SIDNEY — Storm clouds parted Saturday afternoon just in time for cyclists to make their way into Sidney.
“I think it’s going to get cloudy later, but knock on wood, I think we’ll avoid the rain,” Jeff Pierron, director of the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA), said. “When you go on a week-long bike tour, you pretty much expect that you’re going to get wet at some point or get cold at some point. It’s all part of the experience.”
While the full-scale GOBA, which brings anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 participants into the communities they visit, was canceled for another year, the organization was able to hold a smaller-scale version of the bike tour, called the Western Ohio Bicycle Adventure (WOBA). WOBA was open to 500 participants this year, and according to Pierron, just over 250 people registered to participate.
“Maybe WOBA stands for ‘We’re On Bikes Again’. That’s kind of a celebratory thing — our numbers are smaller than we would have liked, but a lot of people who signed up this year are people who have done GOBAs in the past, so this has become their perennial thing that they do. I think with after last year — not only GOBA, but most other bike tours getting canceled — I think everybody’s just glad to be on bikes again,” Pierron said.
Matthew Zirger, from Columbus, works as a charter bus driver throughout the year, and the 2021 WOBA marks his 14th year in a row participating in GOBA events — excluding last year, when the tour was canceled due to the pandemic.
“I was really disappointed last year — all my bike rides got canceled, and this is one of the biggest ones I do. It’s one of those things where it feels like it’s getting back to normal, and we’re allowed to do this stuff again,” Zirger said. “It’s really nice that they’re allowed to do it, and we’re allowed to be here.”
While WOBA didn’t officially kick off until Sunday morning, Nancy Vallen, like several other riders, came a day early to get her campsite sorted on the Shelby County Fairgrounds and spend her time enjoying downtown Sidney, including the Community Block Party co-hosted by Sidney Alive and the Historic Sidney Theatre and sponsored by Ferguson Construction.
“It is nice to bike around the area just to see how this area is set up and what’s going on here,” Vallen said. “I came a little early for the downtown party, and I got some stuff at the farmer’s market.”
Vallen, from Ashtabula, has been participating in GOBA on and off for nine years, beginning in the 1990s, but participates in bike tours around the country routinely. WOBA is just one of many tours she plans to participate in this year — she came into Sidney after participating in the Great Illinois Bike Tour, and she’s even organized bike trips for herself on her own terms. One of her goals as a cyclist is to complete a century ride — biking 100 miles in one day — in each state. She only has 15 states left on her list, and after crossing off Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Illinois in 2021, she hopes to add Colorado to that list. Events like WOBA keep her coming back year after year, she said, because of the people.
“There’s such a great interaction with everybody on the ride. There’s all these common experiences and discovery, and just having fun,” Vallen said. “It’s an adventure.”
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