A rainy celebration of Lexington bike culture

Toddlers in trailers. Tykes on training wheels. Boys and girls on their first “real” bikes. Racers on titanium and carbon fiber. Grandmothers on cruisers. People of all ages and sizes on ancient Schwinns and Huffys.

They were all at Monday’s Bike Lexington celebration.

The downtown event was moved to Memorial Day this year to coordinate with the Bluegrass Cycling Club’s 32nd annual Horsey Hundred tour. That ride brought more than 1,700 cyclists from across the nation to ride Central Kentucky countryside on Saturday and Sunday.

Despite threatening weather, more than 700 people came out for the main event, a 10-mile family fun ride through downtown and the University of Kentucky campus. Toward the end of the ride, the skies opened and everyone got drenched. Nobody seemed to mind.

Many stayed through the rain for bike raffles and to hear Mayor Jim Newberry and Urban County Council member Jay McChord talk about how trails and bike lanes are a big part of Lexington’s plan to become the healthiest and most bicycle-friendly city in Kentucky.

But council members weren’t just speaking, they were riding. George Myers was pulling his 28-month-old daughter, Aubrey, in a weatherproof trailer. Doug Martin rode with his 9-year-old son, Reynolds. Chuck Ellinger, who racks up a lot of miles most weekends on the same model racer Lance Armstrong rides, was on a $10 garage sale Huffy.

Between rains, people watched races and a bike polo demonstration.

The bike polo teams had just returned from Dayton, Ohio, where they placed 4th and 8th among 27 teams at the 6th annual Midwest Bike Polo Championships. Bike polo started in Lexington about three years ago. Games are held each Sunday and Wednesday evening on four converted tennis courts at Coolivan Park.

A dozen groups had tents on the courthouse plaza, showing the diversity of Lexington’s bike culture.

One was Cycle 4 Sunday, a group organized by first-year UK physical therapy students to raise money for Surgery on Sunday, an outreach to needy people by Lexington’s medical community.

Another was Shifting Gears, a project of Pedal Power bike shop and Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

I did the family fun ride on a 25-year-old bike I bought last year with a donation to Shifting Gears.

Pedal Power, the main sponsor of Bike Lexington, takes donated bikes, refurbishes them and gives them to KRM, which distributes them to foreign refugees who have recently settled here. More than 100 bikes have been given away so far.

Pedal Power owner Billy Yates said he has another 200 donated bikes in his shop’s attic, awaiting repair by his mechanics and volunteers from the Pedal Power racing team. He’s looking for some donated storage and work space so he can get more of the bikes to refugees sooner.

“Bikes are like gold for these refugees,” said Katie Weber of KRM. “It provides a way to run errands, and it opens up so many doors for jobs. They can ride to work, or ride home or to work from the bus line.”

One popular attraction was Berry Pedalers, which lets people help make themselves a fruit smoothie on two blenders powered by converted bicycles.

“He builds the bikes and I tell him what color to paint them,” said Jarah Jones, an art teacher at Sayre School who runs the business with her husband, Shane Tedder.

“It’s a really fun way to get people thinking differently about food, power and transportation,” said Tedder, who is UK’s sustainability coordinator.

Berry Pedalers is a regular at the Lexington Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, selling bicycle-blended smoothies made from locally grown fruit and berries.

“Lexington has completely changed when it comes to bicycles,” Yates said. “Look at the diversity here; it’s amazing. You have families, kids, racers, commuters. The common denominator is bikes.”



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