Black Hills Hundred returns to Hill City

Leslie Silverman
About 60 cyclists made their way into Hill City this week via the Mickelson Trail. The Black Hills Hundred ride, organized by Pork Belly Ventures, had participants from all over the United States who came to ride in the Black Hills on what is seen by many to be an accessible trail for all.
“It’s pretty special,” says 63-year-old Pat Rainey from Kansas City, Mo., about the Mickelson trail. “Lots of hills if you like the workout but it’s not so steep that it takes out a family.” 
Because of its beauty and ease Rainey keeps coming back to ride the Mickelson year after year. 
“It’s pretty special. I’ve ridden this trail about 800 miles in the last couple of years,” he said.
Rainey calls the Mickelson Trail “amazing” and says it is one of his favorite trails to ride. “They do a good job taking care of it.” 
Rainey’s bike is a recumbent trike. He prefers it to a traditional bike because he sits in a seat versus a saddle.
“It’s much more comfortable and easier on the back and knees,” he said.
The 34 miles he rode from Deadwood still provided him with a good morning workout.
Scott Boniface, another Black Hills Hundred cyclist, was riding the Mickelson Trail for the first time.
“The landscape is different” from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif, he said. He described the trail as both “fantastic and beautiful.”
Boniface was on the ride with two of his friends, also from Santa Barbara, 42-year-old Justin Wehner and 46-year-old Taryn Ashlock, both first timers to the Black Hills. The trio had been in Rochford the night before and marveled at the hospitality of the locals. Just don’t mention the “S” word,” they joked, referring to the Sturgis Rally. 
Like other riders, the trio felt that the  Mickelson was accessible to anyone.
“We have all levels of cyclists on this ride,” said Boniface, including an 83- year-old. “It’s a trail anybody can do. The railroad bed is gentle.”
Cyclists on the Black Hills Hundred are fully supported by the ride staff. Cyclists can bring their own bikes or rent them. They can stay in tents provided by the ride or ones they bring. There are even portable “hotel rooms” the company sets up in the tractor trailers it brings along.
“I don’t have to worry about anything but pedaling,” Rainey said. 
Pork Belly Ventures, known for its RAGBRAI ride, which is the largest multi-day ride in the world, is famous among cycling enthusiasts as being a premiere adventure company. People like 63-year-old Scott Hartman from Juneau, Alaska, download the company’s app and follow what they do.
“I did RAGBRAI,” said Hartman.  I saw they were doing this and it looked like a fun ride.”
Hartman, who is normally a road cyclist, enjoyed his first time on gravel, preparing for a longer gravel  ride this fall from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C.
“I feel a lot more comfortable for my big trail ride. I’m not as freaked out at having to do 60 miles a day,” he said.
Hartman described the switch to gravel as uncertain. Soft gravel can be a concern as can the speed of travel. But the Mickelson he said was “so good.”
This is the second time Pork Belly Ventures has held this ride this year. The company sets up shop at the Black Hills Trailside Park Resort right on the Mickelson trail in Hill City. Cyclists have a scheduled trip on the 1880 Train and are free to roam about Hill City after, dining, shopping and relaxing. Side trips to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse are also available to cyclists.
Before leaving Hill City in the morning, riders were treated to breakfast burritos courtesy of the Hill City Senior Center.
The Hill City Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in bringing Pork Belly Ventures and its riders to Hill City. Chamber executive  director Janet Wetovick-Bily personally hand delivered 60 canvas Hill City swag bags to event coordinators, ensuring riders had information on what there is to see and do in Hill City. The bags were passed out as riders rode in for the day. 
“The chamber was excited and grateful to facilitate linkages among our visiting groups with our members this summer, like we did with Pete and Tammy from Pork Belly Ventures,” Wetovik-BIly said. 
The chamber was able to make connections with its member partners including  “the awesome folks at Black Hills Trailside Park Resort, Hill City Senior Center and the 1880 Train so that riders could experience Hill City to the fullest,” said Wetovik-Bily, who says plans for next year’s ride are already in the works. 

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