The eighth annual Dean’s Ride will be held at 7:30 a.m. this Saturday.
NOTE: Dean’s Ride has been postponed until May 9 “out of an abundance of caution about growing concerns regarding the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).”
Once a year, a massive group of local bike enthusiasts gathers at the Plant City Hillsborough Community College campus to go on a ride unlike any other.
Dean’s Ride was created to honor local legend Dean Snyder’s dedication to strength and honor as well as his love of biking and commitment to a healthy lifestyle. The event began in 2013 with approximately 125 local riders, including its namesake, who was battling esophageal cancer at the time but still loved hitting the open road on his bike.
Now, years after Dean Snyder passed, the ride has grown into one of the community’s most cherished events.
Proceeds from the event, which is produced by the Plant City YMCA, support the Y’s LiveStrong Program, which pays for gym memberships and personal trainers for those who have battled or been directly affected by someone’s battle with cancer.
“Like with most events, it’s for a worthy cause, raising money for the Y’s LiveStrong Program,” Bruce Curtis, chair of the event’s board, said. “That’s one of the bigger appeals, and I think also for any event nowadays, people ask you out the gate, ‘What are you supporting?’ We couldn’t be prouder of our cause. That was really Dean Snyder’s vision to begin with. We are keeping that legacy going.”
The event is also in conjunction with the City of Plant City’s annual Bike with the Mayor ride, so approximately 175 riders are expected to come out that morning for the two events.
“Obviously Dean was such a big part of the community that a lot of the people that come out come in honor of him, but it’s more than that,” Brandon Snyder, Dean Snyder’s son, said. “We are such a tight-knit community that everyone knows someone that has been touched by cancer at some point. Everyone has felt that hurt and that struggle, so this is a cause that means a lot to everyone in town.”
The event evolves every year. This year, there was a shift for the first time to focus on even safer routes, which has pulled in more cycling clubs for the ride. One day, Brandon Snyder said he hopes to see the ride turn in to an actual “full-blown race.” At the end of the day, the ride is all about raising money for the YMCA so as long as they continue to help the LiveStrong Program, he’ll always consider it a success.
The route this year will highlight Plant City’s ag roots and will go along working strawberry fields and scenic countryside. Unlike in prior years where many of the routes stayed south of I-4, this year the routes shifted to north of I-4 and hug a variety of local farms.
The ride starts and finishes at the HCC Trinkle Center, 1206 Park Road, and will kick off at 7:30 a.m. You can register at RegisterDeansRide.com and can choose to ride in one of four cycling distances: a 100k/62-mile metric century, 75k/46-mile half-century, a 60k/39-mile half-metric century or a 30k/19-mile quarter-metric century. The 46-mile ride is a new addition and Curtis said they’ve already had many people sign up for that route.
The board starts planning for the ride every September and spends the next six to seven months making sure everything is ready to go when the riders start pedaling across the start line. Curtis said the group gets an amazing amount of support from companies in Plant City and Lakeland and that its network of sponsors grows every year.
One of the benefits of the group’s dedicated board is that it actively seeks input from the riders every year. The feedback they hear the most is the overwhelming thanks from the participants for the Iron Pigs motorcycle club that acts as route escorts for those who ride.
“They follow the riders and kind of keep traffic at bay for a little bit,” Curtis said. “The Iron Pigs are very much a key part of this event and it’s the feedback we continue to receive the most every year.”
Registration opens around the new year for each spring ride. Following the event is a massive party featuring lunch, music and craft beer. This year, the Plant City Brew Club, a group of home brewers in the area, will provide craft beer that its members have created for the event. It’s the first time that’s been incorporated into the afterparty and Curtis said it should be a great addition to the festivities.
The weather is expected to be ideal for riding with temperatures remaining in the low 60s in the early morning and warming up later that afternoon, long after the riders should have returned. The group will also have an early rider check-in for anyone wants to pick their packet up and get all the ride information at Keel Farms, 5210 Thonotosassa Road, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday night.
“Just be fully aware of your environment where you are riding. Safety always comes first and foremost with any event,” Curtis said. “And bring a helmet, that’s the one thing we require.”