National Bike Month activities get rolling at 10 a.m. Saturday with Hilton Head Island's inaugural Community Beach Bicycle Ride.
Riders will meet at Coligny Beach Park near the Tiki Hut beach volleyball courts and ride along the hard-packed, low-tide beach to the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa in Palmetto Dunes. They will then turn around for a 6-mile round trip.
Participants should bring their wide-wheeled beach cruisers, but leave skinny-tire road bikes, which will slice through the sand, on the blacktop where they are swiftest, said Marcy Benson of the town's Bicycle Advisory Committee and senior grants administrator for the Town of Hilton Head Island.
If the weather cooperates, the town expects between 50 to 100 bikers for the two-hour, leisurely ride, Benson said.
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"There's camaraderie, you're outside and you're enjoying the scenery here. You can't beat that," Benson said.
Other rides and events are planned in May and the beginning of June:
- May 8: National Bike to School Day
- May 13-17: Inaugural Hilton Head Island Bike & Dine Week
- May 15: National Ride of Silence
- May 17: National Bike to Work Day
- June 8: Spirit & Spokes Boat & Bicycle Ride from Harbour Town to Savannah.
The events are being organized by the town, Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and Kickin' Asphalt Bike Club.
Bike & Dine Week, like Saturday's beach ride, is a new event this year. Fifteen Hilton Head restaurants and bars and one Savannah caterer have teamed with the chamber to offer lunch and dinner discounts for riders.
The first 200 diners who bring a receipt from their meal to the chamber's office off William Hilton Parkway, near the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, receive a Bike & Dine Week T-shirt. All receipts will be put into a drawing for an $800-value Elev8 Bike.
For a list of participating restaurants, go to www.hiltonheadisland.org/bikeanddine.
A National Ride of Silence at 6:30 p.m. May 15 will recognize cyclists who have been killed while riding. Riders, all wearing black arm bands, will ride silently and in single-file behind an all-white "ghost biker" along a 8-mile route from Port Royal Plaza to Shelter Cove and back.
A 58-year-old bicyclist was killed last month on William Hilton Parkway at Mathews Drive. It was the first bicyclist fatality on Hilton Head since 2010.
Though not during National Bike Month, the festivities conclude June 8 with the Spirit & Spokes Boat & Bicycle Ride. For $40, 75 cyclists can buy a round-trip ferry ticket to Savannah aboard the Spirit of Harbour Town. The boat leaves Hilton Head at 9 a.m.
Once in Savannah, riders can take two guided routes: An easy ride around the historic district squares or a 25-mile trek through the city, Thunderbolt and the Isle of Hope. For more information, go to www.kickinasphalt.info/calendar.
The town hopes the events help it retain or improve the silver-level bicycle-friendly community designation, according to Frank Babel, co-chairman of the town's Bicycle Advisory Committee.
The town received that designation in 2011 from the League of American Bicyclists, The island is the only municipality in South Carolina to have the designation and one of the few in the Southeast. Hilton Head will reapply for the honor in 2015.
"The most important thing is not the award. It's how much things have changed," Babel said, noting the island now has about 20,000 bikes available to rent from shops, twice as many as Babel remembers six or seven years ago.
"We've come a long way."
Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.