I’m registered for the Vancouver Bicycle Club’s annual Ride Around Clark County, but the ride I really want to do will take place in Ohio this same weekend: TOSRV, the Tour of the Scioto River Valley. I did my first TOSRV in 1972 when this granddaddy of the great cycling tours was already a decade old. This year marks its fifth running. In its honor, I have gathered three reminiscences of my trips in those early years. The first few paragraphs are below, and there’s a link that will connect you with the full story.
In July 1962, Charles Siple, a World War II veteran living in Columbus, Ohio, watched his teen-aged son Greg become increasingly active as a bicyclist. Remembering his own youthful years in Pittsburgh and his intense interest in bicycling as demanding sport and mode of travel, he decided that it was time for the two of them to take a proper bicycle ride together. On July 7 and 8 of that year, they rode downstate from their home in Columbus to the small city of Portsmouth and back, a round trip of 200 miles.
The next year, Dad stayed home, but Greg and three bike shop buddies repeated the ride. Each year, the number of participants grew larger. In 1967, the number of cyclists increased to 200. Young Charlie Pace directed tour, setting up a strong support system for participants. Charlie is turning 80 and during the tour’s fiftieth running—May 7-8, 2011—he is retiring from the position he has held for forty years.
Early in its history, this annual tour during Mother’s Day weekend was given a name: The Tour of the Scioto River Valley—TOSRV, pronounced “toss-ruff”—because it followed the Scioto River from downtown Columbus to its confluence with the Ohio River, at Portsmouth. More important, it was rapidly becoming a legend.
TOSRV came into being at the same time that large numbers of American adults were buying ten-speed bikes and developing skills as sport cyclists. TOSRV was exactly what they needed to inspire and challenge them to develop this new sport. As soon as the annual event in Ohio stabilized, its popularity spread rapidly. Other invitational tours developed around the country, but TOSRV was the first and prototypical event of its kind.
By 1986, the illustrated history of the ride reports, cyclists “had ridden 50,000 TOSRV’s for a grand total of 10,000,000 miles, a distance roughly equivalent to twenty-one round trips to the moon.” In later years, the numbers continued to increase, which means that the totals have more than doubled for this most venerable of America’s cycling extravaganzas.
Although I will not be part of the fiftieth-anniversary festivities, my heart will be with the cyclists. I first did TOSRV in its eleventh year and except for two or three years when I was on study leave continued as a faithful participant through 1994, stopping then only because I was retiring and moving from Indianapolis to Arizona (and later to the Pacific Northwest). Over the years, I’ve ridden other notable tours–RAGBRAI, the Hilly Hundred, Cycle Oregon, STP, El Tour de Tucson—but nothing can take the place of The Mighty TOSRV.
Read more: The Mighty TOSRV