Sometime around his 50th birthday, Ross Hansen took up bicycling and quickly ingratiated himself in Long Island's cycling community, taking part in races and helping to clear trails at Rocky Point Preserve.

That's why it was all the more shocking when his friends learned Hansen died on Sept. 6 in a crash during a bicycling race in Virginia. The Patchogue resident was 54.

Hansen, a senior quality assurance engineer at Peerless Instrument, a military subcontractor in East Farmingdale, was riding in the Shenandoah Mountain 100 Backcountry Bike Race in Augusta County, Virginia, when he crashed into a tree, police said.

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"I was in a state of disbelief," said friend and fellow cyclist Greg Schell of Rocky Point. "I just couldn't believe it was Ross. Ross was a very good rider, very strong. . . . To have something like this happen was tragic."

About 150 people took part in a memorial ride for Hansen Saturday at Rocky Point Preserve, Schell said. Another is planned for 10 a.m. Sunday at Manorville Hills County Park in Manorville.

Biking was one of several hobbies for Hansen, a bachelor. He maintained a collection of bicycles and guitars, and he was a passionate windsurfer and devotee of craft beers.

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"He was totally devoted to bicycling and athletic stuff. Loved it. That was his current passion," said his brother, Robert Hansen of upstate Endicott. "He was a great brother and probably a greater uncle. He got along really well with our kids and our grandkids, and they will miss him."

Ross Hansen was born on April 13, 1961, and raised in Patchogue. He graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School and obtained an engineering degree from Suffolk County Community College, Robert Hansen said.

Among cyclists, including fellow members of Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists, or CLIMB, Ross Hansen was known for spending hours hanging out in bicycle shops and talking with staff. He carefully logged his riding times and distances, Schell said.

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"He was a pretty unique guy. He was an intellectual, very smart. He had a love of a lot of things," Schell said. "Ross didn't have a wife. He didn't have any kids. I think what he did was he embraced all of us as part of his family."

In addition to his brother, Robert, Hansen is survived by his sister-in-law, Marian Hansen of Endicott, four nephews and a niece. A funeral was held Monday at Our Lady of the Snow Roman Catholic Church in Blue Point. His family held a private cremation.