Each year the East Alabama Cycling Club hosts the Johnny Ray Century Bike Race, benefiting the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation.
This year's seventh annual race will be Saturday, Sept. 26, at 8 a.m., and riders will travel the rural roads of Lee, Chambers and Talladega counties in East Alabama passing through historic farms and the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.
“Right now most members are road riders and commuters,” said Angela Lakwete, secretary of the East Alabama Cycling Club, “and some among those have raced or currently race.”
According to the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation Web site, the organization was established to improve quality of life for the Northwest Parkinson’s disease community through programs of awareness and education.
Mike Hogan, president of the East Alabama Cycling Club, said they chose the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation as the charity the race would benefit because they actually have three members who have Parkinson's Disease and were already members of the foundation.
Riders can choose between 20, 34, 62 and 101 mile options, which all have numerous rest stops along the way.
Participants can also enjoy pastries before the race and burgers after they finish.
Daniel Trouse, an employee at The Bike Shop, said he likes the Johnny Ray Century Race because it brings awareness to bikers. Drivers see the bikers on the road and it increases cycling awareness.
"We belong on the road, too," Trouse said.
The Northwest Parkinson's Foundation is a nonprofit organization established to improve the quality of life for those affected by Parkinson's.
In 2008, the East Alabama Cycling Club donated $3,000 to the organization.
Hogan said they usually have about 100 riders each year, but pre-registration is already ahead of that number.
Participants can download a registration form online or register at 7 a.m. the day of the race at Trinity Methodist Church; however, fliers and forms can be found around town.
Lakwete said the club was originally established in 2003 in order to raise money for a Rails-to-Trails conversion project in Opelika.
"Rails-to-Trails is a Washington, D.C., based conservancy focused on converting defunct railroad beds into multi-use paths for all sorts of activities," Lakwete said. "We'd hoped to get support to buy the land on which a central Georgia line ran from Roanoke to Lafayette through Opelika. We named our century after the legendary railroad engineer, Johnny Ray."
That project failed because it was difficult to get businesses to commit money to support a trail that would wander through rural regions of Lee, Chambers and Talladega counties.
However, the club continued, and all kinds of riders joined to share their information and learn new things, Lakwete said.
The club meets on the second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at Health Resource Center, across the street from the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika.
They have workshops on wheel building, fixing flat tires and anything else the members choose to discuss.
"It's a small club, but we accomplish a lot,” Lakwete said. “In addition to the Alabama Bicycling Coalition, we support the League of American Bicyclists and the United States Cycling Association. Many members are also on the City of Auburn Bicycle Committee. We want to make bicycling safe and fun for everyone, and we want more people to get out and ride."