FRANCONIA NOTCH, N.H. – Patrick Skahan has already completed the grueling Three Notch Century bike ride through New Hampshire’s White Mountains four times, but this weekend will give him a greater appreciation of the event’s purpose.

Still recovering from breaking his hip in January, Skahan, 28, of Barrington, will be riding a handcycle for the 100-mile ride through Franconia Notch, Crawford Notch and the Kancamagus Highway.

He’ll be in good company: The ride, in its seventh year, is a fundraiser for Northeast Passage, a University of New Hampshire program that offers sports and recreation activities for people with disabilities.

About 200 cyclists are tackling the notches in one, two, or three days. The first riders set out Friday.

“It’s a fun, exciting ride,” said Skahan, who serves on the ride’s organization committee. “Then there’s the benefit of raising money for this awesome organization. I’ve volunteered and participated in programs, but this year I’ve had the unique opportunity to be on the other side of the bench, being more on the participant side and learning new ways that I can be recreating.”

Organizers say about half the participants plan to finish in one day, with the rest split evenly between two and three days. About 30 cyclists have disabilities. This year, the group will include members of the national Wounded Warriors program, which assists veterans injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Former Army Maj. Anthony Smith of Armorel, Ark., was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2004 and lost part of his skull, vision in one eye, hearing in one ear, a kidney and a third of his right femur. After spending two years in hospitals, he now competes in triathlons and owns a martial arts studio.

Smith, 44, said he signed up for the ride as a way to keep himself busy on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I like to be doing something so my mind will be occupied. I didn’t want to have too much alone time,” said Smith, who rides a bicycle modified so that he doesn’t have to pull the pedal up with his right leg. “This will give me a sense of helping some of the other guys who might be just getting started.”

Though it was sunny just a few miles away, it was raining and foggy in Franconia Notch early Friday afternoon when a group of cyclists stopped at the Cannon Mountain Tramway parking lot for lunch.

Josh Moran, a 21-year-old UNH student from Jamestown, N.Y., said his hockey coach urged him to do the ride. He didn’t mind the cool weather but said riding a handcycle over the hills had been tough.

“It starts out as a way to get good exercise, and then you just can’t stop,” he said. “If you get this far, you just keep going.”

Karen Sternfeld, 37, of Cambridge, Mass., was making her third appearance at the ride. Sternfeld, who uses a wheelchair, said she felt more prepared this year because she had spent more time training.

“It’s an amazing experience of endurance and pushing yourself,” she said. “I’m cold, hungry and ready for more.”