The weather wasn’t what most people would consider balmy, but for Jan. 1, mid-40s and bright sunshine was exactly what the dozens of cyclists in their equally bright riding gear would have hoped for as they lined up in the parking lot of Mount Airy Bicycles just before noon.
“The weather is extremely variable. Last year it was raining and I didn’t come out. A few years ago it was pretty darn cold,” said Ed Cahill, of Ellicott City, who was preparing to take his vintage red Mercian bike on the road. “This year it’s actually pretty nice.”
It was Cahill’s third time participating in the Mount Airy Bicycles annual, “I’ve ridden every day this year“ ride, but it was the 29th anniversary of the event, which draws new and experienced cyclists out for their first ride of the new year.
“The roads around here are really great for riding, and you can or pretty much do anything from a six-mile loop to a 60-mile loop very easily from here,” said Steven Hoover, of Ellicott City, who was preparing for a 19-mile ride. Over the years, he said, he’s probably ridden every length of the event.
“I first did this ride in 1994 and I haven’t done it every year, but I’ve done it at least 20 times,” Hoover said, with some of those rides featuring rain, sleet and snow. "The nice thing is no matter what you experience on the first day of the year, you just build on top of it."
And the annual bike ride is all about experience, whether you have it or are building it, according to Larry Black. He’s the owner of Mount Airy Bicycles and the founder of the event.
“The nice thing about this ride is it embraces everybody,” Black said. “We have a six-miler, a 12-miler, so casual people with their new bike can come test it out, and ride alongside of people with more experience.”
This year’s event may well have been one of the largest yet, he said.
“This is probably the biggest group ever, about 112 people," Black said. “I’ve got people from Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.”
And the ride starts at noon because even longtime avid cyclists are not ignorant of New Year’s Eve festivities — or the average temperature on Jan. 1 in Carroll County.
“The reason we have it at noon is to give the weather a chance to moderate. People can rearrange their sock drawer, sober up a little bit, gather up their snacks,” he said. “We like to always have food and make it social.”
And while Carroll County overall may be more dominated by motor vehicles than bicycles, Black said it really is a great place to ride a bike.
“What draws people here is the area. This is why this store opened, because of the venue,” he said. “Being able to ride a bicycle out in the countryside with wide shoulders and fairly cooperative drivers.”
Abby Glassberg, of Clarksville, was attending the ride for the first time, and she was already sold on the experience.
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“It’s a wonderful way to start the year and make new friends, and I don’t have to clean my house,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to ride and then I asked my husband what he wanted to do and he said, ‘I have to clean the garage,’ so I’m out here riding.”