Bicycle enthusiasts and those who just like a great ride are already gearing up and signing up for the Petaluma Sunrise Foundation’s annual Backroad Challenge coming up on May 19.

The Challenge consists of three rides, one of 36.52 miles, one of 65.74 miles and one of 99.54 miles. All are along scenic Sonoma County roads, and all include at least a portion of challenging uphill stretches. Each ride will have fully staffed rest stops and be supported by mobile support vehicles and crews.

The event is administered by the Rotary Club of Petaluma Sunrise, with proceeds going to community groups helping to run the event and humanitarian projects, both locally and internationally, of the Petaluma Sunrise Rotary Club.

Event chairman Bob Whitlock of the Petaluma Sunrise Rotary Club stresses that the event is not a race. “We have three very, very challenging courses,” he explained. “You can test yourself against the course or just enjoy the ride.”

The rides will start and end at Penngrove Park.

Waiting for the riders at the finish is a festival that includes a chicken barbecue, cold beer from local artisan craft brewers and live music.

This is the eighth annual Backroad Challenge and it has grown into one of the county’s largest road rides. The first event attracted 850 riders and, at its peak, drew 1,300 participants. Whitlock expects around 1,000 riders this spring.

“Riders come from all over,” he said. “We get a lot of local riders, but we also get many from out of the area. Last year we had a rider from Chicago.”

For out-of-town participants, bicycles will be offered for rent.

While the Rotary Club of Petaluma Sunrise is spearheading the Backroad Challenge, it receives support from several other community groups, including the Marin Sunrise Rotary Club, Mentor Me Petaluma, Girls On The Run, Liberty School, Penngrove Elementary School, Penngrove 4H Club, Petaluma Peoples Services, Petaluma High School Band, Old Adobe Developmental Services, the Salvation Army and the Penngrove Social Firemen.

Registration can be made at For more information, email or call (707) 540-3243.

The Rotary Club of Petaluma Sunrise is one of Petaluma’s most active service clubs.

Among its many community activities are providing dictionaries for Petaluma third-graders, providing support for Petaluma teachers through its Lend A Hand Program, supporting the Outdoor Living Experience at Casa Grande High School, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Sonoma County and Marin, the Petaluma High School Jazz Band and Girls on the Run, plus helping with the Butter and Egg Days Parade, the Kool Kids Camp and Cots food drives, and working on the restoration project at Walnut Park and more.

International projects include supporting a clean water project in the Dominican Republic, participating in the Rotary Exchange Student program, supporting the Rotary International Peace Study Project, helping with the Rotary International Polio Plus Campaign and supporting the Rotoplast program.