Is London, KY the cycling capital of the bluegrass state? If the success of their annual spring cycling event, the Redbud Ride, is an indicator, it’s very possible. For me personally, the 2013 Redbud Ride marked my third consecutive year completing a century ride in early April, with the Redbud back to back years now after completing the Wheels O’ Fire Century Cycle in Georgia in 2011 (in route to spring break in Florida). The Redbud Ride has evolved into an entire weekend of cycling craze in southeastern Kentucky, and this year it has left me in cycling crave mode. It’s easy to judge an event generally by how you feel as your leaving it. After completing the “Big Red Route” (100 mile) at Redbud Ride 2013 on Saturday, I couldn’t wait to get home on Sunday and go for another bike ride.
I had signed up early for this event, knowing that the weather could be difficult, found that out in first person last year, but knowing I need some tough training to be ready for Assault On Mt. Mitchell in May. I also encouraged and talked my brother-in-law (new cyclist) into giving this ride a try. I was pleasantly surprised in the week of the event when I heard news that my good friend Jim Simes was coming up again from South Carolina to do the warm up ride on Friday, then ride the century with me. And surprised one more time when good friend Chris Schmidt called Friday night and said he was leaving Nashville to join us. Both of these guys are very strong riders, and I knew I would have to ride hard to maintain their pace, which is also what I need to help me train for this great cycling season.
We rolled out from the London Farmer’s Market around 8 AM with over a thousand other cyclists who were at the Redbud Ride to complete one of the four route options offered. This year, the weather would not be a lasting memory of mine as it was from the year prior. It was a chilly start, but with mostly sunny skies, and warming as the miles accumulated. I would say overall, the weather was perfect for completing my first century of 2013. We rode with and passed numerous cyclists of all shapes and sizes, riding many different brands and styles of bikes, dressed in a rainbow of jerseys and spandex. The roads were so lightly traveled by vehicles, I actually wondered if we were on bike lanes for a good portion of the route. There was a few patches of rough pavement as we rode through the Daniel Boone National Forest, however, each and every spot was marked by road warning signs and caution spray paint around the hazard on the road surface. All of the route was also marked with color coordinated arrows on the roadway before, during and after each turn. We had zero trouble finding our way along the century route while intermingling with all of the other routes along the way.
The rest stops were conveniently located as we all maintain good hydration and needed a bathroom break at all the stops except the last. Redbud Ride holds an annual “best rest stop” competition. Last year, I voted for the stop in Livingston where we were warmed up with hot coffee and a genuine bluegrass band. I’m not saying who I’m voting for yet this year, but everyone at every stop we hit was very friendly, very informative. I will say this: the first stop has left a lasting impression. Last year at the rural fire station we were greeted by “biker babes,” and this year they raised the bar with an “80′s Prom theme.” I was a little surprised and humbled when they selected me to be the prom king! I like it when they make you wonder what will they do next year. Maybe beach party theme?
I had so much fun at the Redbud Ride 2013, I’ve been reminiscing and talking about it for a week now, and I could easily write for hours about it here, but let me just say this. If you read this review and don’t sign up for Redbud 2014, shame on you. You will miss out on one of the most amazing cycling events this great state has to offer, not to mention it’s the first leg of the new Kentucky Century Cycling Challenge. I do owe it to the readers and followers of RAM Cycling to grade some important subjects that put the ride together.
Route: The route was well marked, very safe, minimal traffic ( and the traffic I did see was very bike friendly), beautiful roads and scenery, challenging climbs and awesome colors as the redbuds and dogwoods start to bloom
Support: we saw SAG (support and gear) vehicles along the route in every section, awesome rest stops with very friendly folks, a new bike shop in downtown says it all
Organization: I was kept well up to date on events at the Redbud Ride and tons of local happenings surrounding the event, walked right up to registration and checked in without wait, and I love the twitter feed
In general, I can’t really offer any advice for improvements. Obviously, I give the Redbud Ride 2013 an A+ rating from the Masher, and look forward to doing it again next year, and bringing even more family and friends. Keep up the great work organizers of Redbud, until someone proves it otherwise, I would say continue to own your phrase “London is the cycling capital of Kentucky.” In closing, I would also like to leave you with a few comments from the guys I rode with.
“I would highly recommend this ride to anyone, especially first time riders. The roads were well marked and all the rest stops were helpful. I will return next year with my wife riding hopefully. I was amazed at how many cyclists were at the event. It was well organized and the email updates helped. The London locals went out of their way to welcome us all and everyone seemed bike friendly.” – Jamie Garrett, from Gravel Switch in Marion Co. Kentucky (my brother-in-law)
“I TOTALLY enjoyed the 2013 Redbud Ride. It doesn’t get much better than a beautiful sunshiny day, riding 100 miles with over a thousand other cyclists. Especially my friends Kevin and Chris, two cycling beasts who let me hang with them. It was very refreshing for me to enjoy a ride without concentrating on the time. Thank you Kevin for the invite to the ride!” -Jim Simes, owner and operator of a recording studio in Anderson, South Carolina (good friend of mine, and very strong cyclist)
“I loved the Redbud Ride. Just a wonderfully beautiful choice of roads that twisted and turned their way through the foothills. Climbing up the side of a long hill, bombing down the other, floating along the rollers, beside the creeks, and the fellowship of the rest stops made it one of my top events. I’ll be back next year!” -Chris Schmidt, Dean of students at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY (also an Ironman, and great friend “Big Dog Schmidty”)
“I had heard great things about Redbud Ride from my son Kevin, and I decided to do the ride because my son-in-law Jamie Garrett asked me to join him on his first group ride event in London. He signed up for the 22 mile route, but we opted for the 35 mile route before we began and decided to do it because we had all day and just wanted to have fun. The Redbud Ride was such a great event, it has inspired my daughter Charlsie to invest in a new road bike so she can start cycling with us. I love the downtown restaurants and the spacious hike and bike shop and the friendliness of everyone I met. You all are great ambassadors for adventure tourism in Kentucky. Thank you.” – Charlie Pearl, retired writer, photographer, newspaper editor form Frankfort, KY (my dad “Pops” and the reason I first began cycling)
To view my Redbud Ride details on Strava please visit: app.strava.com/activities/48637642