Biking for business

Organizers hope Cycling Series will brand Sharon

By Christopher Bennett


“We’re trying to bring money into these little towns. It might not be a ton of money, but we’re hoping that in five years, if it catches on, there will be more…” – Lon Haldeman, Sharon Cycle Series organizer

Lon Haldeman rides tandem with Hope Wandersee, Watertown, during a recent 250-trek from the Missis-sippi River back to the annual burn camp in East Troy, where she and about 70 other kids, were treated to a variety of other outdoor activities.

The roots of the Sharon Cycling Series run deep through resident Lon Haldeman’s past.

As a boy, he passed the time riding his bike from his Harvard, Ill. home down serene, sparsely traveled country roads.

“Even before I was doing cross country riding, on these same roads at age 12 I’d ride to the ice cream stands in Clinton and Darien and Fontana,” Haldeman said, “on a one-speed banana seat bike.”

Haldeman’s passion led him to be the first individual to bike across the United States in 10 days, which he accomplished in 1982.

It also led him to spearhead the development of the Sharon Cycling Series.

The ribbon cutting is at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at Sharon’s Veterans Park Gazebo. The kickoff corresponds with the village’s annual Round’da Manure riding tour.

Village of Sharon President Diana Dykstra said hundreds of bicyclists are expected to attend. Local and state dignitaries also will be present. A pig roast will also be held.

“This is not just your traditional Midwestern ride through the farms.  This is a series of bike loops that intimately connects us with our neighbors, showcasing our true old-fashioned small town American culture,” she said.

In addition to celebrating the opening of the Series the anniversary of Haldeman’s record-setting cross-country feat will be commemorated.

The Sharon Cycling Series is a set of four road courses on sparsely traveled roads that are suited to the recreational biker. The trails run through numerous small towns and also through farmland.

There is a North, South, East and West route, and each is roughly 20 miles in length. Sharon serves as the hub.

“We’re surrounded by 15 miles of corn in every direction,” Haldeman said. “It’s been that way for 40 years and it’s probably not going to change a lot in the next 20 years.”

The Series runs through the communities of Sharon, Fontana, Darien, Walworth, Clinton and Capron, Ill. and Boone County, Ill.

“There are these little towns that are drying up and no one goes to them anymore,” Haldeman said. “I asked, ‘What do these little towns have to offer?’”

Dykstra said the Series offers Sharon a chance to develop an event of distinction.

“We’ve been trying to hang our hat on something we believe in that we can dig our feet into and make a difference,” Dykstra said. “It’s basically branding your community.”

Efforts are under way to expand the economic development of the Series, along with enhancing tourism opportunities.

Haldeman, who runs long-distance biking tours for a living through his company PAC Tours, said the chance for an economic impact is very real.

“We’re trying to bring money into these little towns, and we’re working on an economic development plan,” Haldeman said. “It might not be a ton of money, but we’re hoping that in five years, if it catches on, there will be more.”


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