Take the Apple Cider Century route

Published 10:42 am Friday, September 16, 2011

The Apple Cider Century, the Midwest's largest one-day century bike ride, has staggered distances for all levels of riders.

Thousands of cyclists are preparing to hit the pavement for this year’s Apple Cider Century, an annual bicycle tour of the orchards, forests and wine country in and around Three Oaks, Mich.
On Sunday, Sept. 25, cyclists from 29 states across the country (Canada, too) will participate in a 15-, 25-, 37-, 50-, 62-, 75- or 100-mile ride around Michigan’s Berrien County and Indiana’s La Porte County.
Tour Director Bryan Volstorf started the Apple Cider Century in 1974 when 226 riders took to the winding country roads of southwest Michigan. Since then, it has become the Midwest’s largest one-day century event.
Volstorf is proud to hold the event in the small town of Three Oaks. Through 1979, the tour was based in the Village of Three Oaks, but growing numbers required Volstorf to move the tour to River Valley High School in 1980.
“By the mid-90s, we steadily grew to around 7,000 riders. Then bike tours across the country saw a downturn in participation in the late-90s and early 2000s. Now we’re back up to almost 6,000 riders each year.”
In 2005, the ACC returned to its roots in the Village of Three Oaks, showing cyclists from all over the country what the charming rural town has to offer.
More families than ever are joining the tour, said Volstorf.
“Kids 12 and under ride free, so that makes it a great draw,” Volstorf said. “It’s easy for a family of four or five to make the ride a nice outing without much of a cost burden.”
The riders’ various routes will not be revealed until the day before the race, when participants can begin picking up their rider packets. The secrecy is largely to deter “bandit riders” from joining the tour without having registered and to help prevent vandals from altering signs along the routes.
Whether riders are cruising the flat 15-, 25- or 37-mile routes, the hilly 50-, 62- or 75-mile routes or the all-encompassing Century, the beauty of southwest Michigan in fall will show through in the colorfully changing trees, rushing steams and apple orchards along the ride.
Volstorf estimates that around 1,000 participants will likely take on the 100-mile Century tour, but that greatly depends on the weather. As the Apple Cider Century website points out, “The weather (may) vary from the sunny skies and 70s of 1993 to the downpour and chilly 40s of 1976.”
No matter the distance, the Apple Cider Century stresses that while some cyclists will be out trying for their personal best times, the tour is “neither a race nor a test of stamina,” but rather a recreational and social tour of southwest Michigan.
The Apple Cider Century is a non-profit endeavor, sponsored by the Three Oaks Spokes Bicycle Club. Money raised from entry fees is used to finance the current and future Apple Cider Century tours, from stocking the support and gear stops with refreshments to donating to organizations that coordinate the post-race dinner, safety crossings, parking and more.
In addition to keeping the Apple Cider Century up-and-running, entry fees provide money for maintaining the Backroads Bikeway self-guided trails and donations to Rails-to-Trails, League of American Bicyclists, League of Michigan Bicyclists, the Three Oaks Historical Museum antique bicycle display and help fund community youth programs and other non-profit organizations.
Every year, the Apple Cider Century tour takes place the last Sunday in September. The 2012 tour is set for Sunday, Sept. 30.

For more information about the Apple Cider Century, visit www.applecidercentury.com.