HAMMOND — The sound of whirring bike chains, gears and pedals filled the air Saturday night and Sunday morning as around 800 riders took to north Lake County's streets and bike trails in the annual WHAM! Midnight Bike Ride.
The bike ride's seventh running, organized by the Hammond Port Authority, took riders on either a 10-mile route that traveled through Whiting and Hammond's Robertsdale neighborhood, or a 30-mile trek that continued into Highland and Munster before returning to Hammond.
"People get really creative with their lights, so that's always fun to watch," said Jill Gajewski, Wolf Lake coordinator for the Hammond Port Authority. "It's always neat to see the different groupings of people. Everybody's just happy to be out here. You can't usually ride down a main road on your bike at midnight and be safe."
The bike ride, which draws in visitors from around the Midwest, gives a chance to experience the bike trails the Region has to offer. Notable selections the ride incorporates include the George Lake, Illiana Marina, Erie Lackawanna, Little Calumet River and Monon trails. The ride also included the recently finished bridge that spans from the Pavilion at Wolf Lake across Calumet Avenue.
"We're in four cities, so we get to showcase four different areas," Gajewski said. "That's the unique part about it."
Participants let their creativity show as bikes were donned with not only standard headlights, but also glow sticks wrapped around handlebars and lights strung through spokes. Some creations took a more comical nature, such as a yellow glowing rubber duck on handlebars.
"I was on Amazon, and if you type in 'bike lights,' they're pretty creative," said Corey Gore, of Schererville. "I think it's a fun idea to start something at midnight. You get a different crowd. It's a more fun ride than a serious bicycle ride."
New riders join in the activities each year. Erica Pennington, owner of EP Lotus Fitness in Hammond, works out together with friends Amira Robinson, Laseta Smith and Shaunta Osborne, all of Hammond, and Carmen Thompson, of Lansing. This year they decided to ride together after seeing advertisements on social media.
"It's fitness, and it's something where we can get together and bond," Pennington said.
Returning riders also populated the pack, such as Matt Williams, of St. John, who made it his third consecutive ride.
"You get to ride around and see some things you don't usually get to see," Williams said. "You ride around at 2 in the morning on your bicycle and have a good time. I do like to ride trails, and I notice in Northwest Indiana the trails are starting to expand slowly."
Various organizations and leaders also lent their support. Hammond, Whiting, Highland, Munster, Lake County and Indiana State police officers helped block roadways for bike traffic. GoodSpeed Cycles, based in Homewood, Illinois, offered repairs before and during the ride. Municipal figures, such as Whiting Mayor Joseph Stahura and Hammond council members at-large Janet Venecz and Dan Spitale, helped run water stations along the routes. Cabela's in Hammond offered water, snacks and a chance for riders participating in the 30-mile route to rest. Tapas Cafe, based in Crown Point, provided breakfast food at the Pavilion at Wolf Lake after riders completed their trips.