Big Thicket Bike Tour
Spring is coming to Southeast Texas and the rolling hills and wooded forests of the Big Thicket National Preserve are awaiting cyclists of all ages for this year’s Big Thicket Bike Tour on Saturday, March 15.
In year’s past, more than 100 riders have coasted the gradual hills and wide shoulders of Highway 69 between Kountze, Silsbee and Woodville. But this year’s event has even more for weekend cruisers and avid cyclists alike, with routes of 14 miles, 36 miles, 46 miles, 66 miles, 76 and 100 miles.
“Let’s say you’re a beginner and you don’t want to tackle something that’s too long and tucker yourself out. So, we have a 14 miler that’s our shortest ride. That goes 7 miles up on 69 North and 7 miles back for 14,” said Brian Rogers of the Southeast Texas Hike and Bike Coalition, the organization spearheading this weekend’s ride. “If you’re a little more adventurous, there’s a 36, then a 46, then a 66, a 77, and if you’re really a super person, you can do the 100. I do one 100 a year at the MS150, so that one I do. I haven’t done ours yet. We do have quite a few people that will do it who like to do the 100 miles.”
Diana Thornton, the coalition’s president, said the Big Thicket is beautiful this time of year, and riders will certainly enjoy the scenery.
“It’s really nice, mostly rural, so it’s out in nature in the trees. It’s a very pretty ride,” she said. “You’ll ride through a lot of the Big Thicket, mostly rural except for a little through Silsbee and Lumberton where we’re going though some residential and a little bit of businesses. Mostly, you’ll see the trees, and this time a year usually there’s wildflowers out. You’re riding amongst the trees and not a lot of traffic. It’s hilly, but not too hilly, so it’s not a super challenge. Just enough to give you a little bit of a workout. It’s just really nice to ride through nature, versus riding down here where it’ll be all flat and traffic and streets. It’s just a really pleasant country ride.”
Families are encouraged to come out and enjoy the ride with the knowledge that the Southeast Texas Hike and Bike Coalition — an organization dedicated solely to bike safety for children — has all aspects of safety covered.
“If they want to try very young kids, putting them in a (bike) trailer would be the best thing. But the shoulders are wide and we have support vehicles that are available all the time, so if you start out and you don’t feel like you can make it the whole distance, our (support) will be driving around and they’ll see you on the side of the road,” Thornton said. “If you need help, they’ll stop and give you a ride back to the Big Thicket Church. We have people out there looking out for you.”
The Big Thicket Bike Tour is the Southeast Texas Hike and Bike Coalition’s biggest fundraisers of the year and will help continue their efforts of safety education and their mission of ensuring our area’s youth will bike safely.
“We are all about safety,” Rogers said. “One of the reasons we exist is to promote safe cycling. The money that we raise on this bike ride, we use to hold what we call bike rodeos in area elementary schools where we’ll go in and ... teach the kids about hand signals and about obeying stops signs, when to merge, what to do if a soccer ball suddenly goes into the street and make sure that helmets fit properly. If we have them, we’ll give kids who don’t have a helmet a free one.”
Once you’re done with your ride, the fun doesn’t stop there. The Big Thicket Baptist Church will have a choice of homemade barbecue to curb the appetite riders have worked up after their cycling.
“Everybody who rides gets free lunch and I’m not talking about potato chips and two-day-old hot dogs. I’m talking about a fresh barbecue lunch at the Big Thicket Baptist Church,” Rogers said. “They fix these lunches and you get a free one, different barbecue choices. It’s just some of the best food. They can really cook.”
Even if you’re not an avid bike rider, the Big Thicket Bike Ride is for a good cause and will help you make the most of the early spring weekend, Rogers said.
“It’s one of the earlier bike rides in Southeast Texas. For the most part over the years, we’ve had very good weather. This is a good time slot to have it,” Rogers said. “I just hope people come out because we want to promote cycling as a fun, family activity and one that needs to be done safely.”
The ride starts and ends at the Big Thicket Visitor’s Center, seven miles north of the city of Kountze, in Hardin County, at the intersection of Highway 69 and FM 420. Registration begins at 7 a.m., and the official start time is 8 a.m.
Riders under 18 years old must be accompanied by a parent, and everyone, regardless of age or skill level, must wear a helmet. The rider entry fee is $35 per person or $80 for a family until the day of the ride; $45 per person and $90 for a family on ride day, March 15. Register online at active.com. For more information, visit www.funtrails.org.