New London — Bicyclists of all ages riding bikes of varying shapes and sizes converged on the New London waterfront Saturday for the fourth annual Bike Fest that mixed healthy habits and bike safety with family fun and tourism.
Participants got to show off custom choppers and track bikes, picked up bike route maps of Connecticut, got a list of clues for the Bike New London Facebook page scavenger hunt and could even get a bike tune-up or repair while they enjoyed the view of the Thames River from Custom House Pier.
The festival was co-sponsored by the city, the Downtown Association and Bike New London to promote commuter biking, recreational riding and tourism. Bike New London also runs Bike Share New London, a program in which riders can borrow distinctive green and yellow bikes for the day for a $10 deposit. Bike Share bikes are available at the Water Street parking garage.
Bob Stuller of New London said he has been repairing bikes for "quite a few years" and prefers these machines to any motor vehicles. Bikers lined up at his tent to get ready for the afternoon bike parade.
"I like repairing bikes because they stay repaired," he said. "They're long-lasting."
Margaret Palmer stopped in because her seat was loose. Stuller took care of that within minutes and then determined her front tire was too hard. He showed her how to let out a little air for a more comfortable ride.
She took the bike for a trial spin on Custom House Pier and yelled, "Thanks Bob!" as she wheeled out to join the parade.
John Scarpa of New London rode one bike up to Stuller's tent pulling a shopping cart containing two broken bikes and various parts. He didn't know Stuller but figured they would become "fast friends" as he asked the repairman to borrow tools to piece together one bike out of the collection of parts.
"It's really not as bad as it looks," he said to skeptical onlookers.
Chris Lee, 54, of Enfield boasted he has put more than 600 miles on his "one-of-a-kind," completely handmade chopper named "Red." He made the flaming red bike last year and brought it to Bike New London. He added a metal flame design over the winter and came back for a second year to the custom bike show that's part of the event.
"I made everything on it," he said.
There might be a bit of a sibling rivalry in the family, as brother Steve Lee, 50, also of Enfield, rode at Chris' side on his own bright silver chopper, "Hog Rider." Steve bought this bike about three years ago but added some custom elements, new rims and a mirror.
And riding by his side Saturday was the third brother, Bill Lee, 56, of Stafford Springs. But Bill Lee didn't bring his chopper this time. He preferred his custom, throwback style road racing bike, with dipped handlebars, a sturdy frame and No. 3 on the front.
"I just finished it at 4 o'clock yesterday," he said. "It has nine miles on it."
Family friend Stephen Chiaradio of Westerly accompanied the Lee brothers to Saturday's event. Chiaradio had a 1988 Track 800 bike he said is built "like a tank," with a heavy, steel frame that gives a good ride for cruising speeds.
"It moves right along," he said.
Another group of much younger siblings also took advantage of the beautiful afternoon and the fun of a downtown New London scavenger hunt.
Torsten Jacobitz, 6, and his sister Elsie, 4, rode their own bikes with training wheels, while their little brother, 17-month-old Lydon, hitched a ride in a rear seat with their dad, Darcy Jacobitz. Elsie especially wanted to try the scavenger hunt, finding key New London landmarks — a whale, a downtown ice cream shop, a Revolutionary War fort.
"We thought they were too young before," mom Amy Jacobitz said. "This is the first year we can get down here with them biking."