RAM Cycling recently completed the Redbud Ride in London, KY. This was the 5th anniversary of this cycling event in southeastern Kentucky. Tim, the Renaissance Man, and Kevin, the Masher, both had been training since the start of 2012 for this and several other century rides that are on the wish list. We have done a pretty good job of taking advantage of the mild and moderate winter weather, and building our base for a busy cycling season.
Leading up to Redbud, all the talk with locals that had previously done it, and all the social media talk was positive and complimentary info. After having completed it, I have nothing but good things to say. I’m not personally a Facebook user, but on the night before the ride, I read some of the posts by others on Renaissance Man’s page regarding the Redbud Ride. I was anxious, with this being my first century of the season, and the thought of how bad the weather could turn out to be, I didn’t sleep very well at all.
Our ride started out by meeting Jim Simes from South Carolina for the first time in person. We have communicated via Twitter this year and he surprised me when I sent out a random tweet inviting followers to join us at Redbud or Horsey Hundred, by replying “see you at Redbud!” I’m also looking forward to meeting another twitter friend Adam Crowe from Kentucky at the Horsey 100. It was an honor to ride with Jim, who happens to have ridden over ten thousand miles in about a year while losing over 80 pounds! He destroyed us on the climbs and eventually pulled away and finished well before RAM Cycling. I gave Jim a bottle of KY Bourbon after the ride to take home as a souvenir from our great state, and he commented “The Redbud 2012 will be one to go down in books as a ride to remember.”
He’s absolutely right, and the following review of the 2012 Redbud is my random thoughts from a great ride, definitely one to remember! We pulled out of the London Farmers Market around 8am on the Red Route (100 miler), and the sky was gray, the air was cool, and we knew moisture was on the way. Around the 10 mile mark the 4 routes became 2 as the 25 & 50 milers turned right, while the 75 & 100 mile routes went left up our first climb. At that point, I was uncomfortably cool, but rapidly warmed up. This climb separated Jim, Tim & I for a while. Then came rain … it was a drizzle, then steady, and then it poured. I caught back up to Jim at a turn, where he stopped to put on some rain gear. We tried to talk, but it was more important to watch the road at this point, considering the heavy rains and unknown roads. He kept moving as we arrived at the first rest stop, but I was ready to stop for a moment. A few minutes later, Tim arrived saying, “Are you kidding me? This is crazy.” I played it off smooth by responding, “What do you mean?”
Inside, I was freezing cold, as I chose not to carry rain gear (extra weight in my mind at the start), but I saw frustration in his eyes, and knew he needed some motivation to pick him up. He had an abnormal work week leading up to Redbud having to work over 40 hours in a couple days as his company made some equipment changes at one of the mines they own, and now with the weather set in, he chose to continue on the 75 mile route. So I pushed off immediately, to try not to finish too far behind him. Still raining, I ventured through the beautiful Daniel Boone National Forest over some rugged terrain and difficult pavement that I know was complicated by the weather. My second stop was along the Rockcastle River with a local group playing true KY Bluegrass music in a gazebo! I spoke to several riders and volunteers, and then set back out following a guy from the area that actually told me we would pass by his house on the route. We reconnected with the 75-mile route, crossed a wooden bridge where we had to get off and walk across. Then I slowed to check on a tandem couple off the bike. The husband said “we are just taking some pictures” and the wife said, “We are not yet ready to turn right here.” I soon found out why, as I turned right myself and read the message on the pavement “Gear Down Baby!”
I had arrived at the infamous Tussey Hill, a climb that actually has its own Facebook page. Uhm yeah, I knew I was in for a work out immediately because it is one of those hills where it turns out of site from the bottom, so you don’t know what lies around the bend until you get there. As I made it up to the first turn it slowly tapered off with another bend ahead. Just as I made it through that sweep and caught my breath, the road went up. Straight up. I saw a sign near the top of this section, then I put my head down and just mashed the pedals and mashed until I could read the sign. It said “Congrats: 22% Grade!” As the road slowly began to flatten out again, I was struggling to catch my breath, and doggone it; we had more to go up. Up, up and away, I finally reached the summit, and know the toughest part of the ride was behind me. Shortly after peaking Tussey Hill, I arrived at my next stop.
Pulled pork BBQ sandwiches, and snacks, and beverages. I warmed up, refueled (regretfully, I passed on the BBQ), and headed back out behind a good friend from Frankfort that I ran into at the break. After a mile or so, I caught and passed him up, only to have him blow by me on a steep winding descent, the pay back from Tussey, but now with the rain steady again, I was timid. Moments later, I heard what sounded like “On your left” being screamed, and sure enough, a crazy female cyclist hauled past me, her bike was doing the wobble as she negotiated the slippery wet sweeps on the downhill. We all came together at the bottom, and I gave her props (I just knew I was going to witness a bad accident, glad I was wrong). They all turned off, as the red route forged straight, I spent the next 15-20 miles in deep thought, with soreness starting to set in on my legs, thanks to Tussey. Next stop was the official lunch stop, where I had a piece of Papa John’s pizza, and took twenty minutes or so to warm up. One of the volunteers approached me as I pulled in and asks, “Are you the Masher?” Stunned and surprised I answered, “Yes sir,” then he informed me that the Renaissance Man waited on me for a while at this stop, but went on and headed back out. It was nice to know he was doing well, since my phone battery had died.
Before I left the stop I ask an elderly gentleman cyclist if this was the last stop for the red route. He said “no, there’s one more at a turn, and then you hit a steep climb immediately after that.” I though to myself, how steep can it be? Surely my thoughts of steep were considerably different than his idea. I mounted up and took off feeling strong still, passing several riders. I did stop at the last stop, only to use the restroom, the caught another group of guys at the base of the elder’s “steep climb.” I felt pretty stupid about half way up it, when it took all my energy just to keep pushing the pedals. Near what I hoped to be the top, painted on the pavement was “20% Baby!” I told the guys in front of me “I hope that doesn’t mean where only 20% of the way up.” The elder cyclist spoke the truth, and the last 10 miles were tough as I was beginning to wear down both physically and mentally, I recall passing a family (a couple with several teen girls) all on mountain bikes, then I pulled back into town and strolled into the finish, very excited to be greeted by Tim the Renaissance Man along with his wife Kelly, and my lovely wife Maria just before 4pm!
What a feeling of accomplishment I had by completing the Redbud Ride, considering the rain, cold, breezy weather. I never once had a close call with a vehicle. I didn’t even get honked or yelled at. The ride was very well organized, with plenty of up front info leading up to the ride, SAG was awesome, I witnessed numerous vehicles on all sections of the route, all the turns were well marked, all the volunteers were very pleasant and overly friendly. The only disappointment I can report is that I didn’t get to see any of the beautiful Redbuds along the route, but that’s due to the fact that half the miles or more that I rode were behind rain drop covered glasses.
In closing, I am glad that I was able to ride in the 2012 Redbud Ride in London, KY. I would give the overall ride an A rating, and will highly recommend it to cyclist to try for 2013! Thanks Redbud, for a ride that will never be forgotten.
Stay tuned for more cycling event reviews coming in May. Tentatively on the upcoming schedule are Gran Fondo Louisville, and Horsey Hundred in Georgetown, KY! For questions or comments regarding RAM Cycling info, please feel free to contact us in the tab on the right hand column of this page.
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
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.