"And, things aren’t all bad. There are many awe-inspiring things about life: Great music, films, dance, fiction, and other arts. There are people to love and care for and interesting things to do and learn. There are exciting challenges to be met. There are full moons on summer nights, star-filled skies, stunning waterfalls, gorgeous music, amazing athletic feats, beautiful women, handsome men, touching moments with friends, and laughing children."
Every year, I see more and more road bikers on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Because it is in the mountains, riding the parkway can be as inspiring as it is intimidating if not exhausting. Also, maintaining the good cadence to move efficiency requires excellent conditioning. It you have a reasonable level of fitness (i.e. advanced) and a road bike with gear ratios for hill climbing (a triple), there are many places you enjoy rides on the parkway. Still, all of these rides have serious climbing stretches: 2-3 miles at %8-%10 or greater.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is known for spetacular views.
Because it is very close to my house, I frequently ride the parkway. I ride with a race-style dual cluster, and generally I ride about 30 – 36 miles, or around two, fairly strenuous hours. In most of my training my goal is to test my power system, not to undergo a fitness test. Sometime I enjoy, trashing myself with endurance –style rides, but this is not the norm.
Here is one of my favorite starting points for parkway rides with Google map coordinates
There are two great rides here. First, travel south to the top of Apple Orchard Mountain and you will climb from the lowest elevation of the parkway (700’) to the highest part of the parkway (3,700’). Especially steep is the 7 miles from mile marker 65 to 74. This ride is definitely a physical trial. As with most rides on the parkway, the scenery is spectacular and changes dramatically from season.
It is about 15 miles and 3000’ to the top and it takes me about 1 ¾ hour. If you want more miles, ride to the Peaks of Otter . The return climb to the top of Apple Orchard is only 1000’. That said, on your return ride dropping 3000’, at speeds of more than 45mph is quite interesting.
When you climb the parkway, you will be rewarded with endless views of the road falling away below you.
In the winter the parkway is often closed to vehicles; yet still open to bikers.
If you ride north from James River, the rides are much less steep. For a 38 mile ride I suggest you ride to where route 60 crosses, coming up the hills from Buena Vista. There is one pretty steep hill, with about 2 miles of climbing, after you leave the Bluff Mountain tunnel.
Near our Farm is Broadview Ranch. I often ride my mountain bike there. They run a true free range chicken operation there. I visited one of the free-range wagons where they found my Specialized Epic 29" very interesting.
"Chickens inspect mountain bike".
This year the early summer has been very rainy with moderate temperatures. The 'first cutting' can very late and yielded a bumper crop of round bales. Here is one such view on Pagents Hill road near us:
A bumper crop of round bales on Paget's Hill Road:
Around the farm you might stop in the photographer's golden hour to shoot some color:
On weekends we usually go for a trail ride on the Rockbrdge Hunt territory:
And certainly, there is mountain bike riding at Douthat State park. In the shot below, I am about a mile into the trail known as mountain side trail. It bypasses the very steep, mountain top trail; but, it is a classic east coast single track:
Here is a view of the lake at Douthat, enjoy!
A view of Douthat Lake from Middle Mountain Trail (a pretty good climb on a Mountain Bike).
There is a frequently told story, or urban legend, about a man who dies upon being locked in a walk-in freezer, despite the fact it was unpowered and the interior was room temperature. The point is followed up with the idea that the mind ‘creates the universe’. Unfortunately this is a myth or urban legend; however, there are a number of well-known mind-body connections that pay a role in athletics and exercise.
It is generally believed that when you are moving (or biking) uphill, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) of your brain says ‘slow-down’ or sends a message of fatigue. This is an energy-saving survival mechanism. As Dr. Hauss describes in his book, The Buddha’s Brain, the PNS is perpetually scanning for danger and we need to conserve our energy so we can run away from sabre tooth tigers on the savanna.
So when you are biking up a long, intimidating hill the message of fatigue is sent to your brain and your body experiences a false or induced sense of fatigue. This can be especially true in mountain biking on narrow single track. Around my neck of the woods, in areas such as Douthat or North Mountain, there are short sections of very steep trail that you must power into. The net result is that a 200 watt effort will feel or seem like a 300 watt effort.
In my experience this dissipates with time. There are many hills, previously perceived impossible, that I can pedal, bottom to top, without stopping to push. Plus, you can gauge your visual-visceral response to the terrain by examining your perceived efforts. Again this is something that is improved with meditation. Unfortunately, meditation will not add very much conditioning something. You will still need to power up those hills.