MARIETTA - Wednesday night's less-than-perfect weather couldn't stop a baker's dozen of local cyclists from enjoying the 17th annual Marietta Holiday Lights Bicycle Tour.
"There is no bad weather-just bad clothing. We get what we get, but you do have to dress warm," said Marietta Councilman Roger Kalter, who initiated the yearly bike ride in the mid-1990s.
This year's event was the result of a collaboration between the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club and the First Unitarian Universalist Church, where riders met to begin the 6- to 10-mile, hour-plus-long tour through the city's decorated downtown streets and neighborhoods.
Bikers Betsy Kalter and Robert Hune-Kalter prepare for a wet 17th annual Marietta Holiday Lights Bicycle Tour at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Marietta Wednesday night. (Photo by Sam Shawver)
A mix of snow and rain was falling as the 13 riders mounted up for Wednesday's tour.
"I've ridden in rain and snow many times-sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally," said Ryan Smith, owner of Marietta Adventure Co.
He said the key is wearing the proper clothing and dressing in layers.
"On nights like tonight when it's very wet and very cold, you want to stay warm by keeping body heat in, but you also don't want to over-dress which will make you sweat, risking hypothermia," Smith said.
Asked why he would go on a bicycle tour in such inclement weather, Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club member Chris McMahon said he just wanted to do it.
"I just wanted to come out and support the group," he said. "I figured there would be a small crowd tonight."
Wednesday's ride marked the third year on the tour for McMahon.
"Up to now they haven't been too bad," he said. "And I've been riding now for about four years. I graduated from Marietta College in 2006 where I played football, so cycling is something I've picked up to stay busy and healthy."
Wally Yocum from Devola said he's ridden the Christmas lights tour every year but one.
"I ride in all kinds of weather," he said. "I was kind of hoping it would snow. You just have to be a little more careful. It is a Christmas ride, after all."
Ken Kupsche from the Cook's Shop on Front Street said this was his third year on the bike tour.
"My daughter, Pierce, usually rides with me, but she was sick this year," he said.
Kupsche said riding in the rain and snow was no problem.
"Pretty much every weekend I'm riding on trails in the Wayne National Forest-and I often run into some rain," he said. "There's mud, roots, moss and weeds, so riding on city roads is easy."
Kalter said the smallest number of bikers in any one year was eight, due to temperatures in the low 20s.
"I started this 17 years ago after participating in a similar event in Cincinnati," Kalter said. "That ride was done during the summer, but I thought most folks are just sitting around the day after Christmas, so why not get out and get some exercise."
Wednesday's number of riders was way down from last year's record 124 bikers.
"We usually have whole families participating, but it can be difficult for younger children who need to stay warm while they're riding," Kalter said.
He said near-perfect weather drew the large crowd of bikers to the 2011 tour.
"It was clear and 40 degrees that night," Kalter said. "The previous year it was 20 degrees and clear, but we still had plenty of riders."
Hot chocolate with marshmallows, cookies and other treats waited to energize those who participated in Wednesday's bike tour.
"The riders come back to the church where they can have some fellowship, talk about bicycling, and warm up after the tour," Kalter said.