» PDF: Hilly Hundred map (courtesy Bloomington Bicycle Club)
» Photo gallery: Hilly HundredThe Hilly Hundred is more than a bike ride through the hills and farm fields and forests of south-central Indiana. “We bill it as a people event, not just a biking event,” said Skip Higgins, managing director of the annual ride. In between bike rides, the food, entertainment, vendor tents, camping and camaraderie help make the Hilly unique. Each piece is a spoke, supporting a great time that draws close to 5,000 cyclists every year to the area. But no doubt about it, the fall weekend revolves around pedal power. The Hilly Hundred is not a race, but it’s one serious spin: 50 miles on Saturday and 50 miles on Sunday. And it’s called the Hilly for good reason. Elevation profiles on the event’s Web site show 3,321 feet of climbing on day one and 3,157 feet on day two last year. While the specific route isn’t released until the big ride — Oct. 23-25 — the path always winds through Greene County on Saturday and the Morgan-Monroe State Forest on Sunday. “We don’t send out route maps ahead of time,” Higgins said. “We want people to come and experience it first-hand as a magical thing.” Seems to be working. It’s been touted as Best Overall Event, Longest Running Event, Largest Event, Best Map and Best Entertainment by Bicycling Magazine. “People are getting ready to hang up their bicycle for the year, and (riders) use it as a reunion with food and entertainment and facilities,” Higgins said. And what better backdrop than autumn in Indiana? The 42nd Hilly is three months away, but training time is here. “Ride almost any route around Monroe County to get a taste of what the hills are like,” Higgins said. The Bloomington Bicycle Club meets several times a week for group rides, and shared some popular routes with INstride. The group’s treasurer and veteran Hilly rider, Joe Anderson, said now is when beginners need to pull out—or purchase—a bike in order to clock 100-plus miles during the October weekend. And for pedal-pushing pros, Anderson said, the ride is always interesting. Another way to enjoy the Hilly experience is to introduce it to others. “Share the joy you have of a riding a bike,” Anderson said. So let the countdown and calorie-burning begin to the Hilly Hundred.