Excursion: Major Taylor Mountain Summit
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
April 4-6, 2019
Ride Descriptions (Exact days for each ride is TBD)
The Bamboo Ride: Grand Masters Route
33 Miles, ~2,900 feet of elevation gain
This ride will spend nearly 40% of its length on the Blue Ridge Parkway, north of Blowing Rock. Never flat, you will encounter three extended climbs – one just a couple of miles in, and the other two in the last 10 miles. Plus, there is a memorable half-mile double digit brute right in the middle of the route. The only possible store stop is in the town of Boone.
The Big Bamboo Ride
58 miles, ~5,100 feet of elevation gain
This route will do nearly all of the Grandmasters’ Bamboo Route in its first 31 miles, but will then turn southwest on NC 221, which served as the temporary Blue Ridge Parkway while the NPS was building the amazing Linn Cove Viaduct in the 1980s. After 13 gradual uphill miles on this amazing road, Bamboo riders will circle back to Blowing Rock on the real BRP, cross the Viaduct, and enjoy an exhilarating downhill from the 4,400’ peak at Yonahlossee Overlook.
Valle Crucis Lollipop: Grand Masters Route
37 miles, ~3,300 feet of elevation gain
After a bracing uphill out of Blowing Rock, the Masters will enjoy the long technical downhill to the hamlet of Valle Crucis. Don’t blink! But this is the home of the original Mast General Store, which is a fun outing and a reasonable store stop. You will climb up tiny Mast Gap, then enjoy some mostly flat miles on Old NC 421 and its neighbors before heading back south. Don’t miss the turn on Baird’s Creek Road!! Some of the roads above Valle Crucis are challenging, before you plunge back towards the hamlet. You will finish on the mild uphill grades of Shull’s Mill Road, before a final screaming downhill into Blowing Rock.
The Trade Route
58 miles, ~4,700 feet of elevation gain
Extra Credit Option: 79 miles, ~6,900 feet of gain
This ride follows the Valle Crucis Masters route onto Old NC 421, but continues all the way north to the crossroads of Trade, TN. The route back south will take in two isolated longer climbs: Bulldog Road (2 miles at 6%) and George’s Gap (1.9 miles at 6.6%). After returning to Valle Crucis, the Trade riders will finish on the easier grades of Shull’s Mill Road (4.3 miles at 4.6%).
The 79 mile Extra Credit Trade option will do an out and back from Trade on some very isolated roads, past the home of Brew Bicycle Framebuilders, and up the truly brutal climb of Snake Mountain (2.7 miles at 7.9%). Turnaround is at Elk Knob Park, and then it picks up the 58 mile route back in Trade, TN.
The Viaduct Loop: Grand Masters Route
32 miles, ~2,500 feet of elevation gain
This ride is almost completely on two great cycling roads, with most of the climbing before the halfway point. The first half will go from Blowing Rock to the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway, before turning back northeast on NC 221. There are only 4 turns on this entire ride!
Hickory Nut Gap Loop
53 miles, ~4,700 feet of elevation gain
After a solid 2 mile climb on the BRP, this ride will descend the 5 mile plunge of Shull’s Mill Road to Valle Crucis. Then comes the hardest climb of the 2019 MTMS Excursion. The climb from Valle Crucis up Bowers Gap is 4.2 miles at 6.2%, although one could argue where the proper start of this climb actually begins. Full of switchbacks that approach double-digits, this climb was commonly used by the old Tour duPont road race in the 1990s. From Banner Elk, NC riders will hit the long, mild grades of Hickory Nut Gap, a few uncomfortable miles on NC 181, before the last long climb of the day. It kicks off where NC 221 begins in the town of Linville and knocks out a 2.4 mile climb at nearly 6% past Grandfather Mountain State Park. After going under the BRP, Hickory Nut riders will enjoy nearly 12 miles of roller coaster, twisting/turning, mostly downhill roads (with only one climb that will really get your attention).
IMPORTANT NOTE: In Banner Elk is one of the most fabled, difficult road bike climbs in America – Beach Mountain. It’s 3.5 miles at 9.2% and its every bit as hard as that sounds. Finishing the final ½ mile on SkiLoft Road’s switchbacks will top out at 5,400 feet. MTMS organizers DO NOT recommend doing this climb – but if you feel compelled to do it, please be incredibly careful coming down its nearly 10% stretches. Ride at your own risk!