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
Before departure on another leg of the Kentucky Century Cycling Challenge from downtown Frankfort, the bluegrass state capital, I enjoyed a cup of coffee while chatting with some cycling friends from our local club, the Bluegrass Cycling Club. Among them were Fran, Richard, Curt, John, Chuck, and then I ran into Ed and Troy as I walked over to pick up my registration. Finally, I hooked up with Chris and Toby for the start and our wheels were rolling around 7:45 AM, about fifteen minutes or so behind the “mass start.”
There’s only one way out of downtown Frankfort, as it lies in a beautiful valley with the Kentucky River flowing through, dividing the north from the south. We found our way out around mile 3 as we turned onto Louisville Rd at the end of 2nd Street and headed up, winding around a cliff side and pulling into a clearing near the top where it opened up with a nice overlook of the capitol building. I grew up in Frankfort, and know this was a generous route away from downtown, probably the easiest grade possible, and it wasn’t long after that we got to enjoy a fast descent into the Benson Creek valley. From there it was pretty much up and down to the county line, where Toby managed to capture the “green jersey” on a very sly pass with on coming traffic and another cyclist strategically placed in the middle of our lane. He earned it, none the less, and finished with it winning the last county line race uncontested, which was just around the turn from our last rest stop.
I heard the official number was around 600 riders total, and was more than triple the field that rode this event last year (not confirmed). This was only the third year for the ride that is organized by Preservation KY, and the first time they offered a century route, which helped establish part of the KY Century Challenge. The ride moves to a new venue every year, which is one way to ensure the routes always change. I enjoyed the century route, there was a few areas with some traffic issues, but certainly nothing major, we only witnessed one close call. The trip was definitely challenging as it heated up in the early afternoon, plus the early climbing wears on your legs later in the ride.
The support was awesome in my opinion, every rest stop was nicely placed where you had the option to skip and roll on, or stop, rest and refuel, when needed. The volunteers at each stop were very friendly, and offered to help in any way they could. There was also an abundance of energy and fuel for the ride available at all the stops. I also loved the finish meal which consisted of buffet style salad, sandwiches, chips, and pasta inside the KY History Center, in an air conditioned dining room. I couldn’t recommend a better way to finish (unless you want to add ice cream to the dessert).
Along with the century route, that totaled 108 miles, Preservation Pedal 2013 also offered two shorter routes of around 50 and 25 miles. I’m not an overly critical person, in fact, I always look for the good in an event and let it overshadow the bad. I can’t find much to criticize about this ride. It was an all around great event, I would recommend it to anyone interested in road cycling. I know maps and cue sheets are given out with registration at nearly every ride, but there were a couple of turn direction issues on this ride in the downtown areas of Frankfort, New Castle, and Shelbyville. I like the painted arrows/marking, I’m not a fan of the tape arrows. Some of them were either missing, faded, or not properly placed for easy visibility. I did enjoy the route and had a blast riding with Chris and Toby, and I hope that if Preservation KY moves this event next year as it has previously done each year, another organization will step in and host this ride again. It is worthy of repeating!
I’m finding that as this year goes on, my climbing is the greatest improvement in my cycling effort. I’m guessing the ride in the Blue Ridge mountains up Mt. Mitchell helped get that ball rolling. I’m not sure what’s improved more: my ability or confidence, but I am enjoying these challenging rides as a result of it. Last year, I rode these tough rides and made them tougher, struggling to finish sometimes because of my fitness level. My threesome completed the third leg of the century challenge with another average pace around 17 mph, and we plan to do the fourth, final leg in September on Old KY Home Tour from Louisville to Bardstown.
Preservation Pedal 2013 century route finished nicely as we descended back into historic downtown Frankfort and made a victory lap around the state capitol building, before cruising down Capitol Ave and back across the KY River to the finish line. Many Thanks to all the volunteers, supporters, sponsors, and especially the event organizers, I sure hope this ride continues to grow.
The My Old KY Home Tour, an annual bicycling event hosted by the Louisville Bike Club, was the fourth and final chance to complete the innagural century challenge sponsored by Adventure Tourism KY. Some numbers from the century challenge: nearly 560 riders signed up, around half accomplished the challenge by completing 3 of the 4 century rides, and only 34 completed all 4. My good friend Chris Schmidt and I were 2 of those 34, while the Renaissance Man was able to finish his first century of the year at OKHT!
The ride began in Louisville and departed from E. P. Tom Sawyer State Park, heading southwest towards it’s finish point in historic Bardstown. The weather was very nice for a day to spend on the bike as it started with little humidity in the 70s, however it would rise through the day to a scorching low 90s as we found the toughest stretch of the ride, the last fifteen miles. The LBC offers three distances of 50, 70, or 102 on day one, with the option to camp and ride back to Louisville on Sunday on a 50 mile route or you can make your own arrangements for a pick up. I had planned to stay in Bardstown with good friend Chuck Allran and ride back on day two, but after listening to my bottom bracket snap, crackle, and pop all day long (and maybe hurting a little), I gladly took the pick up offer from my very gracious sister and brother-in-law Charlsie and Jamie Garrett. My hurting was mostly self inflicted from poor ride prep, but that happens sometimes.
My starting group consisted of Tim, Chuck, Chris, Toby, Becca, and Ann and we rolled out around 9am. We all hung together for about the first ten miles as we got warmed up then it split up a little over the rollers of the next section. The road marking leaving Louisville was eventful itself, but it did get better, especially after the “lunch stop” at mile 36 when the routes separated. From there on, the rest stops became fewer but the road marking was much better. It seemed like around four stops available up to the lunch stop, not sure because we only stopped once, but the meal was very nicely served at a Catholic church community by some Boy Scouts and friends. I normally won’t eat a full meal on a ride, and I would have preferred to have a lunch stop past halfway but I enjoyed half a chicken salad sammie and some power-aide to drink. I understand the meal was so early because of the way the routes stay together up to that point.
As we rolled out from there, our group was feeling strong and we attacked the next 20 – 30 miles, I don’t really remember any groups passing us. There was another rest stop at mile 50 and we skipped it because everyone still had plenty of water, not realizing the next stop would be some 28 miles later. So there were five stops, maybe more, through mile 50, then 2 for the last 50 … I’d recommend some type of change there. The entire route was beautiful, as much of cycling in the bluegrass state always is, and the last fifteen miles of this ride was probably the toughest stretch of the day with the climbing involved and the hottest part of the day. Earlier in the ride on the stretch just after lunch, I felt like I could pull my group strong to the finish, or even drop them. But when we ran low on water and had to conserve for many miles, it took a toll on my energy level. Thankfully, we found a farm hydrant along a country road and some very pleasant gentlemen graciously allowed us to refill our bottles. From that point on, it was the two Ironmen (Chris and Toby) who set the pace and eventually dropped me. Their level of endurance amazes me, I have learned by riding with them this year that they don’t try to kill a ride early, but they finish strong! And sometimes get off the bike and go running for good measure.
I simply couldn’t hang with them and Jamen, a Lexington cyclist we picked up along the way, over the last 8 miles which including the climbing section along the infamous Pottershop Rd. I did get to finish with some familiar faces, however, as I found several folks from Bluegrass Cycling Club (my local group ride) that had started a little earlier than us. Another Ironman (ironmom) Courtney pushed me the last couple miles to the finish where a celebration festival was in full force. There was a BBQ meal, music, a bike raffle for the Red Cross, and much more. Overall, it was a very nice day, despite some of the suffering I endured. Any time I get to ride my bike with some of my best friends is always a good day.
I think the ride was well organized, although for a long standing ride, I think they could benefit from a few changes. All of the volunteers were great as always. Huge thanks to all who helped, we couldn’t enjoy it nearly as much without you! Thanks to Louisville Bike Club for hosting the event, I’m glad I finally completed this ride, and thanks to Adventure Tourism for hosting the century challenge, I’m especially glad I accepted the challenge and look forward to receiving my cycling jersey! As far as the bike issue goes, it was somewhat normal wear and tear. The bottom bracket has been replaced by Pedal Power bike shop in Lexington, and is ready for another century ride. And since I felt a little guilty about not riding on day two with Chuck, I decided to donate blood when I saw the bloodmobile at church that morning. I would recommend the Old KY Home Tour bicycling event to any cyclist that enjoys road cycling, since it is later in the season, all riders have a chance to train and complete the route that best suits them. If any event planner would like to hear my opinion on the changes I would recommend, feel free to contact me through our site here and I’ll gladly help. Kudos once again to LBC and the entire OKHT team. Hope to see you next year!