returned to find the Wild West Bicycle Tour continuing to go strong.
For 27 years now Waco Wild West, the Waco Bicycle Club and others have been involved in the Wild West Bicycle Tour. Its 28th edition will be held Sept. 22.
The bicycle tour is a fundraising and family event organized by Waco Wild West 100. The organization is fortunate to have received financial or in-kind support from numerous national and local organizations. Waco Wild West 100 is dedicated to raising money for charitable groups, including the National Marrow Foundation and Donor Program, American Red Cross and Camp Fire USA, and as well as local organizations such as Rapoport Academy, the A.J. Moore Interact Club, Crawford Family Career and Community Leaders of America, Heart of Texas ARC, Robinson band, Boy Scout Troops 377 and 498, China Spring Peer Assistance Leadership, Texas Christian Academy and Mother Neff State Park.
The Waco Wild West tour has been a great community event for Waco. Its goal is to raise $25,000 this year.
The WWW100 also wants to provide a family-oriented community event for the Waco area. Cyclists support its charitable endeavor while enjoying the scenic vistas along the tour.
In 1995, the tour drew an incredible 3,500 participants.
Although half of the tour cyclists each year come from the Waco area, others are from all over Texas and beyond. Past tours included riders from Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia. The tour has seen a 4-year-old beginning cyclist, a 70-plus-year old world champion and a disabled cyclist ride one of the tour’s 10-, 25-, 50-, 65- or 100-mile routes.
This year, because of adjustments to the 65-mile route, its length will actually stretch to 67 miles.
The tour’s 100-mile course is one of the few remaining in Texas. Waco Wild West has been asked to consider a change to a shorter 100-kilometer course, but many of the 200 or so riders who take part in the 100-mile option said they choose the Waco Wild West tour because it offers that length.
Those who prefer to go just 100 kilometers can merely choose the 65-mile route, which translates to a little more than 100 kilometers,
The Waco Wild West event is a tour, not a race, but fast-pedaling cyclists have completed the 100-mile course in under four hours.
Some funny stories have emerged during the years of the event.
During the 26th Wild West, one cyclist had trained and planned for the 100-mile route. On the day of the tour, he joined a group of riders — also known as a peloton — that was traveling at a good pace. He finished the course and was very pleased with his ride time.
He learned, however, that he had not taken the proper turn, and had joined the 65-mile group. He said he planned to ride 100 miles twice at the next Wild West.
The Waco Bicycle Club helps immeasurably by providing numerous volunteers for the Wild West Tour. Club members provide SAG support (shorthand for “support and gear”) along all routes of the tour, aid in marking the course, provide rest stops and help with event setup. Waco Bicycle Club member Alvis Hill has handled the master of ceremony duties for the tour.
Support for the cyclists, however, can come from anyone.
During another Wild West, a cyclist had completed most of the 50-mile route when a pedal came off her bike. Three Waco Bicycle Club SAG riders were unable to come up with a fix for the bike. The cyclist made it to the rest stop at the Mars Chocolate plant. A Mars employee noticed the problem and removed a pedal from a bike in the carrier on his car and gave it to the rider so she could complete the tour.
Now that’s support.
One does not have to ride to participate and enjoy the day. Many volunteers come to assist with registration or provide rest stop support for the riders. Baylor professor Richard Duhrkopf and Scott Prugh, Waco Bicycle Club president, are the rest-stop coordinators. Ask them how many bananas or how much pickle juice is needed to provide for 1,500 cyclists. Or, if you meet Waco Wild West board members Cindy Neal or Kathy Schwartz, ask how long it takes to fold the 1,500 T-shirts given to cyclists when they register.
The Waco Bicycle Club’s mission is to promote the love of cycling. It works to serve the cycling needs of the Waco and McLennan County area by providing communication and fellowship among cyclists, developing trails, and offering safety education to schools, churches and other community organizations.
Part of the fun is seeing the volunteers compete to be the best Wild West rest stop. Cyclists will find no rest stop the same because of the competition, which promoting their rest stops along the way. Texas Christian Academy was selected the best rest stop at last year’s event. Its cool-down mister for cyclists, along with snow cones and cookies, was most welcome.
The bicycle tour will get started at University Parks Drive and Washington Avenue, putting it at the edge of activities related to the weekend’s Waco Cultural Arts Fest. If you come, check out the artistic work of M’Liss Lenamon, wife of Wild West board member Larry Lenamon. M’Liss has created two beautiful quilts that depict the history of the Waco Wild West Bicycle Tour from its T-shirts over the years.
Waco is becoming a cycling destination. Bicycling enthusiasts know Waco and the Wild West is the place to be in September.
Bicycle enthusiast Jim Igleheart is board secretary for Waco Wild West.