Sure there are kicks on Route 66, but dozens of bike riders had their fun on U.S. 71 during the annual Highway 71 Classic bicycle ride.
The once busy highway is a haven for cycling now that Interstate 49 carries most of the traffic over the Boston Mountains between Fayetteville and Alma. Riders pedaled the meandering road on a chilly Sunday on March 12 for the thrill of the ride and to raise money for the bicycle advocacy efforts of Bike NWA and the Breakaway Cycling youth racing program.
More riding ahead
Cycling events this spring include the Square To Square ride at 8 a.m. on May 13 and the Ladies DU Fayetteville Ladies Duathlon at 8 a.m. on June 11.
Square to Square begins on the square in Fayetteville and heads north for 30 miles on the Razorback Greenway to the Bentonville square. Register at playbentonville.com. The autum Square to Square ride starts in Bentonville and ends in Fayetteville.
Ladies DU Fayetteville duathlon is a two mile run, 11 mile bike ride and another two mile run. The event starts at Veteran’s Park at Lake Fayetteville.
Register at fayetteville.onlinesignup.org.
— Staff report
Highway 71 Classic offered routes of 32 or 71 miles starting at Walker Park in south Fayetteville. The 32-mile ride meandered to Brentwood City Park and back. Riders going 71 miles headed south to Mountainbug and returned. They tackled two lung-buster climbs of Mount Gaylor, near Winslow, followed by exhilarating descents down the mountain.
Minimal vehicle traffic, scenery and varied terrain are the attractions of riding on U.S. 71 south of Fayetteville, Tiffany Dixon said while registering riders at Walker Park.
“It’s a great easy route and a challenging one. The ride from Fayetteville to Brentwood is fairly flat, but after that it gets hilly. So people can have a leisurely ride or a workout on the hills,” she said.
Another plus is that U.S. 71 has a wide shoulder most of the way.
Riders dressed for freezing temperatures. They headed down U.S. 71 past Drake Field on their way to West Fork on four lanes of pavement. The highway is two lanes south of West Fork, and traffic is next to nothing, especially on a Sunday morning.
Highway 71 Classic is a ride, not a race, but two packs of riders rocketed down the highway pushed by a gentle north wind. Behind them were smaller groups of two to a half dozen peddlers chit chatting the miles away.
Some of the fast riders didn’t even blink when they whizzed past the hot coffee, fruit and sandwiches served by volunteers at Brentwood City Park. Bikers on the 32-mile ride turned around here after a snack at the little park along the West Fork of the White River.
Aden Priest, one of the youngest riders at age 11, munched a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the rest stop. He’s a bike racer with Breakaway Cycling program for ages 9 through 18. The group receives some money from the annual ride.
The program is in its first year, said Steve Auchterlonie, a coach with the group. So far 10 boys and one girl are involved with Breakaway Cycling. The program welcomes all young riders in the region interested in racing.
They take part in races from March through September, the coach said. The young racers volunteered at Walker Park setting out snacks and drinks and doing other chores.
The ride also benefits Bike NWA, formerly Bicycle Coalition of the Ozarks, said Paxton Roberts, executive director of the group.
Routes like the Razorback Greenway are protected, but legions of riders drive to the trailhead with their bikes to get on the Greenway. One mission of Bike NWA is to get more protected bike routes on city streets. That would allow more people to bike from their homes to the Greenway, or bike to work, school or shopping destinations.
U.S. 71 is “a hidden gem” for cycling, Paxton said.
“It’s one of the safer places to ride.”
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 03/21/2017