91 riders accept the Wild Ride challenge


After a year of training, Portsmouth’s Connex brought back its famous Wild Ride in Shawnee State Park event with a force, bringing out a tremendous amount of bicyclists who took the Shawnee forest and hills in stride as they competed against their own records.

The Wild Ride welcomed its third year with the event and Connex’s Wendi Waugh says that the event has been popular so far.

“We had 91 cyclists this year,” Waugh said with a smile in her voice. “It was a big jump from last year, which was around 67. We grew by over 30 cyclists, which is significant.”

Waugh explained that each route is named in dedication of Shawnee State Park and organizing the event has been a fun ride so far.

“All of the names of our routes are related to the nature and wildlife found in the forest and we are proud that we’ve added a family friendly one,” Waugh claimed. “It’s still a challenge, because anything in the forest is a challenge, but it is nice being able to offer an easier route. We’ve just been expanding every year, getting better every year.”

One unique feature of the ride is that the medals given to riders, which are edible.

“Depending on which route you do, you get a cookie for that route,” Waugh said. “So, you get to eat your prize. You’ll also get your commemorative mug to fill up with your favorite drink from the Portsmouth Brewing Company, which never disappoints and always brings in more people to visit Portsmouth.”

Waugh enjoys preparing for this event and planning new routes. She says that the event is laid out to guarantee bikers interact with each other as they all pedal their ways through their challenge. One reason she has so much love for the event is because of the location.

“In my mind, it is like the Shawnee forest is Scioto County’s version of own dedicated bike trail. There is minimal traffic, and, not only that, but you’re rolling through the forest. There are hills and trees and an atmosphere you can’t beat,” Waugh explained. “The other thing that is super cool, in the way that we’ve done the routes— whether you’re a Rattlesnake or Bear Cub or Bobcat Rider— you’re going to see other riders. You’ll pass them and they’ll be coming in different direction. It is just nice being able to see everybody enjoying their rides.”

The routes are a challenge, however, and Waugh says that it is a good idea to train for the moment. That aspect is another reason why she enjoys the event.

“This ride is a reason for people to train,” Waugh said. “We want to inspire people to move outdoors, and this event accomplishes that, because it gives them that incentive to train and prepare.”

Connex operates on two major missions: getting people outdoors and moving in a way that invokes community, but, also, something that some people may not expect. However, they excel at their mission of accomplishing both.

“We’re all about moving outdoors, but we are also about tourism and bringing people to this area,” Waugh said. “This event really relates to that mission, because it exposes people to Ohio’s largest and hilliest state park and we then encourage those people into town by giving them their mugs to fill at the brew pub, because want them to see Portsmouth as well.”

The event is the sole fundraiser for the organization and their largest event, with six optional routes available.

“This is the only event we charge for. We work so hard on it and spend a lot of time and effort making it the best event it can be. We arrange the mugs, the edible medals, map the trails, order jerseys; it is a big deal for us,” Waugh said. “It is absolutely my favorite event, though, and I will be riding. I rode the Rattlesnake last year and will do so again this year. I love the energy and the training and the forest. It is just a wonderful experience.”

Two of the routes are gravel, including the 34.1 mile Hawk path and the 62.8 mile Storm path. Four of the paths are paved, including the 9.2 mile Cottontail, the 16.5 mile Bear Cub, 30.2 mile Bobcat, and the 60.4 mile Rattler.

“It went fantastically. It exceeded all expectations on all levels. We saw one cyclist post that it is a top-ten cycling event that was expertly managed, the Shawnee Forest is absolutely beautiful. Another comment was that it is great, because it integrates road cycling with gravel cycling and there are no other known events that do that. I thought that was pretty cool. Some of the road riders were saying it was cool seeing gravel riders coming in and it saw two sort of groups of cyclists merging. We added the Cottontail route to encourage families and I have a really cool photo of Jess Waddell and her son Wyatt who participated as mother and son. He was wearing a Captain America shirt and I loved it, because I commented something like, ‘if you dream it, it may come, but you have to work towards it.’ He wants to be Captain America, but he is also willing to put in the work to achieve that.”

Waugh is also excited about the future.

We had our largest attendance ever. Each year, we grow in participation, growing at least 30 this year alone,” Waugh said. “Every year we grow, not just in attendance, but in offerings. I’m really excited about the future. Next year, we plan on adding a new forest critter and we’re considering calling it the Tick, which will be a 100-mile forest adventure. I don’t know exactly what we are going to say, but the tick bites, it sucks. Maybe the cookie medal will have some red icing inside. We’re going to have fun with it like we always do.”

The Wild Ride event is only one of dozens of events offered throughout the year by the organization to get people active in the community through bicycling, paddling, walking, hiking, and more. In the coming months, they have many events scheduled. Some of them include weekly Tour de Portsmouth rides, group hikes, the full moon kayak floats, and more. Follow them on Facebook for more information about their events.

The next Wild Ride is being planned for June 15, 2024.

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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