NEOCycle draws 20,000 to Edgewater Park, including 650 riders for the first Forest City Fundo, presented by Bike Cleveland
This past weekend in partnership with the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, the Cleveland Metroparks and many other partners we opened up a new chapter to showcase cycling in Cleveland. NEOCycle, presented by Ohio Savings Bank, featured races, rides and a festival to meet the needs of everyone while showcasing the growing bike culture in our fair city. If you missed it, here is a first hand account of the weekend from our very own Bike Cleveland member Frank Jones:
Last weekend, along with 20,000 other bike enthusiasts and music lovers, I headed down to Cleveland’s Edgewater Park to explore NEOCycle, the region’s latest and greatest cycling festival and a crown jewel in Northeast Ohio’s suddenly exploding cycling culture.
The city’s first annual “urban cycling festival” included both bike rides and races and nearly constant live music on a huge stage set up in NEOCycle’s “Hub” in Edgewater, including a Saturday night appearance by indie darlings (and Cleveland natives) Cloud Nothings. The performance followed the evening’s spectacular Night Ride, which featured 1,500 people (including my wife and I) on every manner of glowing, flashing and blinking bikes, riding a 7.5-mile loop from Edgewater to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that included a breathtaking view of the city along the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, which was partly shut down temporarily for the exclusive use of riders, who had the option of making two laps around the course or heading back to The Hub for refreshments or treats from one of the many food trucks that set up shop at Edgewater for the weekend.
All of that late-night action merely set the table for the big show to come on Sunday, when 650 riders took part in the Forest City Fundo, presented and organized by our own Bike Cleveland. The casual group ride, both an interpretation and a play on words of the Italian Gran Fondo concept (which means “big distance,” loosely translated) was designed to expose riders of all ages and experience levels to many Cleveland neighborhoods they might never have explored before. The Fundo offered three different lengths to choose from, including a 10-mile family ride, an intermediate and approximate metric half-century (about 33 miles) and a full metric century (about 62 miles). All rides were fully supported, signed, and marked out, with rest stops (stocked with snacks and drinks, all included with the price of registration) along the way and bike mechanics stationed strategically along the route to provide repairs on the go.
My wife and I chose the metric half-century, which kicked off at 8:30 in the morning, and hour after the full metric riders left the starting gate. Shaking the sleep out of our eyes after the long night (and ride) the previous evening, we grabbed a quick breakfast (provided free for all riders) in front of the registration stations, then headed out on the road. The route bore east from Edgewater, running along Detroit Avenue through downtown, where it turned into Superior, then staying true for several more miles eastward along Superior and St. Clair before heading north to the lake shore and then eventually south through Rockefeller Park.
About 12 miles in is where things really started to get fun, as the course took riders up draining Stokes Hill to the edge of Shaker Heights before dropping quickly and thrillingly down Kinsman to the second rest stop. We managed to join up with the full century riders around this time, who were further along in their ride (having headed all the way out to North Collinwood and back before tackling Stokes Blvd). From there, the courses joined up for a long a stretch as the route wound through Slavic Village, Cuyahoga Heights and Newburgh Heights (partially along the Morgana Run Trail) before dipping down into the Cuyahoga River Valley and joining the Towpath to its northern terminus at Steelyard Commons.
We encountered all manner of fellow rider on the road, from club teams all sporting multi-thousand-dollar road bikes to casual riders keeping slow but steady pace on their trusty commuter bikes. Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, we loped along, maintaining a respectable 13 mph rate (including the exhausting climb up from the Valley floor at Steelyards) to the finish line. I briefly entertained the idea of asking my wife if she wanted to go another lap but thought better of it, as I value my marriage.
Afterwards, too tired to do much but sit around and relax, we enjoyed the included post-race lunch of sausages, pierogies and salads, along with the beer afforded by our complimentary beer tickets, and chatted with other participants as they returned from the ride.
The Hub featured a marketplace, with many vendors showing off their wares and offering samples and demonstrations; my wife took advantage of an offer for a free massage while I examined the racks of jerseys and bins of accessories at one of the many bike shops that set up temporary shop at Edgewater. Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park even set up a small MTB course for junior riders, and several other events took place at the Hub itself, including a Cyclocross competition, and in another part of the hub a sort of combination crafts fair/farmer’s market was drawing solid crowds. There really was something to do at NEOCycle for everyone, whether you were a bike fanatic or not, and kudos to the organizers for creating such a well-rounded, multi-dimensional festival right off the bat in just the first year of (one hopes) a long and successful existence.