After struggling to get back in the swing of riding, I decided to motivate myself by driving to Spartanburg for a group ride. The route was roughly 72 miles of rolling hills, capped by a climb up Hogback mountain from the south side.
I had just climbed Hogback for the first time recently. That attempt took place after sweating it up White Oak Mountain, so naturally I was tired and struggled. I would struggle going up a driveway after White Oak. I could tell it wasn’t a terrible climb, however, so this was a good opportunity to give it another shot with fresher legs.
I left bright and early on Saturday morning and drove the couple hours to Spartanburg, where I met the other riders at the Great Escape bike shop. This was a group ride led by the Freewheelers of Spartanburg, the same group that puts on the Mount Mitchell ride every year. From Spartanburg, the route was mostly flat until he hit the foothills surrounding Tryon. From there we stretched our legs on a few rollers, with some tougher, short hills mixed in between. It was a nice route on country roads with little traffic. The best part were the descents. There was one in particular that I loved, which I believe was on Dug Hill Road. It was straightforward and a steep descent. Since I could see the road turning up ahead, I had a lot of confidence to let myself fly. I tucked in and coasted down. Later, when looking at my GPS, I found that I had almost reached 50 mph without doing any work.
There was plenty of work to be done once we started to hit the Hogback climb. The first time I climbed Hogback was from north of the mountain, from downtown Tryon. This time we came from the south and took Dug Hill Road to Carolina Drive. The total climbing was about the same, maybe a little steeper in parts, with a few extra switchbacks to maneuver around on Carolina Drive.
The climb this time was cake. There were some steep parts, especially right after a gated community about a mile from the top, which had a stretch of around 13-14% grade. Most of it was in the 7-8% range. I was talking with someone most of the way up, so it went pretty quickly. It was a nice workout and great for my training, but was not an effort that hurt too badly.
From there we descended. Since this was my second time down the mountain, I was conservative on the top portion. I gave myself plenty of room to brake, especially in front of switchback turns, and I lagged behind the local riders. Once we turned back onto Carolina Drive to descend the rest of the way down the mountain, I let myself fly, and passed many of them again. Unlike a lot of the other climbs in the area, the Hogback descent is not so technical that it is uncomfortable.
The ride was finished right about lunchtime, which was perfect since I planned to drop in on a cyclist friend’s afternoon birthday party. I made it in time to eat a piece of his Cannondale birthday cake.
Overall I would say this day trip worked out well. I will probably try this again over the next couple of months, since there will be fewer organized rides.