02

Blog

Alabama’s Billy Ritch

Read how a 32-year smoker transforms into a bike hero!

Billy Ritch found health, community, and joy the day he ditched the cigarettes and bought a bike.

Billy Ritch is well known in Alabama’s cycling community. Over the years he and his wife, Stephanie, founded and headed for 5 years the Restoration Ride, which was one of the century rides included in Alabama’s popular Backroad Series.  Billy also runs “Cycling Alabama” a large and growing Facebook community devoted to all things cycling in Alabama.

Billy recently retired from Northrop Grumman during which time he worked in the Bio-Hazard Division.  His work required a good deal of travel, and on one road trip about 11 years ago from Montgomery to Birmingham, he had a chance to speak to one of his co-workers and friends who enjoyed riding bicycles.  Billy said that at that moment, he just decided that he needed a “fresh start” and he decided to make a lifestyle change. He purchased a bicycle from Wal-Mart and began cycling.

Billy lives in Cook Springs and his initial goal was to ride 2-3 miles in his neighborhood.  From there, he decided to ride to Leeds and back – a round distance trip of 14 miles. Then, he decided to ride to his in-laws house and back, close to 60 miles.

Soon thereafter, he decided to upgrade his bike.  He describes going to Cahaba Cycles “with a Marlboro in his mouth,” and purchasing a Trek 2.3 (which he still owns and rides today, along with 4 other bicycles).  He had been a smoker for 32 years, but after purchasing his new Trek, he has not smoked again. “Fresh start” and “lifestyle change” made good.

In less than a year since he took up cycling, he rode his first century – the 2010 Tour de Cure.  Billy said that he was amazed at how fast he was able to ride when he was in a group with other people.  His typical speed riding alone had been 12-13 mph, but he averaged right at 16 mph on his first Century Ride.  After that, he says he was hooked – not so much on riding fast – but rather, riding long and enjoying the adventure of being on a bicycle.  

He has ridden 34 centuries in the Alabama Backroad series alone. And, he has spent lots of time riding and camping out.  He tried getting his wife interested in cycling (she is an avid hiker) and although she gave it a try, it wasn’t for her.  Neither was their attempt at tandem riding which he says resulted in now having a tandem bike with less than a 100 miles on it.  So, they often vacation together where he can ride and she can hike.

Billy also is well known for his barbequing skills.  He has prepared barbeque for several hundred riders at a number of centuries, including the Restoration Ride and the Birmingham Bicycle Club century.  Although he says that he is tempted to turn his cooking passion into a business, thus far he has resisted that temptation as he relishes the freedom to cycle and travel when and where he likes.

Billy is optimistic about what is going on in Birmingham’s cycling community.  He views Anniston as the most progressive cycling city in the State, but he believes that Birmingham is making strides in becoming more cycling friendly.  Billy views events like Hammerfest, which brings bicycle racers from across the nation to Birmingham in a few short weeks (March 14-15 2020), as a positive for the community.  He thinks that the increase in local trails is a positive. Whatever it takes to get more people on bikes is a positive in Billy’s opinion as the more people riding, the more people in cars will accept cyclists (since they will have friends or family members who regularly ride bicycles).  Hence, although he hasn’t yet added an E-bike to his collection of 5 bikes, he does believe that E-bikes are a positive as they allow more people to gain the pleasure of riding.

 

Comments

Biking After COVID 5
Ann Groninger May 28, 2020

What will biking after COVID be like? Before COVID, it seemed like there was a handful of people in my city who rode bikes to get places, and we all knew each other. We’ve always had a robust recreational road riding community of people who gather after work and on weekends to head out to […]

Read More
Bike Advocate
Bruce Hagen May 26, 2020

If you’ve ridden a bike anywhere in Atlanta, chances are you’ve met Atlanta bike advocate Angel Poventud.  If you’ve stopped for a post-ride beer, been to an important advocacy event, or to any major Atlanta gathering, chances are you have met Angel Poventud.   It may only seem that Angel is everywhere, but when you […]

Read More
Bicycle accident lawyer group riding in COVID
Kurt Holzer May 15, 2020

Idaho’s Governor Little has issued the State’s planned staged transition away from his Stay-at-Home health order.  Road cyclists continue to wonder how we should engage in group riding under COVID. As a bicycle accident lawyer who deals with the negative aspects of cycling, I have been thinking a lot about when and how to ride safely […]

Read More
Felix Mayer Cyclist killed by car. NO VRU law
Bruce Hagen Apr 30, 2020

On May 1, 2020, the City of Dunwoody’s new Vulnerable Road User (“VRU”) ordinance will take effect, the first such law to be enacted anywhere in the State of Georgia.  Hopefully neighboring municipalities like Sandy Springs, Roswell and Chamblee will follow suit, and more importantly, the State of Georgia.   VRU laws recognize and prioritize […]

Read More
Minnesota Cycling
Daniel Brazil Apr 23, 2020

On March 6, Minneapolis released a 252-page Transportation Action Plan. The plan’s ultimate goal is to expand transportation options for those walking, biking and taking public transit to get where they need to go.  Through this expansion, Minneapolis hopes to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, lowering greenhouse gas emissions. One of the […]

Read More
Bike to Work Corona
Daniel Brazil Apr 14, 2020

Not long ago, I published a post highlighting the great efforts being made by the co-chairs of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition. One of the co-chairs, Andy Singer, has garnered attention not just for his work for the Coalition but for his policy-based cartoons.  I asked Andy if he’d oblige to another interview to highlight […]

Read More
Load More