For the 29th straight year, bike lovers of all ages and skill levels will be able to ride through Jefferson City under moonlit skies with the Tour de Jeff City Moonlight Bike Ride later this month.
When the event started almost three decades ago, it encouraged people "to see Jefferson City in a different light," said Phil Stiles, this year's bike ride coordinator and Jefferson City Parks and Recreation program manager of special events.
That idea seems to be a big reason people have been coming back all these years.
"It's a free event and it's 2 o'clock in the morning, and people kind of like the early morning bike ride," Stiles said. "Most of the route is a road route and there's not a lot of traffic, so I think people enjoy that aspect of it."
The event carefully chooses a route that's as hill-free as possible, according to the event description on the Parks website. While that's still the case, Stiles said, there will be a change in this year's route.
"We're utilizing more of the greenway system this year," he said. "There's a new section of the greenway that just open underneath the (Missouri) 179 bridge. So I think we wanted to kind of showcase and highlight the greenway systems, especially some of the new sections that people may not know about."
The route will start and end at the Hy-Vee parking lot on Truman Boulevard and go along spots on West Edgewood Drive, Creek Trail Drive and Stadium Boulevard. There will be a water stop at the Red Wheel Bike Shop, 400 W. Main St., the event's sponsor.
The ride normally sees about 200-250 cyclists as young as age 4 to senior citizens as well as guests from outside the Jefferson City area.
"There's a big bike ride in St. Louis that's similar to this," Stiles said. "They're not going to be doing that bike ride this year, so we're anticipating maybe some folks from St. Louis that will be coming in. We've heard a group from Rolla will be coming up."
Ultimately, the diversity of the event leads to a "party-like atmosphere," Stiles said.
"Some people dress up in costumes; people come out with friends," he said. "There's solo bike riders; there's tandem bike riders. It's just a fun event. The camaraderie of it, I guess, is what's unique."
The Tour de Jeff City Moonlight Bike Ride is scheduled to begin at 2 a.m. July 29. The Parks department will require everyone to sign a waiver beforehand and encourages participants to wear helmets and reflective gear and place lights on their bikes.
For more information, visit jeffersoncitymo.gov/parkindex.php.