LULA - About 150 cyclists are expected to tighten their gears and secure their helmets for the upcoming LAP '08 - the Lula Assembly of Praise bike ride.
"A lot of churches have barbecues or other types of fundraisers, and we came up with a bike ride," said Joe Elam, ride director and owner of Habersham Bicycles in Alto. "There are a few people in the church that ride and that number is growing ... our church pastor rides and several of the deacons ride."
The bike ride, in its fifth year, will help raise money for the Lula Assembly of Praise community center.
For those interested in the ride, there is a choice of 20, 50, metric 68 or century 103-mile courses.
"The good thing about the course, both the 20 and 50 are great routes for newer riders or riders who are just getting back into it who are looking for something that is not super hard," Elam said. "The benefit of the ride is it's a great way for someone to challenge themselves and have a level of support that they may not get on their own."
The Rev. Scotty Poole, also an engineer for the city of Gainesville, said riders enjoy the starting point in Lula.
"Bike riders really like it because when you leave Lula, it's kind of on a ridge, so when you go it's a lot of downhill. But coming back is pretty rough," Poole said.
Poole came to Lula Assembly of Praise Church, which has about 110 members, in 2005. And he said during that time the ride has funded the community center.
"When we got started, the money was for the building program and it has gone straight to the building," Poole said.
The church community center has classrooms and a gym and is used for special church events, like the annual ride.
For the metric ride the cyclists will climb "The Wall" on Apple Pie Ridge Road, one of Georgia's steepest climbs; the century ride features a climb on Dick's Hill. Both climbs are in Habersham County.
"(Apple Pie Ridge) has a very steep grade," Elam said. "It's just like going up the side of mountain ... it's very challenging in that most bicycles' gears are not geared low enough to go straight up, so some people have to ride side to side."
During the ride, church volunteers will be stationed at themed support stops ready to provide refreshments to the riders.
"These rest stops have food, water and such," Elam said. "Also, we have (support) vehicles that ride along the route as well, and they are out there if you have a mechanical issue or if you get tired.
"It's a very friendly atmosphere and then of course the food after the fact is wonderful. It's a dinner that the church ladies handle and they usually serve pastas and cakes and every year they have a special ... and lots of sweet tea."
The after-ride meal comes along with the registration fee and each rider receives a T-shirt.
"We always lead out with prayer ... we like to use this time to share Christ through fellowship," Poole said.