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Saturday, May 9, 2015

The 2015 Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour is one of the events in Memphis you don't want to miss

The 2015 Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour is one of the events in Memphis you don’t want to miss
By:  Michael Lander

The Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour & Lunar Festival
could not have a better location than Tiger Lane with
the Liberty Bowl as a backdrop for the start and finish
of the ever-popular event.  (Photo:  Courtesy of
Meritan, Inc.)

Anyone who thinks that nothing good ever happens after midnight doesn’t know anything about the
Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour in Memphis.

For thousands of people in and around our city, the midnight ride, and the Lunar Festival, which begins two hours before that, is an event that they look forward to for months. 

In many ways, and for many people, it has become a Memphis tradition.

The midnight ride itself is one of the biggest and most popular cycling events in Memphis and it’s fun for people of all ages and skill levels, bringing together all kinds of different people, and helping to support a great cause that benefits so many in need in our community.

This will be the 16th year of the Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour and it will take place at
Tiger Lane on Saturday, August 29, 2015.

“This is our signature community event in the Mid-South,” Elise Bone said.  She is the Director of Marketing for
Meritan, Inc.

“All ages enjoy a 17-mile, non-competitive, police escorted,
bike tour route along some of Memphis’ landmarks, and they get to experience the thrill of a night bike ride on the town.  There’s really nothing else like it!  Last year, almost 2,000 riders rode the streets of Memphis and that included children and their families, and individuals, some of whom represented various businesses, corporations, and even the armed forces,” Bone said.

The contests to determine who does the best of blinging
themselves and their bikes are a part of the fun at the
Lunar Festival.

In addition to the ride, a big draw for the participants is the Lunar Festival that begins at 10 p.m.

“During the festival, cyclists can listen to a live band, get a free bike check-up by local bike shops, along with a demonstration by local cyclists who perform some amazing tricks,” Bone said.

There are also contests with prizes awarded to those who do the best job of blinging and decorating themselves and those who do the same with their bikes, which often involves adorning them with colorful lights.

A new category for contestants to compete for this year will involve the use glow paints, which can be applied to ones clothes and/or their skin.

Many of those who come and participate in the Lunar Festival and the midnight ride are from Memphis, but the appeal often does extend beyond the Memphis City limits.

Steve Dodd, who is a Southaven, Miss. resident, is one of the many who travel to Memphis to be a part of the fun.  He found out about the event from a former co-worker who has ridden it nearly every year since it began.

“I have ridden in the Meritan Midnight Classic for the past five years myself and I am planning on doing the ride again this year,” Dodd said.

The lights on many of the bikes at the Meritan Midnight
Classic Tour can almost make some think that the
holiday season has come early.  (Photo:  Courtesy of
Meritan, Inc.)

For Dodd and others, the pre-ride Lunar Festival party builds the excitement to a crescendo as spectators and thousands of cyclists, some of whom are decked out in costumes and others on brightly lit bikes, descend on to Tiger Lane, near the Liberty Bowl.   

As midnight nears, the cyclists begin lining up for the 17-mile ride around the city.

“There are a lot of things that I like about the ride.  Meritan does an excellent job of setting the route up, which is mostly flat, and it seems to be designed to accommodate all skill levels, and they make sure that there are volunteers to help direct you so that you don’t get off course,” Dodd said.

“The ride itself is also very enjoyable…. and I like that it takes place late at night so it is much cooler, with not as much traffic on the roads, and the route covers some very scenic parts of Memphis,” Dodd added.   

Since its inception, the midnight ride has really evolved and grown over the years.

“The ride began in 1998 and it started and finished in Overton Square.  We had been looking for a unique fundraising event and…. and we loosely patterned ours after the
Moonlight Ramble in St. Louis and Moonlight Classic in Denver.  We had between 500 to 600 riders that first year,” Elise Bone said.

A big part of the excitement of the Lunar
Festival is the music, the party atmosphere,
and seeing what people come dressed like.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Meritan, Inc.)

As the event grew in popularity, Meritan had to move the location of the event to other places that could handle the size of the crowd and where there was enough parking for the participants. 

“We moved from Overton Square to Chickasaw Oaks Plaza and then to Popular Plaza, and, as of 2013, we are now we are at Tiger Lane,” Bone said.

The Meritan ride is their largest fundraising event, which it likes to refer to as a friend-raising event.  Many people learn about Meritan from doing this ride.

“Meritan is a nationally-accredited private, not-for-profit organization that’s been serving…. people of special needs for over 50 years.  It has more than 300 employees, board members, and volunteers who assist over 5,000 individuals across four states," Bone said.

"The programs that we provide include in-home care for frail seniors, specialized foster care for medically and emotionally fragile children, employment training, and job placement for seniors 55 and older, home health care, and services for the intellectually and developmentally disabled,” Bone added.

Registration begins at 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 29, 2015.  There are discounts for college students and military personnel. 
Click on this link to register early.

To ensure the safety of all participants, and to better accommodate the sheer volume of those who will be riding, event organizers will stagger how many cyclists will go out after the ride begins at midnight.

The Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour is a 17-mile ride
that is a big draw for many in the Memphis area.  There
were approximately 2,000 cyclists in the 2014 event.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Meritan, Inc.)

Before the ride actually begins, cyclists who ride faster, (at 17+ mph), should line up toward the front of the start line.  Those interested in going at a slower, more leisurely pace should move toward the back.

For their own safety, participants must wear helmets and they should consider installing lights on the front and back of their bicycle and wearing bright colors so that they will be more visible. 
Click on this link for additional safety tips.

After finishing the ride, participants are invited to kick back and relax for a while and have a drink and a snack before they head back home.

To read more about the Meritan bike ride, click on this link -
http://memphiscyclist.blogspot.com/2014/08/meritan-midnight-classic-bike-tour.html or click here to watch a video of the 2014 midnight ride.  For those who would like to follow news on the Meritan Midnight Classic Bike Tour on facebook, go to https://www.facebook.com/MeritanMidnightClassic.

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