A scene from the 2011 edition of the Tour de Fair Haven, above. Below, members of the New Jersey Wheelmen will show-off century-old big-wheel bikes. (Click to enlarge)


While bicycling is a casual hobby to some and a childhood pastime to others, there are those who hunger for the wind-in-their-hair feeling and the thrill of participating in a high-exertion race.

For the fourth year in a row, Fair Haven is preparing to host dozens of such enthusiasts with this Sunday’s Tour de Fair Haven. Michel Berger – Frenchman, casual cyclist, organizer and head of the Fair Haven Business Association– said a number of changes this year, including a seasonal switch.

Usually held on the third weekend in September, the event will be held August 12 in an attempt to draw a larger number of both participants and spectators from the vacation crowd, “people that basically just never were exposed to bike racing,” he said. “We thought that would be good for Monmouth County.”

An earlier race also has the advantage of drawing on more available racers, Berger said. “As the season goes on, more and more of them get hurt. By doing it now instead of September, we are able to avoid that,” he said.

Organizers are also hoping to avoid an incident like last year, in which several riders were injured in a crash. One who was medevaced by helicopter to a hospital turned out to have superficial injuries.

This is also the first year that a Ladies Only race will be held. It was originally supposed to be included last year, but not enough cyclists registered and it had to be cancelled. “This time we expect that there will be a good deal of ladies,” said Berger. “They are pretty strong and pretty quick. That is our challenge this year, to get the ladies.”

All proceeds of the tour will stay in Fair Haven, donated to fund events such as the various centennial celebrations and the Complete Streets program, which offers additional safety to cyclists by way of bicycle lanes being added to downtown roads.

Berger said the latter is most important: “There are a lot of close-call accidents because drivers just don’t pay attention.” In his native Paris, people are more aware, but he said here, people don’t often notice bikes or motorcycles. “Plus, if you hit a cyclist, I think you get 50 points,” he added jokingly.

An added feature this year is a display of fully restored high wheel bicycles circa 1890, and an 1883 tandem tricycle demonstration by the New Jersey Wheelmen.

Festivities start at 7 a.m. at the firehouse on River Road. Registration is $35 and can be done on BikeReg.com; the deadline is Thursday. Berger may be contacted for more info at 732-212-0800.