The Journal Gazette
Thursday, January 02, 2020 1:00 am

Bicyclists accept Challenge

New Year's tradition draws 150 cold riders

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

Temperatures hovered around 36 degrees New Year's Day, but the wind chill made it feel like 18.

Still, it really wasn't so bad for the Chilly Challenge, a New Year's tradition dating back 24 years that invites bicyclists to take a spin on the first day of the year.

There was plenty of vitamin D to be had from the sun, making the 5- to 20-mile ride more acceptable for the nearly 150 riders who bundled up.

At Bob Arnold Northside Park, Auburn resident Susan Zuber had her hands in warm “bar mitts” that looked like oversized mittens attached to the handlebars. Zuber was ready to roll out with Kadmiel and Chris Clear, both of Waterloo.

Chris Clear said he remembers a couple of years ago when the temperature was 13 degrees and his back wheel refused to turn.

“My bike stopped working,” said Clear, who's made it to the Chilly Challenge eight or nine years.

Mona Will, an organizer along with co-founder Phil Snider and off-road director Randy Rozewicz, oversaw preparations for the race, including the chili dinner cooking inside at the Psi Ote Barn for after-race appetites. 

Will said the ride, which started about 1 p.m., would include a stop at Johnny Appleseed Park to cheer on swimmers wading or diving into the St. Joseph River for the annual Polar Bear Plunge, another cold winter city thrill. 

The basic Chilly Challenge ride is about 5 miles, but more ambitious bikers can take to the River Greenway and city streets for a 20-mile venture, Will added. 

Jennifer and Greg Beal of Fort Wayne were riding their mountain bikes in the Chilly Challenge for the first time after seeing the event listed in a city calendar.  Normally they ride the Greenway in the summer, they said, but 5 miles was tempting, despite the cold. 

With a potential 5-mile ride back to Northside Park, the Beals said they were looking forward to a dinner out after the exercise.

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