An estimated 1,600 people including bicyclists from across the country are expected to visit the Lewisburg area this weekend with the return of the unPAved gravel biking race, according to Andrew J. Miller, executive director, Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau.
unPAved utilizes back roads and off-road trails in the Bald Eagle State Forest, creating multiple loops of varying degrees of difficulty, from 30 to 120 miles. The inaugural event drew 600 riders from throughout the Valley, across Pennsylvania and out-of-state.
More than 800 bicyclists from 32 states — one coming from Alaska — bought up all available slots for Sunday’s three distance courses of 54, 90 and 120 miles, according to Miller and unPAved founders Dave Pryor and Mike Kuhn.
Meanwhile, the Lewisburg Downtown Partnership (LDP) moved its annual Fall Festival back one week to coincide with unPAved. It’s from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at Hufnagle Park with food, drink, crafters and bike vendors. Children’s events include a bike rodeo 1-3 p.m., woolly worm petting zoo and a winter weather prognostication at 3 p.m. Event sponsor Salsa Cycles hosts a film festival at noon down Market Street at Campus Theatre.
An un(G)raveled pub crawl through Lewisburg begins at 5 p.m. Friday. That’s what time Lewisburg Children’s Museum kicks off its drop-off childcare. There’s bike valet parking available at the M&T Bank lot off Market Street.
“We had it last year. It was a good weekend and we didn’t have a festival planned. I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the activity on Market Street and downtown,” Ellen Ruby, LDP executive director, said.
With the anticipated increase in cycling in town, Walk It! Bike It! Lewisburg, an event sponsor, cautions motorists that when encountering bicyclists, wait for a safe point to pass and allow a 4-foot buffer in doing so.
Sunday brings the races that begin and end at the Miller Center along the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail, in-between meandering to Mifflinburg and parts north and west through the Bald Eagle State Forest.
A combined 895 bicyclists will ride the distance courses, Miller said. They are staggered, starting every hour between 7 and 10 a.m., beginning with the longest distance.
Some riders are racing for a top time, Kuhn said, while others are riding to finish the race. They’ll all find themselves rolling flat through picturesque Central Pennsylvania farmland and climbing hills and cruising descents beneath an autumn-fired tree canopy.
Along the way, they’ll have aid stations offering help for their bodies and bikes. Some will find themselves stopping for selfies, especially if they find the event Easter egg: a classic red velvet chaise lounge fit for a rest or a photo.
“This is different. It’s so welcoming to everybody. You may be competing for a little but really you’re out there doing an adventure together,” Kuhn said.
“It’s not just about who crosses the finish line first, it’s also about who crosses it last, too,” Pryor said.
That adventure ends in work-hard, play-hard style: a DONEpaved Celebration from 5-10 p.m. at the Miller Center Courtyard with food, Rusty Rail Brewing beverages and hugs for a day done right.
Walk It! Bike It! plays host once more at the unPAved weekend’s end, leading a ride to area covered bridges and a greasy spoon lunch along the Susquehanna River.