Mountainbikers gear up for fifth bike challenge

PEDAL POWER: Cyclists will put their skills to the test through the Orari River bed when the Geraldine Bike Challenge returns.
PEDAL POWER: Cyclists will put their skills to the test through the Orari River bed when the Geraldine Bike Challenge returns.

There is more to the Geraldine Bike Challenge than meets the eye.

Countless hours of working bees, spanning five years, have helped make the event possible and this year is no exception.

The family-friendly event, hosted by the Lions Club of Geraldine, will return to the Orari Racecourse and river on March 17, marking five years since its inauguration.

Cyclists will follow the Geraldine Lions' mountainbike tracks, covering a range of distances including 18km, 32km and 52km.

Club members have spent many hours clearing the tracks and keeping them tidy for cyclists and walkers, who can benefit from it all year round. Members have also created a new section of track for this year's race after Environment Canterbury (ECan) removed part of it so shingle could be taken from the riverbed.

The event is a labour of love for keen cyclist and chairman of the bike committee, Allan Kelly.

He said without the dedication of his fellow Lions Club members the event would not be possible.

Groups meet regularly for working bees, which involve tasks including mowing and mulching the tracks. Two tractors, owned by club members, are used for six hours, four times a year to get the job done.

Club members also remove trees if they fall across the tracks, which they chop for firewood. The wood is distributed to people who are struggling financially. The rest is sold to club members and the public. All funds raised are put back into the community.

Mr Kelly said working bees were also held to remove dangerous tree roots and to fill large holes which appeared on the tracks. Access tracks are also made across the riverbeds to enable safer crossings when the cycle tracks cross from one side to the other at river road crossings.

ECan helps maintain the tracks by spraying the weeds.

Mr Kelly said the track project was one that worked well and the cycle race was now one of the club's biggest fundraisers of the year.

Money raised from the event was distributed to various causes each year.

"This year all profits are to be donated to the Westpac helicopter appeal. Lions also make a donation to the Orari race course for the use of their fabulous facility, [and] St John, who do a wonderful job of looking after our first aid needs, also receive a donation on the day."

For more information about the bike challenge visit geraldinebikechal

The Timaru Herald