Rides of the Century: Cyclists of all abilities welcome to ride the Seacoast

The 46th annual Seacoast Century Weekend kicks off the morning of Saturday, Sept. 21, at Hampton Beach State Park’s South Pavilion, and will continue throughout the weekend.

The event is hosted by one of New England’s most active adult recreational bicycling clubs, the Granite State Wheelers, who are eager to get everyone, regardless of age and skill level, involved in one of New England’s biggest biking events.

“It’s a pretty special event,” said Granite State Wheelers committee member Molly Lunn Owen. “There are lots of bike rides in the region, but this one has … different length options. … What’s best about this race is you can do a number of different routes and still have the beautiful scenery along the Seacoast.”

Cyclists will have their choice of 25-, 50-, 63- and 100-mile scenic routes along the New England coastline. All experience levels are invited to try any route and are welcome to come two days in a row to bike a second route for no additional cost.

Greeting riders when they return to the pavilion will be a fun, festival-like affair that includes ice cream, DJ-led music and massages, as well as the event’s traditional post-cycling meal of soup and chowder.

“Folks finish at all different times, so whenever you roll in, we want to make sure there’s an upbeat vibe available for you when you finish the event,” Owen said.

The event’s relaxed atmosphere is a purposeful attempt by the Granite State Wheelers (formerly the Granite State Wheelmen) to expose as many people to the sport as possible. By offering a welcoming environment and letting bikers go at their own pace, the goal is to provide a family-friendly environment where everyone feels welcome.

“We’re trying to make sure everyone feels included. That’s something, as a relatively younger cyclist, that I really care about: exposing the sport to people of all ages so everyone can feel comfortable and excited to be on a bike,” said Owen. “We do say it’s a family-friendly ride in that as long as the group stays together, 25 miles is perfectly doable for a kid who likes to ride his or her bike.”

While the more experienced bikers generally lead the pack, Owen made it clear that the event is for anyone who’s interested, and that the flexibility of the route’s length means more flexibility for the riders themselves. She says the Granite State Wheelers refer to the Seacoast Century Weekend as an event, not a race, because removing any pressure to finish within a certain time frame leaves ample room for riders to simply enjoy themselves.

“There are always cyclists who want to go fast. They tend to start at the beginning, they start early, they finish early and then everyone else is able to ride and enjoy themselves and not worry that they’re in a race or trying to stay out of the way of intense cyclists. It’s really an all-levels friendly event,” she said.

Not only does the Seacoast Century Weekend attract riders of all ages and experience levels, but Owen says the ride frequently pulls in loyal cyclists from across the country who make a point of returning to the East Coast each year just for this event.

“We do have a number [of riders] from California, Washington, Oregon, Florida, Utah. We get people from all over the country. People tend to come back year after year,” Owen said.

Anyone interested can register Saturday or Sunday for $75 (registering Saturday means you can come back and participate again on Sunday at no cost).

All proceeds go to fund rider education and support bicycle safety and advocacy in New Hampshire. Owen encourages everyone to come out to support the riders, enjoy the number of activities happening at the finish line, and volunteer to help the ride run smoothly.

— Elyse Carmosino

Photo by Jason Record.

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