Annual Rock N Ride draws cyclists to Cleveland

Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce CEO Jim Carson and Cleveland Asst. City Manager/Finance Director Bobby Pennington teamed up to create Rock N Ride a couple of years ago. Pennington is an experienced cyclist, so he was able to coach the Chamber on ways to create a successful bike ride that would bring in visiting cyclists from across the region.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Only in its second year, the Greater Cleveland Chamber of Commerce’s annual Rock N Ride on Nov. 9 had 80 participants sign up for the 51-mile ride through the beautiful Sam Houston National Forest outside of Cleveland.

“They came from all over. We had cyclists from Austin, Houston, Dallas, Katy, Sugarland, Missouri City and other cities to come to Cleveland for the ride,” said Chamber CEO Jim Carson. “Everyone said the scenery was great. We had one guy, who rides all over Houston, say this was one of the best rides he’s been in.”

The Chamber moved this year’s Rock N Ride gathering point from Stancil Exposition Center to CBS Furniture on Washington Street, just a couple of blocks from the start of the course that took cyclists north on FM 2025, northwest on FM 945, northeast on Butch Arthur Road, west on SH 150, east on FM 2666 and then south again on FM 2025.

“It was a great route,” said Cleveland Asst. City Manager and Finance Director Bobby Pennington.

Pennington, a cycling enthusiast, was a driving force for the creation of the ride from the time he served on the Chamber Board of Directors. The ride on Nov. 9 was the first for Pennington in two years as he was injured in a cycling accident and took time to recover.

He believes the ride is a good draw for Cleveland as Houston-area cyclists have fewer events in which to participate than other big cities in Texas.

“You will find that Dallas is more of a cycling town and Houston is more of a runner town. Dallas has a lot of good cycling events and Houston doesn’t, so for the cyclists in the Houston area, this is a good ride,” Pennington said.

As word spreads through the cycling community, Pennington and Carson believe the event will continue to grow.

“I think it’s going to be even better next year. Word will get out that it is a great ride. The feedback that we are getting from these folks is they are going to tell their friends about it,” Carson said.

Rock N Ride provides cyclists with an opportunity to see some of the good that the Cleveland area has to offer, Pennington said.

“They get to experience a town. I’ve learned more about Texas while running and cycling,” he said. “Once we get this going with about 300 riders, then we can start adding more events to it.”

An up-and-coming band called Kaleidoscope Project wowed attendees at the Rock N Ride bike ride on Nov. 9 in Cleveland. Band members left to right are bass guitarist and vocalist Katherine O’Brien of Atascocita, lead guitarist and lead vocalist Zachary Kole Johnson of Spring, drummer Nicolas Schultz of The Woodlands and lead guitarist and vocalist Sadie Williams of Conroe.

Melissa Lanier, Rock N Ride chairperson and a former Chamber board chairman, believes that simplifying the event was key to its success this year.

“Last year we had 48 cyclists and this year we had 81. The more people hear about this ride, the more will sign up next year,” she said. “Our first Rock N Ride had too many things going on at the same time. We had activities for kids and the concerts, and the weather played a part last year as it was cold, wet and miserable. This year we decided just to focus on the ride and music.”

The decision to simplify also helped the Chamber trim expenses. Last year, the Chamber spent thousands on a stage and multiple bands. This year, they invited just one band – Kaleidoscope Project – to perform, and the band, made up of young, up-and-coming artists, kept the music rocking throughout the day.

“We found out that we don’t need all those expensive bands. We just need one good band,” said incoming Chamber Board Chairwoman Victoria Good.

Rock N Ride was made possible through partnerships with Emergency Hospital Systems, Ann Vickery and Associates, Attorney Melissa Lanier, City of Cleveland, Livingston-Cleveland Pediatric Clinic, Austin Bank, Vulcan Materials and CBS Furniture.


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