The first Tour took place on the weekend of May 20 and 21, 1972, cost $12 per person and covered accommodation at Queen’s, breakfast, Hershey chocolate bars and a crest. Eighty riders departed Ottawa and 65 returned the next day. The luggage truck was the organizer’s Land Rover; there were no sags and it was truly a tour for the hardy and experienced cyclists. Early sponsors included Benson and Hedges and Labatt Brewing Company.
In 1979, it was the first year when Tour registrations exceeded 200. In 1981, for the 10th Tour, registrations had increased to 264 and the fee increased to $40.
In 1984, computerized registration was introduced and the Sportif route (now the Challenge) was added to give the hardiest riders an even greater test. It was the second year for the XM49ers communications group to support the tour and although renamed the ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service), it is the same group of dedicated people who are crucial in their assisting us to make the tour safe and smooth.
In 1998, we introduced a shorter Tour starting in Perth to give less experienced riders an opportunity to become part of this great event and make it easier for those who no longer could or wanted to ride the full tour. With the introduction of this option, we changed the names of the routes to Classic (the original route) Challenge (longer and unsupported) and Casual for the new start.
In 1996, celebrating the 25th running of the Tour, we offered a special commemorative Tour jersey to riders and many of them still proudly wear it.
In 2000, to once again give riders a new challenge and new scenery, we added the unsupported route through Merrickville, called the Cruise.
In 2011, we celebrated the 40th Tour with registrations having increased to 2000 riders , 4 routes, full tour and ride-only options. With a group of about 80 dedicated and hard working volunteers, the ARES communication group, mechanics, OPP support and approximately a dozen loyal sponsors, we have reached yet another milestone.
While we are talking about Tour support, we should mention Mike Plummer, who was for many years the chief mechanic for the Tour and came to the rescue of many, many riders. Mike died in 2020 after a prolonged illness
The Tour is an event to meet like-minded riders to share the roads, an opportunity for especially the out of town riders to enjoy our scenic routes, small towns and make sure that all 2 or 4 wheel users are safe. This is an event to smell the roses and to socialize with riders you would never see otherwise – it’s not a race. Over the years we have seen many friendships formed and whole families participating which makes the Tour weekend such a unique event.
In 2020 and 2021, the Tour’s long-standing streak was put on pause by the global COVID-19 pandemic. While a traditional event could not be hosted in these two years, a special event known as the RLCT 50-for-50 took its place. This event represented 50 Rideau Lakes-inspired routes on the 50th anniversary of the Ottawa Bicycle Club. From June to August 2021, cyclists could select from a library of 50 curated rides starting or passing through all the cities, towns and villages that have made the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour special and ride these routes on their own schedules and with small OBC member-only bubbles.
In 2023, the 50th edition of the RLCT event will take place on July 29 and 30. To celebrate this moment, the RLCT veterans that have done the most number of tours over the tour’s 50-year history have been awarded with a life-time free pass to any future RLCT events!