Pisgah National Forest

So I am in North Carolina for a few days and decided to get some rides in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC. Turns out my mom lived only an hour or so away from some fantastic trails. I have camped and backpacked many times in the Smokey Mountains but never really thought about mountain biking there until I really started riding lots a year or so ago. I could have been riding these trails once or twice a year for a long time! Stupid me…

Anyway, I recently got my brother into mountain biking as well. He bought a Trek hardtail back in January and has been riding a little on his local trails near the marine base he is stationed at on the east coast. He’s still very new and green so I knew that we’d have to take it easy.

Originally my brother picked out a 15 mile loop called Laurel Mountain. It was rated Intermediate to Advanced with a pretty good climb for the first couple of miles. I was game for the ride but I was skeptical this would be a good ride for him on his first outing like this. Looking at the elevation profile, I had my doubts my brother would be able to manage the ride.

We headed out to Brevard to get there on Sunday morning at 9:00 am just after Sycamore Cycles opened. We had decided kinda last minute to go on Sunday so I hadn’t called ahead to reserve a rental. They were able to hook me up with a Specialized Epic Comp 29er which worked fine for me.

After relaying my concerns of my brother’s greenness, they confirmed my concerns that this trail might be too much for him at this point. They pointed me to a neary trail that was deemed more beginner friendly.

We loaded up the bike and headed over to the trailhead. We parked, prepped, loaded up and headed out. I had come prepared, looking forward to a 3 hour ride with plenty of fluids, lunch and snacks.

At the trailhead the temperature was about 82 degrees. A far cry from the high 90’s I’m sure it already was back in Austin. By the time we would climb our 800 feet, the temperature would be a very comfortable 77 degrees, although it was quite humid.

Almost immediately the trail started climbing. The trees arched high overhead. There was the familiar dank smell of the forest. The birds were particularly noisy. The forest was alive all around. I was in heaven.

Even though the first mile of the trail was nothing but climb, often breaking 25% grade, I couldn’t wipe the dumb grin off of my face. Of course part of that may have been because I was plenty rested pretty much the entire climb.

You see, my poor, unsuspecting, coastal residing brother had only ridden a couple of trails at sea level with little elevation gain, let alone any sustained climbs. At first I tried to keep pace with him, but I found it much harder to go slow and instead charged up the climb in 100 foot increments and would wait until he caught up. At which point, he’d need another 3-4 minutes of rest before he was ready to go again. So in essence, I was pretty much fully rested for the whole climb.

It didn’t matter to me though. The environment was everything mountain biking is supposed to be. At one with nature, taking it all in and loving every second of it.

After 800 ft of climbing over the first mile, the fun began. The next section of trail was a 400 ft or so decent along an old fire road. Usually I’d prefer tight single track, but the wider, partially regrown fire road afforded lots of opportunity for really opening it up on the downhills. The drainage cuts provided ample opportunity to catch a little air and I had an absolute ball on this downhill section.

As we dropped back towards the parking, we had the option of turning back up the mountain or heading to the parking lot. We obviously opted to head on another trail back up the mountain. This part of the trail was a little more technical than the first, with tighter singletrack and more roots. It didn’t pose any problem for me, but it did slow us down as my brother wasn’t as confident.

We continued on up and then came to another split in the trail. We could either bail out and head back down to parking, or keep going. I had hopes of getting in 2 trail rides on Sunday but I could tell from our current rate that we wouldn’t have time for more than this ride as we were expected back at the house for some family duties. So we went ahead and continued on.

This is where the trail got even more technical. The roots were frequent, and wet. The trail was less used. We again climbed a couple hundred feed before turning down for a tight, rooty decent with 4 small stream crossings before finally coming back out on the road for a short ride back to parking.

At the end, I was still very fresh and hardly felt I had ridden other than being sweaty and dirty. I would have loved to hit up another trail. My poor brother on the other hand was pooped. He’ll have to work on that climbing stamina =)

Here’s the link to the Strava ride http://app.strava.com/rides/11645913. As you’ll see, we had nearly as much rest time on the ride as we did riding time! But it’s not always about the speed or how much ground you cover, right?

I’ll upload some video when I get back to Austin, but I can say that my first forray into Pisgah was totally enjoyable, albiet a much slower pace than I would typically ride. We’ll be headed back up on Wednesday for another ride and I am hoping to sneak in a solo ride on Thursday morning to hit up a more advanced trail.

About TC

Long time mountain biker, recent mountain bike racer. Borderline unhealthy obsession with mountain biking, constantly drawn to hit the dirt and share my experiences.

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