December weather in Western North Carolina tends to be very welcoming to cyclists. Daytime temps can be mild, perfect even for the sport of cycling. Snow is rare at lower elevations and the roads are free of salt, sand and chemicals used to clear the signs of winter from our paths. The leaves have fallen making every view seem totally new and exciting. I unpack my winter cycling gear, but I don’t need most of it just yet. I love cycling in Black Mountain in December.
But I know what’s coming next…January (my birth month) and February. The charming winter couple. The darkest months. Jan & Feb bring the weather that keeps the bug population low, allows the kids to sled on the golf course near Little House, and, once in a while, provides the proper conditions for me to use my nearly new cross country skis.
Oh, and out comes the trainer. Ugh…the dreaded contraption that turns my sleek road bicycle into a stationary prison. A hell on wheels. Sure, I can watch videos on my iPad held up by my cool iPad stand, but it’s not the same as being on the road with the wind rushing by my face. I dread these workouts…because now that’s exactly what they are…workouts, not a joyful outing into nature.
Classic love/hate relationship.
I am not sitting back letting this thing get to me. No, I am planning for the future. Scheming about my grand plan to beat the odds. And I have co-conspirators in David, PJ and Susan. We have been creating a masterpiece. The key to cycling on the road as much as possible this winter.
Meet the Wagon Wheel route. The name comes both from the shape of the route, and from the use of out-and-back “spokes” to add miles and challenges. We are just getting started and already, with all spokes included, the route is nearly 25 miles long. Here’s what makes it special:
- Never far from home – this route uses the basic Black Mountain Loop as the center of the wagon wheel so, at any point on the ride, you can bale and be back on your front porch or your car door in moments. This feature is important when weather conditions change quickly.
- Easy or challenging, you decide – by examining the route in RideWithGPS or by just exploring it, you can see which spokes will allow you to climb and which ones are best for a recovery day.
- Long or short, you decide – ride all the spokes for the most distance, cut out some to make it shorter – it’s perfect, no matter how much time you have to devote to your ride.
- Tour of Black Mountain – if you are new to the area or just visiting with your bicycle, this route is the perfect sampler of our community. Sites that you will see include:
- The Town Square
- Post Office (don’t laugh, it’s the nerve center of town)
- The horses that live in a field along Old Lakey Gap Rd
- Lodge at Blue Ridge Assembly
- New Sprout Farm
- Recreation Park
- Dynamite Roasting
- Foothills Deli & Butchery
- Pisgah Brewing
- Farm at Black Mountain Home for Children
- Camp Rockmont (home of LEAF)
- North Fork Valley
- Burnette Reservoir Community
- Black Mountain Golf Course
- Lake Tomahawk
- and some of the most charming neighborhoods in our town
While some of the climbs on this route are regulars, some are new to me. Like the Blue Ridge Assembly loop that takes you into the camp property and up a very nice little climb. Watch out for ice near the bridge on the climb and pedestrians, rocks and a speed bump on the descent. Out of respect for the camp guests, I would not advise riding this road during Spring/Summer/Fall.
Another little gem is Allen Mountain. The tiny roads that wind up and down Allen Mountain are my favorites for walking my dog, Tyler, and running, but adding them to the Wagon Wheel has been a treat. Be aware that the climbs are short and can be very steep. Note that the motorists are not accustomed to seeing cyclists (or walkers, for that matter) and you have to be alert to their actions. Every descent ends in an abrupt stop sign…don’t run the stop signs because zooming down the mountain in a car is, evidentially, quite fun. While Allen Mountain sits squarely in the town and above the golf course, elevation gains happen quickly so be aware that the roads could be icy.
I hope you enjoy the Wagon Wheel route. Please share your experience and ideas for new “spokes” for the route with me through comments or via email.
Your Rud with GPS cuts Right Fork short. Also, if you are going to turn on Sunset, go ahead and explore that climb (watch for bears there and nearby). I need to explore Allen. Hope you are well.