Get out, get active and get local — the Discover Connecticut Bicycle Tour series is hosting two rides in New Britain and Glastonbury to offer people a new way to explore the cities.
"Our mission is to encourage everyone to get out there and bike and walk more," says Sue Smith, a member of the board of directors and chair for Discover Connecticut Bicycle Tours.
The series evolved from an earlier version, Discover Hartford Bike Tour, which existed a few years ago. Smith says they re-energized the tour by expanding it to other Connecticut communities.
Upon registering, riders can choose to follow a 10-, 25- or 50-mile course. Whether you're an experienced cyclist or just starting out, Smith says there is a trail for all skill sets. The routes are carefully labeled with color-coded signs to help riders follow the correct path.
Routes are designed to take you around the city, area towns or along various bike trails.
The 10-mile trails are easy and flat and great for beginners, says Smith.
"They're short [rides], but there are interesting points of interest that help you discover something about a Connecticut community."
Last year was the tour's first season in West Hartford and New Britain, with 250 riders attending. Smith says they are expecting the same turnout, if not more this season.
The event is more than just a bike ride as there are catered meals and entertainment at both locations for riders to enjoy afterward.
The tour launches from the newly added Glastonbury route on Sunday, Aug. 21. It begins and ends at Smith Middle School with the first ride beginning at 8 a.m. There will be a bike rodeo for children 12 years and under from 12 to 3 p.m. Kids will learn about bike safety and practice their skills on an obstacle course. It is free to participate, but those interested should register in advance.
Tour rest stops will include the Historical Society of Glastonbury museum on Hubbard Green, and the 50-mile route will have a stop at Fish Family Farm.
There also will be a catered post-ride barbecue with vegetarian and gluten-free options and a performance by The Meadow Brothers — an Americana and folk musical duo.
The bike tour returns to New Britain for its second year on Sunday, Sept. 25, with the journey starting and ending in Walnut Hill Park, which offers a historical self-guided walk tour.
Cyclists have the opportunity to venture though four different bike trails including the CTfastrak multi-use trail, Hanover Pond, Quinnipiac Gorge and Farmington Canal.
The ride through New Britain also includes a trip through Little Poland, Stanley Quarter Park and to the New Britain Museum of American Art.
Admission to the New Britain Museum of American Art is included with registration cost, where there will be a catered brunch afterwards featuring a baked potato bar and a cash bar.
For the more challenging routes, there will be stops at the Milldale Train Station (built in 1890), Hubbard Park, Roger's Orchards and Shuttle Meadow Reservoir.
New Britain and Glastonbury were chosen because they are two of seven towns in the state that the League of American Bicyclists deemed "bike friendly" communities. There are a number of criteria that must be met in order for the towns to have this distinction. Bike friendly towns include West Hartford, Simsbury, South Windsor, New Haven and Farmington.
The cost of registration for the rides is $45 for adults, and $20 for children 12 and under. Registration will close the Thursday before each event. For those that miss the deadline, there will be on-site registration but the prices increase by $5.
Smith advises that all riders should check their bikes before coming to ensure each is in good working condition and bring a helmet to the event.
And she offers riders this advice: "[Riders will] probably find more joy and fun in the ride if you get out and ride a few miles before attending the event to warm up your legs."
Proceeds from the ride will help fund Bike Walk Connecticut, the organization behind the tours, advocacy and educational work to make the roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Volunteer opportunities are available. For more information, email DiscoverCT@bikewalkct.org or call 860-836-5904.
THE DISCOVER CONNECTICUT BICYCLE TOUR SERIES has two upcoming events: Sunday, Aug. 21, in Glastonbury at Smith Middle School (216 Addison Road), with staggered start times depending on route beginning at 8 a.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 25, in New Britain at Walnut Hill Park (184 West Main St.), with rides starting promptly at 8:30 a.m. for all riders. Tours are rain or shine. Cost of registration $45. Day of registration is available $50, youth $25. Information: bikewalkct.org.