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Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway

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Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway

Old 05-03-09, 08:27 AM
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gorshkov
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Riding the Blue Ridge Parkway

I'm in the process of planning the route for a cross-country tour, and I was wondering if anyone here has ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway before. Are the shoulders good? How is the car (and RV) traffic on it in late summer? Any other thoughts you have are welcome. Thanks.
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Old 05-03-09, 08:47 AM
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It is great riding. We were there in late August of 2007 and traffic was light. There are no shoulders, but slow traffic and wide lanes. Expect some rain and fog and have lights for that and for the tunnels.

Places to stay on the Parkway are fairly widely spaced and going off the parkway usually means steep climbs back up to the parkway, so plan carefully there.
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Old 05-03-09, 08:57 AM
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This may be of interest "Bicycling the Blue Ridge Parkway".

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Old 05-03-09, 10:04 AM
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Make sure your in good shapes. The uphills are long and steep
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Old 05-03-09, 11:34 AM
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This page has 4 links to information about bike touring on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Ray
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Old 05-03-09, 11:52 AM
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Anytime but October when the leaves change and we're overrun by the tourists. LOL. I'm just north of the entrance to Skyline Drive.

It's a lot of climbing, and the prevailing winds are predominantly from the SW. It's not a bad road to ride, but it's not close to much civilization, which is the point of it also. Does however make it challenging to restock supplies.

It's not a place to learn touring, it'll turn you off of it quickly.

-R
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Old 05-03-09, 11:58 AM
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I have ridden stretches around Peaks of Otter in Va and Mt Airy in NC with an unloaded bike. It's a beautiful road to ride on.

HOWEVER, as staehpj1mentioned, there are very few places to sleep, eat, or buy supplies on the Parkway. You need to carefully map out where you intend to start and end each day to make sure you can make it.

In general, the gradient stays below 8 % so you don't need stupid-low gearing, but the climbs get longer as a result. One of my favorites is 3300 vertical feet in 12 miles climbing up from the James River. This climb is continuous - no flat spots to recover.

There are books out there to help with planning out a Parkway tour. Planning needs to be more meticulous because of the severely limited number of places to get supplies.
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Old 05-03-09, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by lifeguardsteve View Post
This may be of interest "Bicycling the Blue Ridge Parkway".

Excellent book. Highly recommended.
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Old 05-03-09, 07:57 PM
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Thanks for the help. The steep hills to get back on the parkway are good to know about. So is the planning side, because my usual touring style is to get up in the morning and pick a town about 100 miles away for that day's destination.
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Old 05-03-09, 09:21 PM
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Originally Posted by gorshkov View Post
Thanks for the help. The steep hills to get back on the parkway are good to know about. So is the planning side, because my usual touring style is to get up in the morning and pick a town about 100 miles away for that day's destination.
Would highly suggest you plan out the whole trip before you set out. Have a list of alternate destinations in mind should you encounter a problem and not make your target distance one day.

Just from a climbing perspective, not leaving the Parkway each night is good. The roads to get up to the Parkway are simply ridiculous. Doable if you can stash all your gear on the Parkway and ride your unencumbered bike down and back up. Grades in the 10% - 15% range are not uncommon, and may approach 20% in some cases. If you're okay with that fine, but it's good to know what you're getting into.

Just curious: have you driven the Parkway before? Facilities that have showers and food are an appropriate distance apart for motor touring, but are too far apart for comfortable bicycle touring in the mountains, IMHO.

It may sound like I'm trying to dissuade you, but I'm not. The parkway is a beautiful road to ride on, but you should know what you're biting off. My dad and I often think about touring on the Parkway, but we haven't worked the logistics out yet.
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Old 05-04-09, 04:51 AM
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I hate to plan where I am staying beyond the current day, but on the parkway. I think you really should. Given the scarcity of accommodations it is pretty necessary. The book mentioned is a huge help. Also there is a guy from Virginia beach who does the trip every year. He has a website with his itineraries on it. Check it out at:
https://members.cox.net/blueridgecyclist/
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Old 05-04-09, 07:33 AM
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All good advice so far. The parkway is beautiful but was designed many years ago when traffic was much lighter. The road is not particularly wide and does not have paved shoulders. Traffic can be heavy at times (weekends, particularly during fall leaf season) and it can be difficult for cars to pass due to all of the curves. The Park Service requires bikes to have front and rear lights for the tunnels, and you really need them. Grades are not extremely steep but climbs can be very long, going on for miles and miles.

There are campgrounds and a few motels along the Parkway but they are widely spaced, so you need to plan your routes accordingly. Pack all of the food you will need because there are few places to buy supplies without leaving the parkway on crossroads, which means steep decents and long climbs back to the parkway. Temperatures will be much cooler on the Parkway than nearby towns in the valleys (such as Asheville) and rain and fog much more frequent. All of the campgrounds I have stayed in along the Parkway were very nice, but none had showers.

The National Park Service has a very nice folding map that shows all of the campgrounds, motels and other facilities. Pick up a copy to help plan your route.
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Old 05-04-09, 08:33 AM
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I've biked sections of the parkway on several occasions. My favorite run is from Asheville to Mt. Mitchell. Last year when cruising BRP in my VW camper I met a very nice couple from Ireland who were biking from DC to Cherokee, NC, where BRP ends. They had nifty Airnimal touring bikes and it was obvious that they were in shape and they were doing a credit card tour. I found the latter part very intriguing as the descends and ascends to and from BRP, which are very challenging to a car, seemed not to be an issue for them on bikes.

So, BRP on bike can be done although it is not recommended by Blue Ridge Parkway rangers. The continuous descending and climbing will either be the end of you or you will be in an awesome shape at the end of the tour. There usually are sections that are shut down to traffic, such as the part between Craggy Gardens in Mt. Mitchell. I tend to ignore those closings on a bike as generally you can get around whatever section of road is washed out or collapsed. Just watch out for spooked bears - I've seen them.
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Old 05-04-09, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by MrPolak View Post
I found the latter part very intriguing as the descends and ascends to and from BRP, which are very challenging to a car, seemed not to be an issue for them on bikes.
If the roads up to the Parkway didn't phase them they are tough. The Parkway itself didn't seem so bad to me though. The grades are moderate compared to the roads up to the Parkway.

BTW: I really don't see the traffic there being that bad. I have not ridden there in the fall, so take this with a grain of salt, but the lanes are wide, the speed limits are low (45 mph, 35 mph in developed areas), and the drivers we met were courteous.
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Old 05-19-09, 04:11 PM
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Well, I'm leaving tomorrow right after work, to drive up to Front Royal for the start of my first ever bike tour.

I'm planning on heading out from MP 1 at 6:00am Thursday morning, to start my (first) solo un-supported credit card tour of the BRP. I'm hoping to do the whole thing in 4 days - but I have allotted 5, just in case. All that hill climbing will either make me - or break me.

I'm in decent shape. Not as good as I'd like to be, I could stand to loose 25lbs, but good enough (I hope!) to complete the ride as planned.

I had hoped to use my uber lightweight (and fast!) Trek Madone, but it just doesn't have low enough gearing for sustaining that kind of climbing, and for several days in a row, so I've outfitted my ole lugged steel Bianchi for the task. It has a triple, with a 26T CR and 28T rear cog, so that should get me up all the hills, and without burning me out for the many more that lie ahead.

I did upgrade it with a few goodies though: Brooks B17 saddle; Garmin Edge 705; mini frame pump; rear luggage rack w/trunk bag that has integral zip out paniers; head light and tail light; Neuvation M28 aero wheelset with lightweight Vredstein tires.

My biggest dilema is whether to stay with my nomral Speedplay clipless pedals and shoes, or switch them out to platform pedals with toe clips. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. If I go clipless, then I have the weight and baggage penalty of needing to carry and extra pair of walking shoes. Additionally, every time I stop at a scenic overlook and want get off the bike to take pics or refill a waterbottle, I either have to sit down and change shoes, or walk sparingly (like a duck), to protect my cleats. If I go with platform pedals and clips, I can where one pair of shoes the whole trip - on or off the bike, and walk around comfortably whenever I stop. Right now, I'm leaning toward the platforms. I'll decide tomorrow.

Ideally, I guess, if I had the luxury of more time (I just decided about 1-1/2 weeks ago to do this ride...on the spur of the moment, cuz I'm not getting any younger and I'm tired of waiting to try and hook up with other riders to do it with me) I'd swithc out my pedals to MTB style and go with a recessed cleat walking/MTB shoe.......but I just don't have the time or budget to find a new type of clipless pedal that I like and also to find a MTB clipless pedal shoe, that will fit my, odd sized, 8-1/2 EEE foot.

So, thus endith my diatribe - for now. I'll try and give a ride report with pictures, after I return.

Y'all wish me luck, good weather, and a safe trip, puhleeze.

Cheers,
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Old 05-19-09, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Nota View Post
.
I'm planning on heading out from MP 1 at 6:00am Thursday morning, to start my (first) solo un-supported credit card tour of the BRP. I'm hoping to do the whole thing in 4 days - but I have allotted 5, just in case. All that hill climbing will either make me - or break me..
You do realize the "whole thing" is over 400 miles? Heck of a rider to do it in 4 days

Oh, and Front Royal is the Skyline Drive. BRP is 105 miles later. (and is 469 miles long)

https://www.blueridgeparkway.org/maps.htm

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Old 05-19-09, 07:35 PM
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Originally Posted by CCrew View Post
You do realize the "whole thing" is over 400 miles? Heck of a rider to do it in 4 days

Oh, and Front Royal is the Skyline Drive. BRP is 105 miles later. (and is 469 miles long)

https://www.blueridgeparkway.org/maps.htm
Yeah - I believe it's 470 miles, in total. Including my intended slight diversion to pedal up Mt. Mitchell, first thing Sunday morning, that's only 120 miles a day that I'll have to average, to complete it in 4 days.

Actually, I didn't mean Front Royal; I meant Swannanoa,VA. That's where I'm going to grab a motel room tomorrow night.
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Old 05-19-09, 07:45 PM
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All I can say is good luck! You're a better man than I am
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Old 05-20-09, 03:28 AM
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The hardest part will be getting up to and down from the BRP when you head off of it for the motel. There's not much in the way of services or hotels on the BRP itself. Be sure you plan your water stops at least.

I don't know why a normal compact gearing wouldn't be sufficient (say a 34 front, 26 back.) I've climbed up from Vesuvius with that combination. I've got a 28 on back now, and that's even nicer

Anyway, have fun, and I hope you have good weather. Today and tomorrow look great.
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Old 05-20-09, 05:09 AM
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Originally Posted by JimF22003 View Post
The hardest part will be getting up to and down from the BRP when you head off of it for the motel. There's not much in the way of services or hotels on the BRP itself. Be sure you plan your water stops at least.

I don't know why a normal compact gearing wouldn't be sufficient (say a 34 front, 26 back.) I've climbed up from Vesuvius with that combination. I've got a 28 on back now, and that's even nicer

Anyway, have fun, and I hope you have good weather. Today and tomorrow look great.
I'm not anticipating much difficulty getting on and off the Pkwy; not if I can confine it to my current plans. If I wind up having to make any unscheduled departures, then I could have some serious work to do to get back up on the Pkwy.

I'm trying to travel as light as possible, in order to facilitate a decent average speed, and yet have sufficient provisions to get me to my next daily stopping point. I think my (Topeak) rack pack, with the zip out paniers, was an excellent choice. It's compact and svelte, and yet can be expanded, via the zip-out paniers, to hold just about anything extra I might acquire along the way: dirty clothes; food for a picnic lunch; souveniers; road kill; motel room towels....

I've been debating on whether to take my 70oz Camelback - but I think I will at least take it. Better to have an ample hydratioin supply and not need it, then need it and not have it. If I get within known striking distance of my destination or a watering hole, and I'v got a lot of climbing to do, I guess I could always dump the excess water.

Thanks for the well wishes. I'll you know how it all turns out.
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Old 05-20-09, 06:05 AM
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Good luck! Looks like you've got the weather on your side, at least for now. Definitely post some photos after you finish.
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Old 05-27-09, 09:08 PM
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So how did it go? I'm planning a 3 day, 2 nighter with camping gear between miles 280ish and 380ish and I can't imagine averaging 120 miles in a day!
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Old 05-28-09, 05:10 AM
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Originally Posted by tarwheel View Post
Good luck! Looks like you've got the weather on your side, at least for now. Definitely post some photos after you finish.
I had great weather, at least for the first three days. The weather was kinda sucky for the last day, but it was still a fabulous trip. Between the added climb up Mt. Mitchell and some extra miles getting to and from motels off the Pkwy, I logged 485 miles for the trip. I finished up my four day trip late Sunday evening. Actually, it was very late Sunday evening.

Between the weather and my dogged determination to climb Mt. Mitchell, which didn't open until 8:00am, that set my time table way back for my last day - about 3hrs. I wound up doing 140 miles that day, and didn't roll into Cherokee until well after dark -- about 10:30pm. At least I made it.

Of course the alternative, after I found myself in the middle of nowhere on the Pkwy after dark, still 20 miles from the end, and with no cell phone coverage to call anyone, was to either a). curl up in the fetal position by the side of the road and hope that hypothermia didn't kill me before morning, or b). keep pedaling. I chose b.

I posted a little bit about my trip, along with a link to my webshots photo album site, here in this thread.
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Old 05-28-09, 06:59 AM
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Well done Nota. Lots of miles/day. I don't see any problems riding all day long. I can smell the 'roses' very fine on a bike. In fact on this weeks commute I am smelling lots of honeysuckle along the route. The BRP offers fantastic views which are easily enjoyed from the seat of a bicycle. Some tours I ride all day long and on others I'll ride less. Both trips are always enjoyed. later, Charlie
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Old 05-28-09, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by balto charlie View Post
Well done Nota. Lots of miles/day. I don't see any problems riding all day long. I can smell the 'roses' very fine on a bike. In fact on this weeks commute I am smelling lots of honeysuckle along the route. The BRP offers fantastic views which are easily enjoyed from the seat of a bicycle. Some tours I ride all day long and on others I'll ride less. Both trips are always enjoyed. later, Charlie
Yeah. If you're a reasonably strong cyclist, and so long as you keep your heart rate down, by spinning a small gear up the hills, you really can go all day. Dealing with the saddle sores and lower back pain, was more of a challenge than the leg fatigue pedaling aspect. I (regularly) took "Advil for back pain", to deal with the lower back. That helped a lot. As for the saddle......well, you just deal with it - "push through the pain". The one good thing that did come out of having to do most of the last day in the rain was that my brand new Brooks B17 saddle (finally!) got broke in good 'n proper. It's now permanently sunken down in and molded to the shape of my arse....uber comfortable. I'm going to buy a black one to put on my Trek Madone......and then go ride it in the rain.

I know some people seemed to think that I missed a whole lot, by doing so many miles each day, but as you said, my olefactory senses work just fine; I smelled, and saw, quite a bit. I may not have stopped and gotten off the bike at each scenic overlook, but had my head turned towards it and enjoyed just the same, as I was pedaling by. By far, the best smells were up at the "balsam" area, near Pisgah.

Out of curiousity,Charlie, just what part of Bal'mer, Merlin are you from? I actually grew up in Baltimore, having lived all over the city and parts of Baltimore County, but moved down to the Carolinas about 20 yrs ago now.
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