There wasn’t the usual swarm of fans and riders in Bloomington this April. There were no packed stands. No champion. No Little 500 race.
But biking in Bloomington didn’t end when the 2020 Little 500 was canceled. IU-Bloomington is commemorating the races by participating in the 2020 National Bike Challenge throughout May.
The Bike Challenge is a nationwide, friendly competition between thousands of new and experienced bikers. The goal of the challenge is to encourage physical fitness and celebrate biking as a means to stay connected to one another during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, IU will compete in the challenge as its own organization. The group of riders who participate under IU Bloomington’s name are aiming to complete 500 rides in solidarity for the riders who were unable to compete in this year’s Little 500.
Anna Dragovich, the bicycle manager for the IU Office of Transportation Demand Management, had the idea of starting this community challenge as a fun way to keep people active and connected with each other.
“Little 500 has a lot of meanings to a lot of people,” Dragovich said. “But one of the meanings is that we all gather around a bicycle as a celebration. We can't do that this year as we normally do, but we can still celebrate biking in this new way.”
To compete under the IU organization, riders must be IU Bloomington faculty, staff or a student. Those who do not fall under those requirements can still participate in the National Bike Challenge under a different organization.
Speed and distance are not the focus for this national challenge. Rather, the focus is placed on who can encourage the most people to participate in biking at their own pace during the month of May, Dragovich said.
“It’s not about what it looks like,” Dragovich said. “It doesn't have to look pretty. It doesn't have to look like you go out and ride 50 miles. It just looks like getting on a bike and enjoying yourself.”
Participants can also win prizes, though the specific prizes for 2020’s challenge have yet to be announced. Prizes for the 2019 challenge included a five-day ride with Climate Ride in California, a Yakima FullSwing bike rack, Litelok Silvers bike locks and more.
The top people who encourage people to participate can also win additional prizes to the ones that will be announced for this year’s challenge.
The challenge offers relief from the stuffiness of being stuck inside all day, but given the current obstacles with COVID-19, Dragovich said people should continuing to follow social distancing guidelines by riding alone or with members of your household. Participants are encouraged to stay inside if they feel ill because bike rides completed inside will also count.
So far, 46 riders have registered to compete in the challenge for IU. Riders can register under IU's organization online.
Participants can log their rides throughout May on the Love to Ride app and track their progress of the 500 rides goal on the sign-up website.
As the warmer weather makes its welcoming appearance in May, Dragovich encourages riders to join the IU bike team in this challenge.
“Bicycling can very easily put a smile on your face if you get out and try it,” Dragovich said.