Tuesday, July 27, 2010


The  Association of American Retired Persons (AARP) featured an article on cycling in the July – August 2010 Bulletin. The article titled Biketopia covers the increase in American cyclists and how one town, Brunswick, Maine, has increased their cycling infrastructure resulting in an increase in ridership. There are also 5 helpful hints on how any community can become bike-friendly. Author Rob Gurwitt connects with numerous over 50 years old cyclists involved in the cycling culture around Brunswick. He reports that years ago Brunswick “made  a commitment that every middle-school-aged child should be able to bike safely anywhere in their town.” Episcopal priest John Balicki, 60, former Maine Department of Transportation bike/ped coordinator says “we're not there yet. That’s our next frontier.” It is refreshing and affirming to see that the elders of our generation are taking cycling to heart. It also shows the breadth of the cycling movement in America, i.e., you don’t have to be spandex clad roadie or a MTB flash to enjoy cycling! (Not that there’s anything wrong with it….)

For the on-line version and to see a well done video on the Brunswick bike path, visit Biketopia.


This past Saturday I had the opportunity to drive with Ken Howle, one of the coordinators for the inaugural Blue Ridge Breakaway, around the metric century route of the upcoming BRB. We were using multiple gadgets to get altitudes and mileage measurements for the route. It also gave me a chance to preview the route from the comfort of air conditioning!

We used a SPOT II, a Garmin Oregon 400T, and Ken’s Smartphone using an included maps program. The course had previously been mapped on MapMyRide by the event organizers. Our goal was to compare and contrast any differences we found. Well, to no one’s surprise, we did get differences in both mileage and altitude gain. The MapMyRide result had substantially longer mileage and greater elevation climb than any of the other programs. The SPOT II turned out not be very helpful because the points were “as the crow flies” and did not take into account the road’s twists and turns, which, of course, adds mileage. Our handwritten notes transferred to a spreadsheet matched up best with the Smartphone app used by Ken. We were relatively close in both mileage and elevation gain. We also made liberal use of Google Earth in post drive editing.

Regardless of which instruments was used, I can tell you that the organizers have laid out a very challenging route for both the century and the metric century routes. The metric century and century routes start at the open air gymnasium at Lake Junaluska Methodist Assembly and proceed west on US 19/276 before heading north on US 276. A right hand turn on to Coleman Mountain Road will feature the first climb of the day. Rides will peak out at 2870’ elevation before taking a winding descent to Iron Duff Road.

Turning left on Iron Duff, riders will have a descent to the Pigeon River (elevation 2463’) where the century riders will turn northwest toward Panther Creek and the metric century riders will turn east along Riverside Road. The century riders will proceed along 2 more climbs before getting to Fines Creek and a turn back southeast onto NC 209 and a long climb up the backside of Rush Fork Mountain. Metric Century riders will ride along the river to Crabtree Church Road and a climb up to NC 209 where the first water stop of the day occurs and the two rides rejoin.

Following a short pedal to Golf Course Rd. and Big Branch, both groups will then climb the Crabtree side of Hyder Mountain, which peaks at 2827’ after a climb up from 2492’ at the beginning of Big Branch. This side of the mountain is a longer climb but substantially lower grade than climbing up from the Clyde side of Hyder Mountain.

After descending Hyder Mountain, the riders will make their way to Clyde, NC along Hyder Mountain Road and then cross over Main St. and Carolina Ave. in Clyde. The next climb of the day is Stamey Cove Road with a peak elevation of 3040’ after a steep ascent featuring hairpin turns. This is part of the old Bele Cher race route from years ago although that route went in the opposite direction. From the peak, riders drop down to the Pigeon River again just above the town of Canton and make their way along NC 209 to Wells Road, which connects NC 209 and NC 110.

The second water stop of the day is planned for near this location. Riders will continue on south on NC 110 to the intersection of US 276/NC 110. The route crosses over to one of my favorite rides in the area and one I’ve written about many times – Love Joy Road. At the intersection of Love Joy and Lake Logan Road riders will make their way south toward Lake Logan and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Another moderate climb will greet the riders as they spin their way to the top of the ridge above the lake. At the bridge crossing the upper end of Lake Logan, a 3rd water stop is planned.

At this juncture, the century riders will continue on NC 215 (Lake Logan Rd) to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a long climb of another 10 miles or so. The grade picks up above Sunburst Campground and remains around 5% or so to about 2 miles below the BRP. The grade really jumps up the final mile before reaching the BRP at 5340’ elevation.

Century riders will turn south on the BRP and then climb to the highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Balsam-Richland (6052’ elevation) before dropping down to Balsam Gap (3340’ elevation) and then climbing another 7 miles to the top of Water Rock Knob (5722’ elevation). Following a descent to Soco Gap (4340’ elevation), riders will turn east on US 19 and return to Lake Junaluska Assembly.

Metric century riders will use the Lake Logan water stop as their turn around point and will retrace their way to Clyde including another climb over Stamey Cove before dropping back into Clyde. A slight change in route will include a return to Lake Junaluska and the assembly grounds via Old Clyde Road and then along South Lake Shore Drive before a very short segment along US 19. All riders return to the open air gym for the finish.

I was tired just thinking about these courses. It should be a great day of riding in beautiful Haywood County. Come for a visit and join us as we thrill in the climbs and descents of our very old, very beautiful mountains! To register and get more details, visit Blue Ridge Breakaway.


… and irritatingly timed! Our area has been visited by strong thunderstorms and heavy rains the last week. Unfortunately, they fire up just about “riding time”, which is the end of the work day for many of us. Last week’s BicycleHaywoodNC new riders group had to be cancelled due to inclement weather and my own ride yesterday was stopped due to thunderstorms. Today’s forecast looks worse than yesterdays. I need some miles under me so I can survive the Blue Ridge Breakaway. Maybe today – but probably not…

Until later,

- Zeke


Tracy W said...

What is it about these pop-up storms at quitting time? I've been battling them this week as well. Got wet the first two days, and more predicted for this evening.

I did figure out, though, that I don't melt when I get wet....

Unknown said...

I guess it is the heat of the day reaching it's apex coupled with the high humidity at that time. I started out yesterday o.k. for the first 10 miles and then got absolutely drenched over the next 4 miles. I had not planned a waterproof cover for my phone and camera but they seem to have survived. I guess a ziplock baggie will now be part of my "must have" riding equipment. I didn't melt either. Initially, I cooled down nicely but when my shoes filled with water, it became somewhat unpleasant. :) I packed my shoes with paper towels when I got home in hopes of drawing the moisture out!

Here's hoping you don't have storms today!

- Zeke