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Great River Ride challenges begin Sept. 19

WESTFIELD – New Horizons Bikes on Franklin Street is partnering with the Friends of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail (FOCGRT) to present this year’s Great River Ride.

In lieu of a group event this year, riders are asked to challenge themselves to take on routes of 100 miles, 100 kilometers, or 36 miles on- or off-road. Additionally, there is a Family Ride option of 10 miles, round-trip on the Columbia Greenway, from the recently-completed Heroes Are Everywhere mural in Westfield to the Under the Sea mural in Southwick.

The Great River Ride kicks off on Bike Week (Sept. 19) and will close on Oct 18, the day the event is traditionally held,

“My goal was to have riders complete the actual Great River Ride route rather than their own virtual version. Having riders use the RideSpot App allows me to track their completion of the actual ride,” said Don Podolski, owner of New Horizons Bikes, and founder and organizer of the Great River Ride since 1988.

Don Podolski, owner of New Horizons Bikes. (WESTFIELD NEWS PHOTO)

Riders are encouraged to take part in as many of the challenges as they like. In lieu of registration fees, participants are encouraged to make a donation to the Friends of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail. 

“FOCGRT uses the funds for ongoing advocacy efforts as well as purchasing amenities for the trail; these include dog waste station, historical interpretive signs, parking racks, etc.,” Podolski said. A special edition t-shirt has been created to commemorate this year’s event, and is available for order on the event website

Podolski said in a normal year, he’d have weekly group rides from the bike shop as well as a number of ultra-long distance events. “I was only able to host one long distance event back on March 14 before cancelling the remaining scheduled events for the season. To replace these events, I created monthly challenge rides beginning in June to lead up to the Great River Ride Challenge,” he said.

Riders will need to download the App at The App has printable directions as well as voice directions and GPS files and maps for each distance, Podolski said. Riders completing any ride will receive an award of a commemorative pin. To register for the rides, make a donation and order your t-shirt, visit:

Riders participating in more than one challenge will get a different pin from New Horizons for each. “There are many different lengths in the challenges, and because it’s open for the next few weeks, some people will try to ride each course and get a different pin,” said Mary MacAdam of New Horizons Bikes.

According to the FOCGRT’s latest newsletter, rail trail usage has increased by more than 100 percent. “The April through July trail usage statistics show the number of users at the counter near the Main St. ramp have more than doubled year over year. Other trail counters placed along the trail tell a similar story. Usage is up 104% at the counter near the center of the south section of the Greenway. The counter placed near the Southwick/Westfield line shows usage up 90%.”

“It’s been crazy. The whole industry has experienced a bike boom. Inventory has been interesting — it’s hard to get everything,” MacAdam said.

Great River Ride organizers also want to remind riders to post pictures of your rides and tag them @ColumbiaGreenway.

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