Cyclists from across North Texas and the Texoma Region clipped in and took part in the 12th Annual Sherman Kiwanis Red River Bike Rally on Saturday, biking for the benefit of area youth organizations.

The event kicked off early in the morning at the Tanglewood Resort and Conference Center in Pottsboro and welcomed approximately 275 participants at all skill levels. This year’s rally featured six all new routes, some of which ventured into Oklahoma, and ranged from as few as eight miles all the way to 100 miles. And to help the cyclists refuel along the way, volunteers manned rest stops on each of the routes where they handed out cool drinks and snacks.

“There’s a lot of fanatical bikers out here that really like to do this event,” Red River Bike Rally Chairman and Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown said. “More than half of them come out of the Metroplex — McKinney, Frisco, Plano areas. The attraction is getting out of the city and seeing the rolling hills of North Texas and the country views. And this year, the routes went into Oklahoma for the first time, so that was kind of a new twist.”

Brown said the money raised from the rally would benefit all the area youth-focused organizations supported by the Sherman Kiwanis Club, including the Boys and Girls Club of Sherman, the Children’s Advocacy Center and the Grayson County Crisis Center.

“We spend the money on school supplies for kids at those organizations, Christmas presents for them and then we have scholarships for kids at Sherman High School who we choose with the counselors,” Brown said. “We have a core group that comes back every year and they support us. We raise close to $10,000 each year, so it’s a great fundraiser.”

But the Red River Bike Rally is also seen as a great way to train and exercise.

First-time participants and self described cycling “novices” John Bray and Gary Williams rode together on the eight-mile “family route” and said despite the course’s seemingly unimposing name, they still found it to be quite the challenge

“The course is tough,” Bray said.

Williams added that no matter where he pedaled, there seemed to be another hill demanding to be climbed.

“My wife and I walk twice a day and we walk far, but the bike uses all different sorts of muscles,” Williams said. “You’ve got to train. It’s not for sissies.”

Over at a rest stop on Denison’s Main Street, Bruce Lasley stopped by with 40 of his planned 60 miles completed. As he filled up his water bottles and grabbed some energy bars, Lasley said the Red River Bike Rally is seen by many in the region’s cycling community as one of several great stepping stones to the Hotter’N Hell Hundred, a bike rally which will be held later this month in Wichita Falls and, as the name suggests, spans 100 blistering miles.

“It’s a great way to train for the Hotter’N Hell,” Lasley said, “You can meet up with your buddies and we all follow these rallies so by the time that one rolls around, you’ve put the miles and hours in and you’re ready.”

As he returned to his bike and prepared to clip in for his final 20 miles, Lasley said he was looking forward to completing the rally and to a little rest and relaxation at his home in Dallas.

“Since I got up at 4 a.m. to be here at 6 a.m., as soon as I get home, I’m going to take a four-hour nap,” Lasley said.