Sierra Hope Ride, a summer tradition for thousands of Harley-Davidson riders

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RIVERBANK — Growing participation in an annual motorcycle ride from Modesto to the Mother Lode Fairgrounds has created longer delays for traffic headed through town and into the mountains the first weekend of June.

To quell complaints, Sierra Hope Ride organizers are working with police and the California Highway Patrol, promising that a tighter pack will move through Modesto, Riverbank and Oakdale faster than in past years.

The ride, which benefits Muscular Dystrophy and has become a summer tradition for thousands of Harley-Davidson riders, is worth the wait, Councilwoman Virginia Madueño said.

"I think for those inconvenienced, it’s unfortunate," she said at Monday’s City Council meeting. "I welcome you with open arms."

To speed up the ride’s passage through Riverbank, riders will slow down at Al’s Furniture on McHenry Avenue before entering Riverbank from Modesto. A short delay for riders at the head of the pack will keep bikes closer together. The dense pack will move through Riverbank about 17 minutes faster than last year, which took 47 minutes, Police Chief Tim Beck said.

Stopping prolongs the ride for participants, organizer Karen Aldridge said.

"But I don’t think it bothers riders," Aldridge added.

Organizers successfully experimented with breaking to regroup riders last year as a stream of more than 2,200 entered Oakdale, said Art Mitchell, owner of Mitchell’s Harley-Davidson on Carpenter Road.

Riders will again stop for five to 10 minutes — depending on where they are in the pack — at Crane Road before entering Oakdale, Oakdale Police Chief Marty West said.

Last year, the regrouping helped the ride move through town in about 20 minutes, which is half the time it took the previous year, Oakdale City Manager Steve Hallam said.

An estimated 3,000 people will ride 1,800 bikes in this year’s Sierra Hope Ride, Aldridge said. The 90-minute ride raised $350,000 before expenses last year, she said.

The ride will begin at 10 a.m. on June 2. Mitchell’s will host a registration party the evening before the ride.

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