BELLEVILLE — It's time folks -- the rubber will meet the road on Friday night.
Hundreds of enthusiastic cyclists look forward to the 7th annual Tour de Belleville bicycle ride that starts at 9 p.m.
Early bird registration is open until the end of business Thursday. The fee is $15 per rider at the Belleville Parks and Recreation Department office at 510 W. Main St. and Bicycle World at 4516 W. Main St.
On Friday, the price will bump up to a $25 fee per person.
To get the family discount, you need to visit the Belleville Parks and Recreation Department. The family discount is $50 for a family of two adults and two children under the age of 16, with each additional person costing $10.
Jeff and Julie Pierce, of Freeburg, had ear-to-ear smiles as they left Bicycle World Wednesday with their pre-registration packets, including a T-shirt and a reuseable water bottle to use during the ride. The couple plans to make the event a fun family excursion with their teenage children.
"We love that the ride is at night time -- where else can you ride your bike at night and feel safe?" Julie Pierce asked.
As many continue to flock to the Belleville Parks and Recreation Department and Bicycle World to register for the upcoming ride, those involved with planning the event barely have time to breathe, said Bicycle World's owner Hal Leventhal.
"We've been registering about 50 to 100 people a day, and hope to register around 250 to 300 people the day of the ride," Leventhal said.
Debbie Belleville, operations manager for the Belleville Parks and Recreation Department, also was busy ensuring Friday night's bike event runs smoothly for all participants.
Every year, organizers come up with a theme for the event. This year the shirts, which act as your ticket to ride, are bright red with a "The Great Bicycle Roundup! Ride'em Cowboy," theme.
"You'll see a blob of red leaving Union United Methodist (Church parking lot), and it's pretty exciting just to see that view," Belleville said.
According to Belleville, the event will get help from about 180 volunteers including Belleville's police and fire departments, AmeriCorps, Belleville Neighborhood Associations and MedStar Ambulance Inc. technicians.
The number of participants in the ride climbed from just under 500 people in its first year to last year's 1,991. Thus far, there are more than 1,900 registered for Friday's ride.
"Every year it grows, and in general we are wanting to push that 2,000 mark," Belleville said. "We will still have many more participants register throughout the day of the event on Friday."
Leventhal, who has been a member of the Parks and Recreation Tour de Belleville Committee since the bicycle event's infancy, offers free tune-ups and bicycle check-ups to registered participants prior to the event at his shop and on a first-come, first-serve basis at the event.
The ride raises funds primarily for safety equipment.
Last Friday, the high in the metro-east was 105 but the Weather Central forecast calls for a high of 89 Friday.
"We were glad that (the temperature's) has dropped about 15 degrees. It's going to be a lot more comfortable than it would've been last Friday night," Belleville said.
"I think that is why a lot of people have waited to register because they were waiting to see what the weather is like before they commit to signing up."
Contact Robyn Kirsch at email@example.com or 239-2562.