This past weekend, my parents headed up to Lake Chatuge for the weekend, so my wife and I (and my brother and his wife) headed up to spend the weekend with them. Normally, I do not bring the bikes with me on these trips because I rarely have enough time to ride dirt. However, this time I brought up the Blue Nx7 road bike and my trusty Garmin Edge 705 to lead the way for a great morning road ride. The road bike allows me to get out and ride on days where it might have been impossible. The ability to leave from the driveway and the added benefit of turn by turn directions with the 705 make it so that I can ride solo and get some miles in with a short time window.
After a quick post on a local forum, I had a gpx file uploaded to the 705 and I was ready to head out on my early solo ride. I hit the road at about 6:30 in the morning to beat the heat and be back in time for pancakes. Leaving in the early morning in the mountains is surreal. The fog is lifting off the lake and into the mountain range as the sun tries to break the clouds and rise. This situation creates a red and orange glow around everything as you hear your breath and heart pump out the pedal strokes. The early mornings in mountain towns are crazy quiet. You are really able to concentrate on the road ahead while at the same time clear your mind and enjoy the ride.
Circling The Bald – Brasstown Bald – Hiawassee, GA
I started off feeling fantastic and settled in for a spin. Having never done this route before (or any road riding in this area for that matter), I was not sure what to expect. All I knew was that there was going to be one long climb and a total of 3,000 of elevation gain. I tried to settle in a pace that would leave me with some in reserve in case I needed it. When you don’t know exactly where you are going, it is always good to leave some “getting home” juice in the tank in case something does not go as planned.
The ride started off on a large 4 lane road and eventually broke off onto the twisty mountain roads that circle this area. As I pulled off on the first turn, about 1/4 mile in I saw this scene to the right. The sun was just breaking the mountains so I had to stop and take a picture with my iPhone.
One of the beauties of riding by yourself is the ability to really enjoy being outdoors. You are your only competition as you spin through the mountains, so when you see things like this…you can really stop to enjoy it for a second. When you ride through the back roads of the north Georgia mountains, you get to see some houses, animals and junk cars that you really can’t see anywhere else. I would stop and take pictures of all of them, but then the ride would take all day. It is interesting to see the contrast in how people live out in the mountains. There is a drastic difference even between neighbors and that makes for an interesting backdrop as you continue your ride.
I continued to wind around the turn filled roads until I eventually came to the long climb that I knew was on the horizon. I used a combination of sit and stand climbing and kept a pretty good pace all the way to the top. I was actually up a lot faster than I thought I would be as I saw the Brasstown Bald sign slowly get closer. Once at the top, I took a quick picture of the bike and got ready for the descent. Right next the road, there was a sign that read…”steep grade…trucks use low gear”…so I knew I was about to have some fun.
And have fun I did! This was the longest, fastest road downhill I have done to date. With a top speed of a shy over 50 mph, I was entirely tucked and spinning out for several miles of s turn filled mountain road. I would have been able to tick the mph up a little bit more, but with my current gear ratio, I was tapped out. A larger big ring might be needed if I plan to hit more roads like this one. It really was a blast. Very rarely do I have to think on road downhills, but this time…I was picturing myself as a Formula 1 racer just ripping up the street. It was a great ride.
The rest of the ride back to the driveway was pretty bland in comparison as I road through the town of Hiawassee and back to the house. At the end of the ride I had completed 3,031 feet of climbing over 37 miles with an average moving speed of 17.3 mph. I was incredibly happy with the stats seeing as I was out there by myself without any draft.
I thought this was a mountain biking site!
I know what you are thinking…why the hell is he out on this skinny tired machine so much these days? As this ride has proved, the road biking I am putting in lately has drastically improved my endurance for all aspects of cycling. Several months ago, there is no way I would have been able to complete this ride in that amount of time. The time I have been spending on the road bike has brought my mountain biking to new levels as I have a much bigger endurance base to pull from and this allows me to pull off tech riding on the mtb much easier. Ever have those rides that you wish you could have hit those last dh’s harder or those technical obstacles late in the ride, but you were just too tired to do it? Road biking can bring your endurance to the point that you are hitting those trail features just as hard at the end as you were in the beginning. That was my goal with the light, skinny tired sled and so far…it is paying off in spades…