a little riding through pisgah


hadn't done one of these in a while. it's not always easy bringing the camera along. i've done a few fun rides that went undocumented. i wish i'd done a post on rouge roubaix. haveagreatday brought it up in the "First Bike Races" post. kickass race in louisiana. 105 miles over crappy backroads, a bunch of it on gravel. i'll get some pics next year and do a proper post. anywho, this post is about pisgah, so grab your mountain bike and a sleeping bag, cause after the break, we're going to the mountains.

pisgah national forest is a national treasure. it's thousand of acres of woods around asheville, north carolina. it owes its existence to a conservation movement (or so i remember from a tv show i once saw) that aimed to preserve some of the natural beauty the area had to offer in the face of large scale mining and lumber operations. the place is known as the "craddle of forestry" and is some of the earliest land purchased by the government for preservation in the east. more and more land was bought, and now we get to reap the benefits. most of it having once been land worked on one way or another, there are lots ways to get across the place, so none of it is all that remote. there's plenty of roads (both paved and gravel) that give you access to most of the area. the rest is filled with trails. tons and tons of the best singletrack on the east coast.

it's a shortish drive from atlanta. around four hours, plus or minus depending what part you're headed to. you know you're getting close when you can pick up WNCW on the radio. as my buddy tom was saying on the trip, he'll know he lives close enough to pisgah to be happy when he can get WNCW at home. there are various places you can stay. the east side of asheville (where we often camp) offers mt. wilson, which makes for a sweet 25 mile road climb to the top, and heartbreak ridge, a 6 or so mile downhill trail coming down from the blue ridge parkway, two of the most extreme southeast us rides, as far as i'm concerned. as well as curtis creek, kitsuma, and toll road among others. this go around, we opted for the west side of asheville, aka the brevard side. lots of stuff around there. dupont forest, bent creek, and the various pisgah areas (fish hatchery, north mills...i get lost in the names). there's a good amount of racing in the area. i've had the misfortune of doing swank. there's also pisgah mountain bike stage race and the new pisgah 111k. basically, there's tons to be ridden out here. we keep coming back and riding new trails that are just as awesome as the ones we rode the previous time.

we camped off of a forest service road near the top of 276. we being tom ryan and i, the standard mtb camping crew. we've been doing this for a while. we've gotten pretty good at the car camping trips. so we pack up the truck around 8pm thursday and hit the road.


dinner stop, grocery stop, gas stop, we eventually make it up there at two in the morning. set up camp, test out the whiskey and get finally get to bed.

we woke up at a leisurely hour saturday. make some eggs, sausage, eat a banana and load up the camelbak. get my lycra on and we're off.


let me introduce you to the bikes. while tom and ryan subscribe to one philosophy of mountain biking, my preferences differ as you will see. the newest steed in the group is ryan's pivot.


carbon, 5.7 inches in the rear, something similar up front, 2x10, drop seatpost. nice bike. and ryan didn't have a choice but to upgrade after tom one upped his previous bike with his blur ltc


similar set up as the pivot, carbon, long travel, drop post. tom and ryan like to go down. they're pretty good climbers too. they earn all their downhills. me on the other end, i like to feel the trail i'm riding. i've been riding more or less the same setup for almost 10 years. there's been some refinement over the years, but it's always been a rigid 26er. the worst of both worlds.


the seatpost and stem are the only two things left over from the original version of this bike. i got the ti frame maybe 6 years ago. got disc brakes a couple years ago and got rid of the front derailleur to go down to a 1x9 around the same time. old xtr rear derailleur. ti bars. tires and seat chosen for their color. 32 tooth ring and i think it's a 12-34 cassette. it's not the optimal bike for riding pisgah. you're much better off on a dual suspension something or other. but i don't mind walking sections of downhill, so it does the job. the uphills are pretty tough with the 1x9 setup, but it's pisgah, it's not supposed to be easy.

we left from the campsite and rode towards squirrel gap. not quite sure what the exact name of the trails were. if you want more info, let me know in the comments and i can pass it on. it was a long ride, but we took it easy. we crossed a nice bridge.


this is what awaited us on the other side


some nice trail


creek crossing



and stuff like this and the picture at the top of the post is what you see all day


while you're rolling up and down stuff like this



we got back to the campsite and got the charcoal lit, as well as a little fire. we like to make chicken wings when we camp. biting meat off a bone in the woods, something primal about that.


a bunch of beers later, it was sleepy time. the next day was going to be iffy. forecasts during the previous week had it at anywhere between 30 and 70% chance of rain in the afternoon. we figured we'd get up at a decent hour and get a quick ride in before the rain. as we're getting dressed it starts sprinkling. we get going and it starts pouring. nevermind. we'll head into town for lunch and ice to refill the coolers and see if we can ride in the afternoon. which we did. over at dupont forest. here's the gps, but fearing more rain, i did not bring the camera. those trail were nice. more manicured than the pisgah proper trails, but fun none the less. one cool thing was the airstrip trail. weird name, but it made perfect sense as we climbed and came to a clearing with a hangar and an abandoned runway. if you zoom in to the right part of the map on the gps file, at the base of the loop, and switch to satellite view, you'll see it. it's pretty fun to ride a mountain bike down a runway.

the third day out there we planned out a route that was a little too ambitions given some of the other events of the weekend. we set out to push our bikes up pilot rock, descend laurel, and then hit a couple other trails on the way back. pushed our way up pilot we did. that is one nasty downhill. i'd done it once before, but now climbing up it, i wondered how i ever made it down. never again i told myself. we get to the top and tom and ryan really want to go down it. we'd be done quicker this way, they said, we could be home before dark. fine, let's go down this ridiculous trail. this trail is tough. it has some impossible switchbacks. super tight with 2 foot drops at the apex. anyway, after pushing my way up for over an hour, i was gonna have a stupid downhill where i'd have to walk a bunch of sections. not the best day considering my bike of choice. but for tom and ryan, this was the best section of trail of the weekend. they love the downhill. and with parts of the trail looking like this, it's easy to understand why this trail is special.


that's the rock garden section of the trail. pretty gnarly. and the rest of the ride's not much different. steep, rocky and rooty. here's the gps.

so that was my weekend in pisgah. a decent amount of riding, some good times under the stars. no injuries. can't complain. if you like mountain biking and you live on the east coast, you need to come down here. if you need a guide, let me know, i'm just looking for an excuse to make it back up there as soon as possible.


all crappy pics by me.

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