They braved headwinds, traffic, and last-minute Thanksgiving grocery shoppers.

The 51 participants of Cranksgiving Hamilton crossed from west to east and cycled up and down the escarpment in a cross city scavenger hunt, with items gathered donated to the Welcome Inn Community Centre.

Rather than paying to enter, participants used their purchased items on a list, spending more than $1,500 and carrying over 839 pounds of food and hygiene items. This was the second year the event was run in Hamilton by Heidi and Reuben Vanderkwaak.

They started it out of a love of cycling after seeing a story about the event in New York City.

“I saw then that Cranksgiving had been happening in many cities and there was a ‘how-to’ guide on their website, so we just looked at each other and said yes, we have to do this!” said Heidi.

The event combines two values: cycling and community.

“What we like about this ride is that not only is it a chance for us to give back and to be thankful for what we have and provide food to others but also it’s using our bikes for something that is a lot of fun,” said Reuben.

The ride is also a way to get more people to see bicycling as a mode of transport, and even as an option for grocery shopping.

“A lot of people last year that came out said ‘I didn’t realize I could run around and gather all these groceries by bike, so now I’m going to try doing it on my own too,’” said Reuben.

Participants had a chance to win prizes like a NYNE portable bike speakers, a Wike Bicycle Trailer made in Guelph, and trophies made from upcycled bike parts from New Hope Bikes. Prizes were given to the fastest male and female participants in the 25km and 10km distances, but also to the heaviest haul (Matt Grande, 76 pounds) and Most Generous (Emma Cubitt, $136.22).

Several McMaster students participated, and one Mac student, Jackson Waite, was the winner of the male 25 km distance. He said the sense of community amongst cyclists also extended from non-cycling residents.

“It was really nice to take in the kindness of Hamiltonians during the race. At the stores when I asked if I could jump the line, everyone was more than willing to let me through, the same when I was asking for directions in the east end where I was getting pretty turned around,” said Waite.

Cranksgiving events have been a fixture in New York City for 15 years, and are starting to take off across North America with 35 locations hosting an event this year.

Cranksgiving is only held in two locations in Canada: Hamilton and Vancouver. But some participants that came to Hamilton from Toronto have expressed interest in hosting a Cranksgiving in Toronto next year.

The event showed how viable and fun biking in Hamilton can be.

“It’s the best way to get around,” said Waite. “You can cover way more ground on a bike, you get some solid exercise in and the endorphins flowing, and for me, most importantly, you’re not stuck waiting forever for the HSR.”

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