I began to ride a road bike in the summer of 2006, and it became a passion immediately after completing my first big ride event, GABRAKY (Grand Autumn Bicycle Ride Across Kentucky). I was instantly referred to as “ate up” by my cycling friends, and I liked it. At that time I was not familiar with “The Horsey Hundred,” a century ride hosted in my hometown every year on Memorial Day weekend by the Bluegrass Cycling Club, but it was the talk of all the local cyclists as the season came to a close that first year. “You should join us for the Horsey next May,” my close friend Ed Stodola and plenty others told me. Like they said, I was ate up, so that’s exactly what I planned to do. Ride my first century in Georgetown, KY in the 2007 Horsey Hundred!
Keep in mind, just because you may be “ate up” about something, doesn’t mean you’re an instant pro. As the weather began to cooperate, I began to ride my bike, every chance I had. However, I truly had no idea how to properly train for a century ride. The longest day of GABRAKY was 89 miles, so I just assumed that I had another 11 in me, surely. Well my journey over those hundred miles, my first century proved to me that those 11 more miles were a full season ago. I was not yet in good riding shape, not like I was at the end of my first season.
A few lessons I learned on my first century ride: once you complete your first, you will have the confidence that anything is possible on your bike; take advantage of the rest stops, they can be the difference between success and failure; the better you train before the ride, the easier it will be on game-day; sometimes you will need to stay with your friends to pull them along, because there will times when you need them to be there for you.
I took off on the century route for the 30th anniversary Horsey Hundred in May 2007 with my good friend Ed, and he told me early, “We’ll follow the century arrows, and when the 3/4 century route splits, we’ll decide how far we’re going.” I thought, “yeah we’re doing the 100 no matter what.” We set out pretty strong and I was on cloud nine as we ruled the rural roads of north central Kentucky, surrounded by tons of cyclists of all shapes and sizes, riding all types of bikes, wearing all colors of spandex. At the first stop, I was ready to keep going, but taking Ed’s advice, we stopped briefly, refueled, and set back out. We actually skipped the second stop, because both of us still had plenty of water and thought we only had about 13 or so miles to the next stop (the official lunch stop). That proved to be a mistake, because the lunch stop was actually about twenty miles away, the heat was starting to set in, and the hills were beginning to take a toll on my legs. Numerous times I would catch Ed looking back to make sure I was still there, and occasionally slowing up to wait on me. As we pulled into the lunch rest stop, I was whipped, and actually thought to myself, I’m not sure I’ll make it. Again, I heeded to my friend’s advice and got some fuel, then he saved my life (well actually he saved my ride), and said “I’m going to lay down in the shade for a minute. If I fall asleep, wake me up when you’re ready to roll.” That half hour nap under a shade tree proved to be my saving grace.
We saddled up and took back off with plenty of others, but shortly after starting back, we were separated from most of the crowd as the majority of riders complete shorter routes. We cruised along at a pretty good pace for the last forty miles across some beautiful scenery with rolling acres of horse fields lined by wood plank fences (a bluegrass region staple). We enjoyed conversation with ourselves, and I had caught my second wind, thanks to a little rest. I have had similar experiences on some century rides since that first one, in fact,I can vividly recall a heck of a challenge it was to complete the “Wheels O’ Fire Century Cycle” ride in Georgia in the early spring in 2010, which happens to be the first century ride that Renaissance Man completed. It all depends on how hard I train leading up to an event. It’s true, every time. The more you suffer before the “big ride,” the easier that ride will be. Promise.
I am doing a little suffering right now, as I’m planning a big year in cycling. First I will ride in the Redbud Century ride in London, which is the first of four centuries I plan to complete in the Kentucky Century Cycling Challenge. Next, I plan to ride in the Assault on Mt. Mitchell in South and North Carolina, then back to where it all started for Horsey Hundred in Georgetown. Into the summer, I have several rides on the agenda. All with the knowledge in the back of mind: either suffer now, or suffer later, but it’s always worth it, if it’s on the bike!
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
Memorial Day weekend is always the weekend in which the Bluegrass Cycling Club hosts it’s annual Horsey Hundred bicycle ride in Georgetown, KY. This is the one ride that is always circled on my ride calender as “must do,” partially because it’s in my hometown, another part because I’m a BCC member, and mostly because I love the mass of cyclists that show up for two days of cycling from all over the country, some for their first time and others that are here every year.
This year I was able to ride the Saturday century route with a good friend Chris “Big Dog” Schmidt, the Dean of students at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY and one of his hometown friends Toby Young, a trooper on the KY State Police force. Both guys completed the challenging Iron Man Louisville competition last year, so I knew the pace would be fast, especially when they chose to start at 10:30 about 2.5 hrs behind the mass start. I’m pretty confident we were the last group out that planned to do the 104 mile route, but we certainly weren’t the last ones in, actually this was the first century I rode in that I was never passed by another rider.
This weather was perfect for cycling, it was a chilly morning in the fifties, but gradually warming into the upper sixties for most of the ride with good cloud coverage that often gave off a “comfortable cool” feeling, rather than warm or hot. Last year this event was torched by temps in the mid 90s, and many riders (myself included) suffered to the finish. Some routes were changed this year, and I enjoyed the new route through downtown Frankfort around the state capitol building. I also liked how the two longest routes (75 & 100) stayed together until the rest stop around mile 50, this gave riders a chance to go all the way or cut it short depending on how strong they felt. In years past, these routes had split much earlier, before you had a chance to feel tired.
The century route was beautiful scenery throughout as it rolled out of Georgetown heading southwest into Midway, then on to Switzer and passed the historic covered bridge over Elkhorn Creek. The route then touched the edge of Peaks Mill en route to the state capital Frankfort, before heading back to the east through Millville, around Versailles, and then turned north along Lexington as it journeyed through Keeneland horse racing track and back to the host campus at Georgetown College. Living up to it’s name, there were plenty of thoroughbreds and their remarkable barns behind miles of wood plank fences for our viewing pleasure.
The Horsey Hundred offers six routes on Saturday from 25 miles to 104, and then three more rides from 34 to 75 miles on Sunday, all fully supported with roaming vehicles and well stocked rest stops including tons of dill pickles! Needless to say, this is a cycling event for riders of any and all age and skill levels. While I got out and ran pretty fast with my buddies on the century route, a very nice memory for me was as I volunteered at the registration desk on Sunday morning and witnessing a father’s story about renting a U-Haul truck just to be able to pack his wife and their 6 children and all their bikes and gear to be able to do one of the rides after camping at the KY Horse Park. That is simply awesome, and that is exactly what the Bluegrass Cycling Club is all about: encouraging people to ride a bike! This is also the single event in which I see more variety of bicycles than any other ride, as I’ve witnessed numerous styles of recumbent, tandems, tri, hybrids, children, and even some mountain bikes to go with all the variety of road bikes. Another great memory came on Sunday morning as “Bucky the Bugler” played the famous “Call to the Post,” on his horn that he also blows at Keeneland Horse Track as a 50 year veteran, to signal the mass start for the riders heading toward Paris.
In my opinion, this event was an all around success, and continues to be one of my favorites, and definitely the one ride I know for sure I plan to do next year. Although I sometimes take the beautiful scenery of these roads for granted because I ride them so often, I can’t deny that this is my favorite place to cycle. Hats off to the coordinators, and all of the supporters, sponsors, donors, and especially all the volunteers. Another great weekend, another great Horsey Hundred, and for many others and myself, another leg of the KY Century Cycling Challenge accomplished.
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.
Redbud Ride in London, KY is cycling at it’s best. This event never ceases to amaze me, when it comes to the categories of friendliness, organization, beautiful routes, and awesome support. Every season, I find myself thinking I’ll try some different rides next year because there are great venues that I hear or read about, and financially I am somewhat limited on my “paid events” commitment. This is one ride that I just don’t think I can replace on my schedule. For several reasons. The timing is great, I always look for a big ride early in the season to help me train steady though the winter. The scenery is spectacular along the many winding roads along creek and river beds, not to mention the amazing redbud trees just beginning to blossom and the beautiful pink flowers they host. And probably most importantly, the fellowship. This has become like my cycling family reunion. I’ve invited new folks each of the last three years to join me for this ride, and for three straight years, new folks have showed up and ridden in all the various routes.
I was very pleased to be reunited with some strong cycling friends in Jim Simes from South Carolina and Chris Schmidt from Kentucky. This year we were joined on the century route with one of my wife’s cousins Jeremy Wheatley, along with numerous other friends that I regularly ride with in the Bluegrass Cycling Club. I was also excited to run into a couple brothers that I haven’t seen since third grade about 30 years ago, Darin (who was my best friend when I lived in Casey Co.) and Sean Cundiff. Both guys rode very strong finishing their first century at a pace around 19 mph. My dad Charles Pearl and brother-in-law Jamie Garrett also came back for their second consecutive Redbud. More near and dear to my heart, riding in her first organized ride event was my big sis Charlsie Garrett. She has come a long way since buying her first road bike less than a year ago and I’m so very proud of her. I think she probably enjoyed riding more than driving a SAG vehicle! I was simply amazed by Schmidty’s wife Becca Schmidt, who is one of my Skratch Labs Team L3 members as she completed 88 miles (parts of the 70 route and parts of the century route). She had signed up to do the 38 miles route, but proved she’s an endurance athlete like her husband. I hated that Tim Stout couldn’t attend but he’s made a commitment to becoming a deacon in the Catholic church, and for back to back years now, his monthly training weekend has conflicted with the Redbud schedule. Sorry Tim, but considering how awesome the weather has been the last two years, I hope they don’t change the date.
I’m not the only one singing the praises of the Redbud Ride in London, KY. I simply haven’t heard anyone with negative feedback and I’ve solicited several riders comments listed below to back up my statements. If I had any recommendations for the organizers of the event from this year, I guess I would say they could use a few more porta-johns at the busiest rest stops (but that’s every event I ride), and there was a very long line for food and drink refills at the stop at the top of Tussey Hill (didn’t affect me, but it did a lot of others).
“Could not have ordered better weather. Much more prepared than my first time riding Redbud in 2013. Beautiful day with a strong group of riders from Bluegrass Cycling Club. Pace was comfortable at @17 in a double pace line. Was glad to get the miles under my belt and pushed on the harder climbs in preparation for AOMM in May. The themed rest stops were well stocked and enjoyed the friendliness of the volunteers. Redbud was worth the day trip down to London from Lexington. There were more port-a-pots this year, but half for the men and half for the women. For the first time I can recall, I had to stand in line longer than the women. Maybe there could be a 3:2 mens to womens port-a-pot ratio :-). Looking forward to riding again in 2015 with the goal of hanging with Masher and his group.” -Linn Laborda (Lexington, KY)
“I just started cycling about 8 months ago, so the Redbud was my first century ride. Since this was my first organized ride of any kind, I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I can tell you that I enjoyed it so much that I’m already wanting to do another one. The weather was perfect, the course was beautiful and well marked, and I thought they did an awesome job organizing the ride. Can’t wait to do it again next year!” -Darin Cundiff (Liberty, KY)
“This was my first century, so I didn’t know what to expect. I had a pre ride feast of bourbon and a box of tagalongs the night before the ride. It was an awesome course. We finished it in less than 6 hours so I was happy.
> We will be back next year.” -Trevor Williamson (Louisville, KY)
“Watching my husband, father, and brother participate in Redbud 2013 inspired me to do the ride myself. Goal Accomplished! Redbud 2014 was my first organized ride and it did not disappoint. My riding crew opted for the 34 mile route. It was a beautiful ride on great roads with lots of wonderful cyclists. London is a wonderful bike friendly town. I’m already looking forward to next year’s ride. Goal is set to complete the 70 miles!” -Charlsie Garrett (Gravel Switch, KY)
I had requested comments from a few others but have not received their response yet. I highly welcome any other rider that has a comment or any feedback they would like to share to please do so. Simply click on the yellow quote button near the title and share your Redbud experience. Thanks in advance, for your comments! See you next April, Redbud Ride, and I’ll hopefully bring others again.