Cyclists take the fast track this Sunday

BikeJam racers take to the trails of Patterson Park Sunday. Also featured: rec rides, kids’ events, safety rodeos, helmet giveaway and stunt demos. Photo by Clark Vandergrift

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For some, bicycles an essential mode of transportation. Some enjoy them for fitness and recreation. Then there are those who vaguely remember having a bicycle, and they think it just might be in the basement. Maybe.

All factions are welcome at BikeJam, the 14th annual celebration of all things two-wheeled, which rolls into Patterson Park on Sunday, May 20, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. The day will include bicycle races that draw top international talent, recreational rides for regular joes, kids’ events, a helmet giveaway, safety rodeos, stunt demonstrations, music, vendors, a bike and health expo, food and other activities. (Information on all events is available at www.bikejam.org).

In other words, it’s like East Baltimore’s ubiquitous ethnic festivals, only for people who speak the not-so-secret language of the bicycle. Bonus: It’s also a great place for people who want to learn that language.

“We’re always hoping to get a broad audience for this event,” says David Scharff, race promoter for BikeJam. Scharff, who races competitively, will be looking for a good representation of the bike community, at all levels.

BikeJam itself features Baltimore’s largest pro-am cycling race, The Kelly Cup. These races are sanctioned by the USA Cycling (formerly known as U.S. Cycling Federation, or USCF), and attract professional and amateur racers from the mid-Atlantic and throughout North America. Past BikeJam races have included former Olympic and Tour D’France participants. More than 8,000 spectators and 1,200 participants are expected.

New this year is the fact that BikeJam will be hosting the Mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association’s Age-Graded Criterium Championships. According to Scharff, winners of these races (which are staged in both men’s and women’s divisions, as well as juniors for boys and girls, according to different age groups) receive special jerseys denoting their championship status. Those jerseys, then, can be worn in races throughout the next racing season.

Kids can enjoy special activities in the Kids Activity Pavilion. A bike safety rodeo is offered at noon and 1:45 p.m. and CareFirst BlueCross has donated and will distribute 250 children’s bike helmets at the event.

BikeJam racers take to the trails of Patterson Park Sunday. Also featured: rec rides, kids’ events, safety rodeos, helmet giveaway and stunt demos. Photo by Clark Vandergrift

Live music runs starts at noon and continues throughout the day. There are also martial arts shows, bike demos and more.
This year’s charity beneficiary is BikeMaryland, which advocates for bicyce-friendly infrastructure and legislation. BikeMaryland will be hosting and implementing the recreational rides, which are non-competitive touring rides.

The rec rides are aimed at those who want to get back into cycling, or just plain learn how and where to go. Two routes are available, the 12-mile Lolly Pop, characterized as “nice and rolling,” and showcasing “the best of the city,” and the 31-mile Parks Ride, which goes past many of Baltimore City’s parks before returning to Patterson Park. Both rides start at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Admission fees apply ($34 early bird, $42 day of event, $16 student early bird) and helmets are required. Both rides benefit Bike Maryland.

With the exception of the competitive races and rec rides, admission is free to activities, demonstrations and shows at BikeJam.
BikeJam coincides with Baltimore Bike Month, which promotes cycling in the city as a means of recreation, exercise and commuting.

Note: BikeJam 2012 takes place in Patterson Park on Sunday, May 20, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. All bicycle races and events (with the exception of the recreational rides) take place within the boundaries of the park. Info: www.bikejam.org.

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