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London: Kentucky’s Cycling Capital

For cyclists, there’s nothing quite like beautiful scenery, challenging technical trails, and roads with very few cars on them. That’s why London has become a prime destination for road and mountain bikers from around the region.

“We have miles and miles of mountain bike trails in the national forest and in city parks around London and Laurel County,” says Josh Patton, cycling coach at Lindsey Wilson College. “We have miles of open rural roads that have rolling hills and make road riding just the best it can be for all levels of skill from new rider up to very experienced rider.”

For mountain bikers, the 5.5 mile Broken Spoke Trail at Levi Jackson State Park is a gem.

“When we built this trail, going into it, I knew that it would be a 100 percent voluntary effort,” says cyclist Keith Cottongim. “Nobody’s made a dime doing this, but having a place to ride is totally worth it.

“The way this trail system is laid out, you’re never a half-mile away from your vehicle,” Cottongim adds. “So there’s no need to pack extra water or a bunch of tools. If you have a flat or something happens, you’re always close to your vehicle.”

The trail has beginner-friendly options for newcomers, and has plenty to offer experienced riders, too.

“There are tons of turns. There are technical features. There are rooty sections, rock sections, and just enough to keep you entertained,” says Patton, who won a national championship when he was on Lindsey Wilson College’s cycling team. “It’s the perfect balance of whatever kind of riding you’re feeling for the day.

The Lauren Lake Trail System in the Daniel Boone National Forest provides mountain bikers a scenic location to practice on friendly trails.

“But attached to all that, you have technical riding, very advanced,” says Patton. “You would consider it black diamond. Very difficult rock drops and roots and the hard stuff. For training, this is a pretty good place to come.”

Laurel County is also a great place to be for cyclists who prefer the open road.

“It’s not unusual for us to go on a 30- or 40- or 50-mile ride and see two, maybe three motor vehicles,” says Peter Mitchell of Capitol Bicycle Company, a custom bike frame builder in London. “It’s really just a safe, wonderful place to be riding your bicycle and enjoy our magnificent countryside.”

The annual Redbud Ride attracts more than 1,000 cyclists to the Laurel County region every year. Participants can opt for distances ranging from 25 miles to a full century—a 100-mile ride.

“When you’re riding around our local areas, I would suggest that you take in part of the Redbud route,” says Mitchell. “We have a very famous hill. It’s called Tussey, and Tussey strikes the fear into everybody who hears the name around the area. The reason it’s so well known with the Redbud Ride particularly is that you hit it with 90 miles on the legs, so it is a strenuous climb.”

For cyclists who prefer a more leisurely experience, there’s plenty to enjoy on the roads near London.

“There’s a magnificent part of the Redbud route that runs along the Rockcastle River, and you’re inside the Daniel Boone Forest,” says Mitchell. “I get goosebumps every time I think about this route. We’ve got this beautiful rolling river on the right hand side, and the forest on the left hand side. For me it’s paradise.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life, season 25, episode 13, which originally aired on February 8, 2020. Watch the full episode.