Beautiful Southern Ride

leaving out on the BSR

leaving out on the BSR

Lets compare a couple of area bike rides.  There’s the Beautiful Southern Ride (BSR), which I did yesterday and the Tour de Corn (TdC), which is held in June every year.  The Beautiful Southern Ride has been run for around the same amount of years, but they are both pretty much the same thing.  Family fun charity rides with 30/60/100 mile routes.  The big difference between the two rides is that the Tour de Corn has become one of the most popular rides in the Midwest drawing crowds of riders and over a thousand official sign ups, while the Beautiful Southern Ride barely has around a hundred rides and you’re likely to see 5 of them on the ride.


Our group for the 100K.

Our group for the 100K.

So lets start with the terrain.  The BSR is held in Carbondale IL and quickly heads north in the Shawnee National Forest and begins following the wine trail as it snakes around scenic backroads.  It goes through some small towns, forests, orchards, vineyards, and eventually makes its way to Makanda and Giant City State Park which are really beautiful areas and some of my favorite riding anywhere.  There was around 5000 feet of climbing on the ride, and almost zero straight or flat roads.  It’s rolling hills, broken up by the occasional 300 feet climb.  A very fun and awesome course.

Now Tour de Corn couldn’t more opposite.  It starts in East Prairie Missouri, which is akin to the middle of nowhere and it rides through a bunch of corn fields for 60 miles.  There is not a hill in sight, there’s really nothing in sight other than cornfields.  You go through one nice small town and then BOOM, more cornfields.  The only hill is the interstate overpass.  You can ride for long stretches at a time without even looking at the road.  It’s not a real exciting course unless you like cornfields.


At the Von Jakob sag stop.
At the Von Jakob sag stop.

The BSR takes place in early April, its often, some combination of cold, wet and windy.  This year the weather was nice,  cool, but not cold, light wind, and dry.

The TdC takes place in June, the weather is almost always perfect, though the flat terrain can lead to some killer headwinds.




Next lets talk about the start.  The Beautiful Southern Ride doesn’t have a mass start, you can begin anytime between 7 and 9 AM, they only ask you to plan to be finish by 4PM.  You could very easily do this ride and never see another rider, with a two hour window, and 100 riders on the course, you might as well just go ride by yourself.

Thirteen years ago a friend named Mike who used to come over from East Prairie MO. and ride with Snake and me in the Shawnee Hills decided to put together a charity ride for his tiny town.  He asked Snake, who was really into doing these Charity tours, “what makes a good charity tour,” and Snake replied, “A mass start, like a parade for the first mile, make it seem like a big deal.”  And so Mike did just that.  The Tour de Corn starts with a mass start on the street, the national anthem, local guest stars, and then a grand marshall who leads out the ride for the first half mile.  It makes it seem like a real big deal.

Sag Stops

At the Giant CIty Stop

At the Giant CIty Stop

The BSR had two sag stops and they were pretty weak stops, The first year that I had done the ride there was practically nothing at the stops, this year they had some bags of snack mix, granola bars, bananas and water, so a big improvement.  But at one stop 4 of us arrived to see one single banana on a table, it was a tense situation!  Seriously you could buy like 200 bananas for the price of a single entry.  A lady did some excellent cookies and some bananas were brought in right about when we left so you can’t say there weren’t trying.  And they were very friendly.

The Tour de Corn, has legendary sag stops, and far more then most rides have.  They have all kinds of snacks, food, and so much you don’t have to worry about taking food from another riders mouth.  They have music at some of the stops, and of course the legendary corn on the cob.


After ride pose.

After ride pose.

The BSR only charges 15 dollars per entry, that’s pretty much the lowest price for a bike tour you’re going to find anywhere.

Tour de Corn charges 20 dollars for an early entry and 25 on the day of the ride.  That’s a great deal for all they offer.


The BSR offers absolutely nothing other then a course map.  No T-shirt, no stickers, no nothing.  Not really a big deal to me since I don’t need anymore ride shirts.

The TdC offers a swag bag with all manner of little gifts.  Stickers, booklets, maybe even a letter opener.  They have both a jersey and T-shirt you can buy.  The T-shirt features the work of a local artist and is always very nice looking.



The start of the 2011 Tour De Corn.

So what kind of conclusions can we draw from this.  There are many reasons why Tour de Corn has grown ten times larger and the Beautiful Southern has not grown at all.  When people go to rides they want to feel as if they are really doing something.  The first TdC had about a 100 riders, the next year it was closer to 200.  It just keeps getting bigger.  Lets face it, many of the people that do these rides don’t want to go out and struggle up hills all day, they prefer the flat and deserted cornfields of the Missouri Bootheel, but there are people out there who are looking for a challenge.

There were a group of three guys who had drove all day Friday from Northern Indiana because they wanted to ride in challenging hills.  There are people who want a challenge.  My advice for the Beautiful Southern Ride is to change the format to something like a Grand Fondo.  Have an official start time and have all riders record their finishing time then publish the results.  Quit skimping on the food, buy some more cookies, sit the stuff out.  if you buy to much take it home.  Make up some stupid names for some of the hills and talk all year about them.  Who can handle the Hickory Ridge Hammering, the Makanda Meltdown!  Hell, change the name to the Hickory Ridge Massacre.

Hmm… Maybe that’s not the vibe they are going for, either way the mass start and the stops would go a long way to improving the ride.


About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
This entry was posted in Barn Door Cycling, Reviews, Rides. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Beautiful Southern Ride

  1. Jim Russell says:

    I noticed a drop in attendance for most of the charity rides last year. The Tour de Hope normally has about 100 riders, but last year they may have had 50 riders. Tour de Shawnee has been quite popular over the years with about 250 riders, but last year about 75 riders took part; weather was cold and windy though. Not sure if it was the weather, people just don’t want to pay to ride on public roads or a poor economy. Will see what this year brings.

    • Matt Gholson says:

      I know the economy has a little bit to do with it because people are fleeing this desolate area and the upwardly mobile people who are looking for better opportunity are the most likely to want to cycle. Still a ride with a good reputation will draw in a crowd I think, especially if the weather is good.

  2. lragan87 says:

    I don’t think its people not wanting to pay. I’ve done charity rides where there are thousands of people and the entry fee is around $100 (and the one in georgia was in the middle of no where). they had a crit race the night before charity ride. I think matt is right about naming and timing people on the hills. The two biggest rides i’ve done they had 2 or 3 hills times and awarded people with king of the mountain t-shirt and a cheap $20 trophy and people go crazy over it. Took me a sec to get the BSR thing, maybe dumb down the next post for me..

    • Matt Gholson says:

      Luke, I worried someone wouldn’t get the BSR TdC thing.

      I think 6 Gap is the perfect example. Who would care to go ride that if it wasn’t such an EPIC CHALLENGE! Need to get a 20 dollar trophy for the next Dirty South

  3. drtlmyers says:

    Matt, you make some excellent points. I consider myself an intermediate rider. I have ridden many of the local rides: Tour de Cure, Superman Ride, Tour de Corn, Cotton Ramble, Tour de Shawnee, etc. Still, I would not ride the Beautiful Southern because it intimidates me. My understanding is there is only one ride route: the advanced route. Without some shorter and flatter routes then you won’t see many of the intermediate, beginner and family riders which are a large part of most charity rides. Just some thoughts.

    • Matt Gholson says:

      Thanks for the comment, I’m sure I’ve seen you on a ride. The BSR does have a 30 mile option, but I wouldn’t really call it family friendly. They only had 4 people attempt the 100 mile route, they should ditch that maybe and add a 15 mile option

  4. Chuck M says:

    A mass start is a lot of fun. I did the Tour De Donut last year and there were around 1500 participants. Staunnton host a BBQ contest the same weekend as the ride/race and the first part of the ride goes through downtown and through the BBQ contest.

  5. Kate says:

    What you’re saying makes sense as far as possibly drumming up more riders, but the BSR sounds waaaay better to me than the Tour de Corn.

  6. Ric says:

    I rode the BSR a few years back preparing for RAGBRI. My first and last time to ride this ride in its current format. You sign in they give you a map you leave and that’s the pretty much the most effort the organizers put into it. The first rest stop at the Pamona winery consisted of a 5 gallon cooler of warm water and some powder gator aid mix with a guy sitting in a truck reading the news paper. I’ve also ridden the TDC on several occasions and will continue to ride this ride. It may not be the most scenic ride but they give it their all and they show their appreciation for your attendance. I can do what the BSR offers on my own. The TDC is fun day where you can meet, make and ride with new friends. As mentioned above their rest stops are second to none. Its simply what each person wants out of an organized ride.

  7. Gordon Lyell says:

    I totally agree. I ride 6,000 to 8,000 miles a year on my road bike. I like to do the Charity rides, and I have my favorites. I just stick to the rides around here. But your right, the BSR just doesn’t have that organized or charity ride feel. Everybody leaves when they want, you get back sign out and quietly go back home. The SAGs are always low and like you said if your not riding with a friend you may never see any body.

    I do like the Tour De Hope in Marion. It’s a better run ride I feel. One of my favorites is the Kiwanis Ride at Rend lake. I’ve done all three of these rides the last 3 years ( BSR / TDH / Kiwanis ). Iike the previous poster said, the number of riders seems to be dropping every year. I have also noticed that I don’t see as many riders out on their bikes as I did a couple of years ago. I know of at least 5 of my friends that got into riding have now quit.

    I hope the organized / charity rides will grow, but I sort of have a feeling they may not. I look fore ward to them every year, but sometimes it’s a let down. It’s such a simple thing, but the T-Shirt and the mass start all go a very long way. Because it lets people feel that not only are they helping a good cause, they get more, and are part of something that feels like a big deal. Most of us are not racers, ( I’m not at 47) but the mass start makes it feel sort of like the start of a race would feel.

    Also, I have to address the one thing that people have told me. that is the Bike Snobs that do charity rides. I can’t count the number of people that have told me that they felt bad and stupid because some hot shot or hot shots all dressed the same made comments about their bikes or what they were wearing. Comments like if you didn’t spend at least $3,000 on your bike your just a beginner. Things like this have turned people away from doing these rides. Now I know you can’t stop them, but they should have more sense than that. I want to get people into cycling not drive them away. I ride a $1,200 bike and most people call it an entry level for beginners. Well, I don’t have that kind of money and I,ve been riding road bikes since 1975 when I was 9 years old.

    But anyway, I hope these rides continue and start to grow.

    • Matt Gholson says:

      I rode the TDH one time in the rain and it was a better ride then the BSR and had more riders even in the rain. The Kiwanis ridehas improved alot since they moved it to Rend Lake, they do a good job with it. I really recomend the Tour de Corn if you want to experience the closest quality ride.

      My bike is a 700 dollar CAAD9 which I put a few different parts on. Bicycling gear is mostly a big joke designed to take money from people who have too much. The pro’s were just as fast on 20 pound steel bikes with 10 gears. Anybody who makes stupid comments about someone else’s bike or gear not being good enough is a loser. I on the other hand will go the other tend to joke about people I see on rides in full aero gear, or with pro level race bikes doing 16 mph on a charity ride, but I’d never say anything to anyone’s face.

      The only time anyone has ever said anything rude to me was on the Superman ride in Metroplois back in the mid 90s. I was riding without a helmet because back then I didn’t even have a helmet and most people I rode with didn’t either. The ride didn’t require helmets though I think everyone wore one. This asshole on an Italian bike yelled at me for not wearing a helmet and talked to me like I was a dog.

  8. Gordon Lyell says:

    I have a friend that I ride with on occasion and he has a CAAD 9. He just loves it. I rode it and I think it’s a great bike. I’m not sure how much he paid for it, because he got it used but it looks almost new. I have a Cannondale CAAD 8 (2012 model) I got new for $650 on a year end clearance sale. This bike is only 2 pounds heaver than a carbon frame. I also have a 2009 Giant Defy I paid $525 new for. Last year I purchased a Schwinn Seneca Road Bike I found at a Pawn Shop. I paid $50 dollars for it, it looks new and I’ve put over 4,000 miles on it with out one problem.

    I just love Cycling, I’ve been doing it since 1975 and I don’t see myself stopping until I get to old to ride, develop a health problem, my knees give out or I get hit by a driver not paying attention. I love the way cycling makes me feel, the freedom of it and of course all the health benefits of it.

    I agree with you on the bike snobs that say things to other cyclists they think are beneath them. I have never been that way. I don’t care if you have a $5,000 bike or a $20.00 yard sale bike. If you ride a Mountain Bike, Road Bike, hybrid or any other. Any one is welcome to ride with me. I don’t put any one down because of their ride or what’s on their bike or what they wear. Cycling is a great sport, hobby or whatever or how ever they may see it. I try to get as many as I can into Cycling. I try to answer all the questions I possibly can. I want any one that rides with me to feel at ease and enjoy their self. I know you are the same way, and I raise my cycling water bottle to you.

    If I’m riding with someone and they can’t ride as fast as I can, I don’t speed up and drop them. I’ve had that done to me many times over the years and it’s not a fun or good feeling. I try to promote a positive image of a cyclist, and I hope the person I come up on gives me the same courtesy.

    I’ve been reading some of your blogs, and I think you feel the same way about cycling as I do. Maybe on one of these rides, we will run into each other. I mostly ride from Herrin to Carbondale and around Wolf Creek at Crab Orchard. I sometimes ride down Little Grassy road to Spillway road. Rode to Giant City quite a few times. My average road ride is around 35 – 40 miles four or more times a week. So, thanks for letting me post, and commenting on my post. So, stay safe, ride well and healthy. and wear your Road ID. I’m already signed up for the Rend Lake ride in August, so I may see you there. Thinking about doing the Superman ride, but not sure yet.

    Take it easy The G Man

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