It’s no secret that Asheville is home to some awesome roads and trails, and the cycling guides from The Cliffs know their way around these mountains better than most. Legends Christian Van Velde, Bobby Julrich and George Hincapie have been cycling for 30-plus years, and they’re currently the cycling guides for members of The Cliffs. The three experts know all the best trails, both road and mountain, for peak summer enjoyment. Break out the cycling gear, sunscreen and water bottles, and check out their suggestions for the best summer rides in WNC.
For many, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of tires on asphalt. The ease of the ride mixed with the difficult elevation of the mountains is the combination many cyclists are seeking. Luckily, Asheville has many road rides that have become popular in the cycling community, and they’re safe to share with motorists. Perhaps the most popular of these is the Blue Ridge Parkway. The route from the French Broad River Park to the Pisgah Inn is a great ride, especially during the parkway’s low-traffic times between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The views during this ride are breathtaking, so plan a sunrise venture and stop for some lasting memories of mountain scenery. It’s also important to remember a brake light and handlebar light for tunnels, and it’s always important to have tools in case of roadside repairs.
Cycling up to the parkway is another enjoyable route, and it has gained popularity with cyclists in The Cliffs at Walnut Cove community. The two most popular routes for this endeavor are the Elk Mountain Scenic Highway and Town Mountain Road. For cyclists looking for an adventure that’s not quite “on the map,” Bearwallow Mountain is perfect for a nice ride toward Fairview.
For those who don’t enjoy road rides or like to mix it up, there are numerous trails in the area for all levels of cyclists. Bent Creek is a popular ride for beginners and would be a great place to start exploring the art of mountain biking. The North Mills Recreation Area is another beginner-friendly trail, and both are located in the Pisgah National Forest. These trails are well-maintained and extremely scenic; they’re definitely not to be missed.
DuPont State Forest lies to the south and is known widely as one of the best places to ride on the East Coast. For the beginner, Ridgeline Trail is a great place to start. For more advanced loops, cyclists can explore Burnt Mountain and Big Rock. These trails are close to the border, so they’re ideal for riders from Upstate South Carolina. For advanced cyclists, the guides highly recommended Green River Cove for all the switchbacks.
“Not many people in the U.S. ever get to experience a trail like that, but it is for more extreme riders,” George says.
In mountainous areas, cycling doesn’t always make for an easy ride. The guides were adamant about cyclists knowing their limits.
“Don’t worry about going too hard on the climb, or you could go into the red zone and lose your energy. If you’re not eating and drinking, you can lose your endurance capacity very quickly, especially in the heat that we have,” Bobby says. In order to ensure a good ride, staying active day-to-day, especially with a cardio-focused regimen, will help any cyclist have a successful journey. It’s also extremely important to stay fueled with water and nutrients, so pack healthy snacks and stop along your trip to have a bite to eat and hydrate.
It’s also vital to be sure the gearing is correct for the climb ahead. Many cyclists from out of town don’t have the proper gearing, so cyclists should be vigilant about their equipment.
“Some of these rides are so steep that you’ll end up going harder than you planned on going just to get up it, so you want your gearing to be fit for climbing,” Bobby says. Christian adds that cyclists, especially those just starting out, should ride in groups with those in a similar skill level.
“It’s always nice to have a group that can support you on your ride," Christian says. "For beginners and advanced riders alike, early morning is the best time to hit the road or the trail, and it’s always best to go with at least one other cyclist, if not a group. And as with any strenuous physical activity, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and have fun!”
With the many trails surrounding and within the gates of The Cliffs, now is the time to check out their beautiful homes and amenities and begin a new chapter in our beautiful mountains.