When you were young did you ever dream of hopping on a bike and riding far, far away? That's just what a group of 42 youth and 8 adult support riders have been doing since June 22, when Bloomington-based deCycles Indiana left Los Angeles on its way back to the cycling motherland (that's Bloomington, for [...]

When you were young did you ever dream of hopping on a bike and riding far, far away?
That's just what a group of 42 youth and 8 adult support riders have been doing since June 22, when Bloomington-based deCycles Indiana left Los Angeles on its way back to the cycling motherland (that's Bloomington, for those who don't know and have yet to view Breaking Away).
The group stayed in Pratt on Friday night at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, one of many churches of varying denominations that have opened their facilities to the group along the way.
Jeff Grissom is one of the adult riders. This is his 12th deCycles tour.
'It's a spiritual, physical, and emotional quest that can teach the kids they can do more than they think they can,' Jeff said. He noted that 80% of the cyclists come from Indiana, although this year riders also hailed from Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Jeff said that the youth ride in groups of six, with a leader heading each group. The six must stay together throughout the day, although on steep hills and mountains it's okay for the groups to break apart and then meet at the top. The group leader has to make many decisions throughout the day and thus grows in his or her leadership ability.
deCycles began in 1968 and has had over 1,800 riders take part in its annual bike tour, which features a different route each year. A website, decyclesindiana.org, describes the organization as a 'nonprofit ecumenical youth leadership program offering high spirited summer bicycle trips for teenagers and young adults.'
The tour is limited to youth aged 13-22, although this year there are two 12 year olds riding"twin sisters who will incidentally be celebrating their 13th birthdays on the ride.
Francesca LaBella and her twin sister Isabella are the youngest riders on this year's tour. The twins are joined this year by four older siblings. Their two younger siblings remain at home with parents. Francesca said she rode 750 miles to train for the 2017 deCycles tour.
'It's harder than I thought. The weather has been hot,' Francesca said.
The ride into Pratt on Friday from Dodge City also had a headwind, which slowed the average speed down a bit, according to Jeff.
Franscesca said that seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time has been a highlight of the ride thus far.
Otherwise, she said she likes 'the end of the day, riding into the church and knowing that you're there, finally.'
A typical day for the group begins around 5 a.m. with wake up. The riders try to be on the road by 6:30 a.m. to beat some of the summer heat.
Cost for the participants is very reasonable (only $475 per student), which also includes most of the meals and lodging at churches along the way. The Bloomington Bicycle Club, along with other businesses and organizations, contributes money each year to keep the cost to participants affordable.
The deCycles riders will be heading for Wichita when they leave Pratt.