How the Annual Covered Bridges Ride Brings Cyclists Closer to History
Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is prime biking country. Its miles of winding bike trails and backroads offer Instagram-worthy scenery and numerous opportunities to stay active and healthy, riding solo or with friends. The area’s many bike clubs enable cyclists to fine-tune their experiences by selecting their ideal rides based on terrain, distance, speed, and degree of challenge.
October is for cycling enthusiasts
Getting involved with a local biking club can also introduce cyclists to special Bucks County riding events, such as the Covered Bridges Ride. Held each year in October, the Covered Bridges Ride, or the CBR as it is known to enthusiasts, is sponsored by the Central Bucks Bicycle Club, and it is slated to take place again on Sunday, October 10, 2021. The 2019 event attracted approximately 1,500 riders from across the Northeastern United States and beyond to enjoy the stunning fall foliage and several of the county’s notable historic bridges.
Built to last
Twelve of Bucks County’s historic covered bridges remain out of the more than 50 built in the 19th century. Still, these remaining bridges are fascinating reminders of a rich local history, and many of them are still navigable by bike or car.
All the covered bridges in the Bucks County area were built on the lattice truss model of construction, a method created by Ithiel Town in about 1820 that uses sets of overlapping triangles in place of vertical beams and arches. The bridges, built from the early to the late 19th century, were often known as “wishing bridges” or “kissing bridges.”
Schofield Ford Bridge was built over Neshaminy Creek in 1873. At 150 feet, it is the longest covered bridge in Bucks County. Damaged by fire in the mid-1990s, it has since been recreated, serving as a central location on the route of the CBR.
Due to their beauty and historic value, it’s no wonder that an entire bike tour would be based around the bridges, with each annual CBR event winding through quite a few. They serve as focal points along the CBR’s five routes, each of which starts and ends at Tinicum Park.
Choose your route and have fun
Route choices include a 20-mile, flat-terrain itinerary specially designed with families in mind. It runs along a towpath skirting the Delaware River. More adventurous participants can opt for hillier country, with rides that stretch for more than 60 miles.
Riders’ start times are staggered according to the length of their chosen route. For example, the 65-mile-long tour sets out at 8 a. m., while the two shortest routes start at 9:30.
After the event, riders can meet up for a picnic back at the park, whose old-fashioned rural charm has made it almost as much a local legend as the bridges.
In addition to its value as healthy exercise, a rewarding way to spend time with family and friends, and a way to contribute to the community through fundraising, the Covered Bridges Ride allows participants time to enjoy the fall colors of the leaves. The event attracts “leaf-peepers,” people who love to spend time exploring the autumn bursts of orange, gold, and red that make Bucks County landscapes even more stunning.
A history-making tour in its own right
The Covered Bridges Ride got its start in 1977 as a 100-mile tour (known as a “century”) of all the still-extant historic covered bridges in Bucks County. Eighty members of the biking club began the ride at Tyler State Park to explore each bridge.
Four years later, the group re-branded as an invitational event open to the public. That year it also moved its starting location to Peace Valley Park, then to Upper Bucks Vo-Tech School in 1991, and finally to Tinicum Park in 1996. Over the decades, the CBR has broadened its reach as an annual destination event for cyclists coming from throughout New England, the East Coast, and even Canada.
The exact layout of the route plans has altered since the early days, but the tour of the covered bridges remains the heart of the event. And, with the inauguration of its first invitational event in 1981, the club added an easier “half-century” ride that covered visits to five of the covered bridges.
By 1998, attendance had broken the 1,000-participant mark, with the club promoting the CBR with the tagline, “The bridges are old, but the ride is new.”
The ride’s infrastructure has improved over the years as well. It now includes well-supplied rest stops offering coffee, hot cider, snacks, and desserts. Support teams patrol the routes to step in and help riders experiencing problems.
Check out the Central Bucks Bicycle Club’s website at CBBikeClub.org for updates, costs, and more details on the 2021 event.