Night bike trek offers excercise, fun

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By MO NUWWARAH, Sports/Health Editor

The Meyer Foundation for Disabilities will hold a late-night bike ride July 16 in Omaha to raise funds for the organization.

Billed by foundation vice president Joel VanderVeen as “Omaha’s nighttime urban cycling adventure,” the OwL Ride begins downtown at 11 p.m. The path travels through various neighborhoods including Dundee and Field Club. This year’s event will be the second annual OwL Ride.

More than 1,000 riders participated last year, making it the largest annual night bike ride between Chicago and Denver, VanderVeen said. Even more are expected this year – 45 percent of participants filled out a post-ride survey and 96 percent indicated they plan to ride again this year.

“The goal of the OwL Ride is to create a fun event that will last for years in Omaha, and I think we’re on our way,” VanderVeen said.

Bill Lawlor, director of financial compliance and federal costing at UNMC, participated in the OwL Ride last year. Though he described himself as an avid bike rider, he said he rarely rides at night, which made for a unique experience.

“I had a great time,” he said. “It was really cool riding at night. Being in Dundee at midnight was really cool.”

The ride features rest stops at Midtown Crossing/Turner Park, Pitch Pizzeria in Dundee, Jones Bros. Cupcakes in Aksarben Village and Field Club. Refreshments, snacks and first aid are provided at each stop. The ride covers about 16 miles, but a shortcut is available that makes it seven miles.

Spring 2011 UNO graduate Sara Simmons serves as volunteer coordinator for the ride, recruiting volunteers and placing them where needed. She also rode last year, but plans to focus solely on her volunteer duties this year.

Both Lawlor and Simmons noted that both expert and novice riders would enjoy the trip.

“You don’t have to be physically fit or competitive,” Simmons said. “It’s just a fun ride.”

Lawlor said the ride took about two and a half hours, but riders can take up to four. A few college students took the maximum time, but not because they were riding slow.

“Some of them used it as a bar crawl,” he said with a laugh.

Cost of the ride is $25. All proceeds go to the Meyer Foundation, which provides recreational and social activities for teens and adults with developmental disabilities.

“Being able to do something physically active and being able to support people with special needs is the best of both worlds,” Simmons said.

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