THIRTY two mountain bike riders and support crew headed west to Wee Waa from the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service’s hangar at Tamworth Airport on Friday for the 12th Ride For The Chopper.
The eight-day charity ride might not be the Tour de France, ride organiser Barry Walton said, but it is more about enjoyment and fitness, as well as raising money for the WRHS.
Some 24 riders began Saturday’s 69.9km stage to Yarrie Lake and back followed by yesterday’s 60km section to Narrabri.
The annual ride heads to Bingara today before touring through Barraba (Wednesday), Manilla (Thursday) and finishing in Tamworth next Saturday.
All in all it’s a total of 571.7km and includes day rides at and around Bingara and Manilla.
“It’s not the Tour de France but our tour of the North West,” Mr Walton said.
“The ride is about having fun and, if you haven’t ridden before, the opportunity to start riding and beginning a fitness campaign for summer.”
This is the 12th annual ride and along with the 2010 Barossa Valley to Tamworth ride, which raised $110,000 and crossed some 1750km, has helped raise more than $760,000 in the dozen years of its existence.
“We started with 24 people 12 years ago and have grown that to 50 at times,” Mr Walton said.
“This year we have about 32 riders and support crew.”
Two of the riders are Werris Creek’s Jake Thomas and Kevin Garrett.
Both men rode the Barossa Valley to Tamworth 10th anniversary celebration ride in 2010 and both are regulars on the annual week-long charity rides.
“This is my eighth ride,” Jake Thomas said yesterday.
“Didn’t do the 2011 ride – missed it – but it’s all good fun and you do have a good time.”
He and Kevin Garrett are regular riding partners in and around
Werris Creek and for Garrett it’s his third ride.
The joking and bantering between Kevin and Jake is almost non-stop and when another ride regular, Mal Nash – better known as Chum – appeared at the WRHS base before leaving for Wee Waa on Friday that bantering and good natured teasing increased.
“I heard there was a bit of dust storm being stirred up around Quipolly,” Mal said.
That sledging continues this next week and might take a few of the new riders by surprise - for a while.
“We’ve got about eight or nine new riders,” Barry Walton said.
“And we have a number who have ridden before. The ride is always in September and there are a lot of people who would love to do it. Next year’s ride starts at Parkes (follows the Barossa Valley to Tamworth route) and the first day of that will be an Elvis dress up day.
“Everyone’s invited to come for that as well as the Camerons Corner to Tamworth ride in 2014.”