Hotter’n Hell Hundred

It was 1982.  Wichita Falls still had fresh wounds from ‘Terrible Tuesday’ and its most devastating tornado to date.  With the City’s 100th anniversary fast-approaching, the Wichita Falls Centennial Publicity Committee was brainstorming ways to honor the city and commemorate the community’s resilient spirit.

To celebrate 100 years, Committee member Roby Christie suggested a 100-mile ride.  His fellow committee member quickly pointed out that August in Wichita Falls would be “hotter than hell.”  But instead of putting an end to the idea, that observation inspired the race’s name.

The Hotter’n Hell 100, shortened to HH100, would stand for the 100th birthday of the city, the 100-mile ride, and the likely 100 degree weather. 

Despite the heat, 1,200 cyclists raced that first year, and 36 years later, the tradition continues to this day with ten times as many.  In fact, the Hotter’n Hell 100 is thought to be the largest 100-mile bike ride in the nation, and one of the largest in the world.

The full event, from start to finish, relies on more than 4,000 volunteers.  Last year, I counted myself among that batch.  After visiting nearby Sheppard Air Force Base, I joined Hotter’n Hell 100 volunteers at Wichita Falls’ Multi-Purpose Event Center to help fill race packets. 

Hospitable Wichita Falls residents are called upon to host out-of-town bicyclists, as the influx of more than 12,000 people means hotels, churches, and even the YMCA quickly reach capacity.  In step with the ride’s numeric theme, about 100 cyclists last year were paired with nearby homes.  This year, cyclists are still registering for local accommodations.

Out-of-town cyclists get a chance to see Wichita Falls and Sheppard Air Force Base on their long Saturday ride, but throughout the four day event, they also get to appreciate Wichita Falls’ local color.  Area food vendors cater the expos, parties, and rest stops, and hometown musicians play at the Finish Line Village all day long.

Local wildlife is also known to join in on the fun.  Previous participants have noted tortoises, roadrunners, bobcats, and coyotes along the route.  And last year, recycled “junk” bikes  -- metamorphosed into butterflies with 8-foot-long wingspans – rode along the 10K route, thanks to the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture. Last year’s ride also featured the debut of a new trail alongside the area’s picturesque falls, the namesake of the city.

Hotter’n Hell 100 and Wichita Falls go together hand in glove; you can’t think about one without the other. And in its 37th year, I send my best to the thousands of cyclists and volunteers who work tirelessly on this great tradition.  Stay safe, stay hydrated, and if you can, stay cool.

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