On Saturday, Feb. 3, bike riders from all over Iowa gathered at the Hotel Pattee to take off for the 41st annual Bike Ride to Rippey. Starting off at the Hotel Pattee, bikers had the opportunity to enjoy refreshments, booths, and a breakfast provided by the Perry Lions Club before the morning ride.

“It’s one of the oldest first rides in the state,” said Mayor of Perry, John Andorf. “For the most part, the weather does not have that big of an impact, but it can.

“It’s just become a tradition that people come to over and over again.”

Crowds piled into the Hotel Pattee as both new Hotel Pattee owner, Tom Maxwell, and previous owner, Jay Hartz, greeted riders together in the lobby.

This is the last BRR the Hartz will be part of as Hotel Pattee owners.

“It feels weird, really,” said Hotel owner, Jay Hartz. “It’s bittersweet – we’re excited that we’re here one more time.”

Both Jay and Denise Hartz have been part of BRR for five years. Hartz says over time the couple has learned how to maintain one of the largest events for the Hotel Pattee.

“Knock on wood, we kind of have things down to pat now in terms of how to service it,” Hartz said. “The first year was a little - we didn’t know what to expect.

“I’m glad Tom [Maxwell]’s here to to see all of the festivities.”

Maxwell was anxious to see BRR for the first time, he says. He is anxious to continue the hotel’s involvement with the ride once he takes over the Hotel Pattee in March.

“It’s a great event that the Hotel hosts and I’m happy the Hotel does,” Maxwell said. “It’s been a lot of fun to meet a lot of people who have experienced BRR for a long time; this is of course my first one, but everybody has been great and they’ve welcomed me as the new owner.

“The experience is absolutely tremendous.”

What started as a cool, overcast morning, quickly developed into a cold, rainy ride for participants.

The weather didn’t stop bicyclists and BRR celebrators from enjoying the annual tradition, however.

“I just love getting out and seeing Iowa countryside,” said fourth time rider, Mike Wendel, of Boone. “Everybody is happy when they come to these things, and I just like to get out and enjoy whatever weather we have.”

For some, February’s weather can be an issue.

“I can’t convince other people to [come],” joked Chris King, of Ames.

King has been attending BRR since 2004, she says.

“I like riding my bike and of course they treat you really well,” King said. “It’s February and there’s [also] something to do.”

The ride also allows bikers to get a head start on an early season, as well as putting new bike accessories to the test.

“I’ve told myself I can ride year round,” said Melody Van Der Vleit, of Hull.

Van Der Vleit was accompanied by husband Brian. The couple visited BRR in 1995 and both sported fat bike tires for this year’s ride.

“It’s been twenty or more years since I’ve been to this one, so I just wanted to come back and see how much it’s grown,” Melody Van Der Vleit said.

“It looks like a lot more people than it used to be,” Brian Van Der Vleit said laughing.

To ride, the couple made a nearly three-and-a-half hour trek to Perry.

“We got our packets and registered online the other night,” Melody Van Der Vleit said. “We have always wanted to stay at this Hotel and ride the trails – we love that there’s lots of trails [because] we don’t have trails in our area.”

At 10 a.m., riders were able to start during the official time and stay in a large group. Some trickled in later on, stopping at several pit stops along the way.

Regardless of the coin-toss weather, patrons say the event continues to bring in many.

“It’s a fun thing,”said Larry Vodenik, of Hy-Vee said. “It puts Perry on the map.”

Mayor Andorf describes how visitors compliment the ride and town.

“People are always so appreciative of Perry hosting this,” Mayor Andorf said. “It’s good to hear all of the nice comments about Perry.”

“People keep coming back.”