As London and Laurel County prepare for this weekend’s Redbud Ride, the finishing touches are coming together.
Up and down Main Street, the green banner with the redbud tree and a cyclist going upward adorn light poles, reminding and enticing people to be a part of the three-day event.
A pair of pink bicycles — painted that way in honor of the Redbud Tree — stand at the gates of the London Community Center at the corner of West Dixie and Main Street.
And across the street, crews were doing some clean up work Thursday morning at the start and finish of Saturday’s ride in London — the London-Laurel County Farmers Market.
The early registration has ended, and it’s time for the region to roll on.
“The Redbud Ride alone here in London’s expected to attract 1,300 to 1,500 cyclists from Kentucky and over 20 states. And the registration’s well ahead of last year’s pace. Right now, what we still need are volunteers, because we have lots of volunteer activities for them to choose from,” said Rodney Hendrickson, Co-Director of the London-Laurel County Tourist Commission.
One window Hendrickson — as well as other volunteers and organizers — will be watching is the weather, especially on Saturday when London’s Redbud Ride starts at 8 a.m. and continues into the late morning and afternoon.
As of Thursday evening, the National Weather Service Office in Jackson forecasted showers to move in from Friday night into the overnight hours. On ride day Saturday, there’s an 80 percent chance for showers and possible thunderstorms before 9 a.m., with showers and thunderstorms after 9 a.m. into the afternoon and early evening.
There is a slight risk of strong to severe thunderstorms on Saturday. Highs Saturday are expected to be between 65-70 degrees.
That wasn’t the case Thursday as a chilly morning gave way to sunny skies and milder temperatures. All that helped activities that got underway in London, including complimentary group rides led by the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club which began Monday and ended Thursday, as well as Thursday’s Leather and Spandex Party, sponsored by and held at Wildcat Harley-Davidson.
Friday’s pace picks up pretty fast as the first of three weekend bike rides begin.
The 3rd Annual Redbud Warmup will be Friday with registration at 10 a.m., and the ride starting at noon at Union College in Barbourville. Two route options will be offered this year that cyclists can choose from on the day of the event.
Also on Friday, the Redbud Ride Cycling Expo and Packet Pickup gets underway from 1-6 p.m. inside the London Community Center.
For those who don’t cycle and for out-of-town guests, the Redbud Pre-Ride Block Party will be held from 6-9 p.m. in downtown London. Organized and sponsored by the London Downtown organization, the block party will feature live music with food, beverages, retail sales and much more.
Early Saturday morning from 6-10 a.m., the London Community Center will host the Redbud Ride Packet Pickup, with the London Rotary Club holding their Redbud Ride Pancake Breakfast for all the cyclists in the ride from 6-9 a.m. at the London-Laurel County Farmers Market.
The Farmers Market is also the starting and ending point of the Redbud Ride, which begins at 8 a.m.
The ride itself is noted by Hendrickson as “the best scenery Southeast Kentucky has to offer, including one of the Top 10 Redbud sightseeing routes in Kentucky.”
Those cycling in the Redbud Ride will get breaks from their ride with newly-developed checkpoints along the route.
Unlike some cycling rides that are races, the Redbud Ride is just that — a non-competitive “ride,” according to Hendrickson.
“The tour is a hundred miles long, and it’s nationally-known as ‘The best century ride in America,’ according to active.com, a national fitness organization. Cyclists have five different routes to choose from. The shortest is 23 miles, while the longest, the ‘Big Red Route’, is 100 miles. Cyclists nationally call it a ‘Must Do Ride’ because of the scenery,” he said.
The Redbud Ride is also the first ride of what’s known as the Kentucky Century Challenge — a series of four 100-mile routes in the state, and among the most popular cycling runs in Kentucky.
The other three are the Horsey Hundred in Georgetown on May 23-25, the Preservation Pedal on June 20 in Frankfort, and ending with the Hub City Tour on Sept. 12 in Elizabethtown.
Cyclists who registered for this year’s Kentucky Century Challenge, complete the 100-mile Big Red Route at the Redbud Ride, and complete the other three Kentucky Century Challenge 100-mile rides, will be provided with a Kentucky Century Challenge jersey, free of charge.
While some of the Redbud Ride cyclists are still on the courses Saturday, the East Bernstadt First Baptist Church and Papa John’s Pizza will provide lunch. Live music and food will also be available at the Farmers Market during the Redbud Ride After-Ride Meal, as the cyclists finish their tour. All this takes place from noon until 7 p.m.
The London portion of the Redbud Ride weekend finishes up Saturday night with the Redbud Wrap-Up Party at Levi Jackson State Park from 7-10 p.m.
For those wishing to partake in one more ride this weekend, the Redbud Recovery, a light ride with few route options, will be held in Richmond at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Hendrickson pointed out the Richmond ride takes place so people from the Midwest can have another chance to ride their bikes on their way home, as well as a reason to stay in Kentucky for the weekend.
If you’d like to volunteer for London’s Redbud Ride activities, you can call Hendrickson at (606) 878-6900, or Molly Barnett of London Downtown at (606) 682-9803.