More than 135 bicycle riders have prepared to explore the wide-open plains of Nebraska as part of the 22nd annual Nebraska United Methodist Bike (NUMB) Ride for Hunger. This event regularly draws bicycle enthusiasts from across the country to ride for 250 miles on a circuit across the state.
“Our first NUMB back in 1996 had about 36 riders,” Ritter said. “Since then we have consistently grown and have intentionally capped the ride at 135 riders. Each year we welcome new riders from around the country. There is still about a half a dozen of us who have ridden all 22 years.”
Over its 22 years, the ride has raised more than $854,000 to feed the hungry in the state and around the world. Founded in 1996 by the Rev. Bill Ritter, Blue River District superintendent, and Greg Bakewell, a member of The United Methodist Church, this event has steadily grown into a ride with national prominence.
Ritter and Bakewell met in 1992 while on a Habitat for Humanity charity ride and became friends. Then, in 1995 on another bike ride while waiting out a rain storm in a hog barn in northern Nebraska, they discussed the concerns the church had with the ongoing struggle with hunger. They were concerned with lack of funding and publicity to make churches more effective in addressing needs in their communities. The NUMB ride was born.
“I have always had a passion for feeding the hungry and as an avid cyclist from Nebraska, each day I was riding through some of the most lush agricultural land in the world,” Ritter said. “I decided to put these two passions together and invite people to come ride through the farm lands of Nebraska and help raise money for hunger. When I started NUMB I thought it would be great if someday we had raised $100,000 for hunger. I had no idea how big God’s vision was. I am confident we will give away over $1 million before we are done with NUMB.”
The NUMB ride has provided a wide variety of routes showcasing the beauty of wide open spaces of Nebraska and small portions of surrounding states. Over the years, NUMB riders have traveled through all 93 counties in Nebraska.
This year the ride is scheduled for June 25-28, with an optional day ride June 24. This year’s route features cattle-raising country in the northeastern portion of Nebraska.
The approximate daily mileage and cities include:
June 25 – Wisner to Albion, 79 miles.
June 26 – Albion to Plainview, 61 miles.
June 27 – Plainview to Ponca, 64 miles.
June 28 – Ponca to Wisner, 58 miles.
Riders eat breakfast and dinner together, hosted by United Methodist churches in Wisner, Albion, Plainview and Ponca. Riders sleep in campgrounds in those areas. To support riders, assistance is available to repair bikes, fix flat tires and tend to health concerns along the route.
“I always tell the NUMB riders this is the most enjoyable week they will have riding a bike,” Ritter said. “It is a guilt-free, good time. Not only are you out enjoying some of God’s most beautiful handiwork, but because you are here you are making a difference in this world.”