The cyclists – more than 100 of them -- were taking part in the 14th Annual Labor Day Bicycle Ride, sponsored by the Georgia Rails Into Trails Society.
The ride began in Cedartown, Ga. and was broken into various sections – from a 10-mile ride to a 100-mile event -- for any level of participant. About half of the cyclists stopped in Piedmont before heading back to Cedartown, completing a 64-mile ride. Entry fees will be used to help maintain the section of Georgia’s Silver Comet Trail that runs through Polk County, volunteers with the nonprofit group said Monday.
On the Alabama side of the state line, the 102-mile bike path is known as the Chief Ladiga Trail. Cyclists Monday knew to ride carefully through Piedmont’s section of the Ladiga from Merrilton Road near Alabama 21 to the Cleburne County line, which will soon be resurfaced.
Event volunteer Bobby Parker said the rough patches of pavement in Piedmont are hard to miss.
“It’s pretty rough from the Cleburne County line on through Piedmont,” said Parker, who spent the morning at the welcome center, helping feed the cyclists.
The Piedmont City Council agreed in July to pay $51,631 toward the resurfacing work, with the federal government paying $402,680. Birmingham-based Karma Construction won the bid to compete the project at a total cost of $555,814. The contract states the work must be finished within 40 working days from the start.
Rough pavement or not, several cyclists said riding the trail is too good a thing to pass up.
It took Michael Gutenstein about 90 minutes to make the 38-mile bike ride from Cedartown to Piedmont. Gutenstein, who is from Mariette, Ga., said he’s ridden in the charity ride for several years, and said Alabama’s portion of the trail added a much-needed extension to the Silver Comet Trail.
“One of my goals is to ride the whole 102 miles from Smyrna to Anniston,” Gutenstein said.
Atlanta cyclist Scott Bazemore said riding in the rain Monday was tough. Speeds are about the same as a dry ride, he said, but eyeglasses get drenched. Tucking in behind another rider so as to dodge the headwind means a face full of muddy water from the rider in front's back tire, he said.
Despite the mud and muck, Bazemore, who normally rides at Stone Mountain, said some of the best scenery can be found on Alabama’s portion of the trial.
“It’s great,” Bazemore said, before heading back out into the rain. “You cross a bunch of rivers. Way more rivers than you cross in Georgia. It’s a good ride.”
Repaving could earn the trail even more good reviews.
“It’s already a popular trail,” said Jack Holder, director of the welcome center, but once repaving is complete, Holder said the biggest obstacle for cyclists looking to venture into Alabama on the trail will have been removed.
Star staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563 or on Twitter @burkhalter_star.