Tag Archives: Greenville

Swamp Rabbit Trail, Greenville, SC

swamp rabbit north

With a couple free days in the upstate, I needed a ride that would be interesting, and not so strenuous that it would impact my injury. Day one was washed out completely, leaving Friday as my only opportunity for some riding.

I chose the Swamp Rabbit Trail for a few reasons. First of all, I have been on the trail before, but always as a way to get somewhere else (like Paris Mountain). It is flat and pleasant, and it takes you from the heart of Greenville to the outskirts at Traveler’s Rest. Because of obstacles like road crossings, bridges, tight turns, runners and plodding mountain bikers, you really cannot get any amount of speed. On top of all that, the trail makes Greenville stand out as a southeastern cycling community, and I wanted to pay tribute by experiencing it all for myself.

I parked not too far from the Greenville Zoo to begin my journey, not realizing that this and downtown would be the most crowded sections. I navigated through the dog walkers and sightseers near the zoo, and entered the confusing downtown district area of Falls Park. This was great for warming up because no matter how much I wanted, I could not go fast. It was also frustrating because I wanted to get around everyone. There were lots of starts and stops.

The other side of Falls Park, downtown Greenville.

Falls Park, downtown Greenville.

The trails are tough to follow through downtown, and I missed a couple of them en route to the northern Swamp Rabbit Trail. Finally I picked it back up and began the trek toward Traveler’s Rest. The northern part was not nearly as crowded, and I was able to get a little speed. There were only the occasional walker and slow biker that I had to maneuver around.

While the trail is mostly flat, heading northbound is ever so slightly uphill. We are talking modest grades of 1-2%. They were made a little more difficult on this day because of a 10 mph headwind. That was enough to get the heart rate going and make this a challenging, if not overwhelming section.

As I approached Traveler’s Rest, I could see Paris Mountain in the horizon. It was tempting. I was feeling good, and the injury was not bothering me. Moreover, I had the itch to push harder. That’s the itch that I shouldn’t be scratching. As I headed north, I shelved the idea of climbing the mountain, at least going in this direction. I would head to the end of the trail and decide when I came back.

This marks near the end of the north trail.

This marks near the end of the north trail.

The trail ends unceremoniously just north of Traveler’s Rest. According to the mile markers, there are more than 20 miles of trail remaining, but apparently they are not yet paved. They will be pretty cool when (if?) they are finished, as I imagine they would drop you off not far from Caesar’s Head Mountain.

As I made my way south, my pace picked up because of the slight descent, and I had a tailwind at my back. My heart rate dropped, and I was able to appreciate the sights. This felt like coasting. No complaints.

Paris Mountain beckoned again. I was still tempted, but decided against it. When I’m in climbing shape, I’ll make up by riding up both sides. Next time.

After buzzing through Greenville’s industrial and commercial district, I was back in downtown. Now the sun was shining bright and the tourists had multiplied. My BSG kit stood out among the polo shirts, khaki shorts and cameras. Again, I just wanted to get by. There was one instance where I had to walk my bike down a steep grade because of the throng of pedestrians in front of me. That part hurt. Eventually I made it through, and was back to the zoo area.

Now south of the city, I had just a little bit of trail left to navigate. I came across the Hincapie Path. That was cool. Did he donate, or just lend his name? I’m not sure.

Hincapie path is a short section of the southbound trail.

Hincapie path is a short section of the southbound trail.

Once past the zoo and the dog park, the south trail was not as congested. In fact, it was often desolate. I was able to lay down the hammer yet again, obstructed only by the winding trail that often would bank along the road, and sometimes share space with sidewalk.

As the trail passed by Greenville Technical College, I was surprised to see a few hills. These were nothing compared to Paris Mountain, but they were enough to give me a little test. I noticed one of them had a 6% grade, nothing fierce, and the hill at the very end of the trail was at 10%. Steep grades are still a challenge for me at this stage of my training, but I’m going to have to get used to them.

The trail ended again without warning, this time at a busy intersection. As I made my way back, I realized that this was actually quite a ride. By the end, I had 31 miles, and felt pretty amazing.

Well done, Greenville. I hope the community continues to embrace the trail, and that it can be developed further. I’ll definitely be back.

Strava GPS Link

IMAGE GALLERY

Hincapie Gran Fondo Announced

Those who mourned the loss of the annual Marquis de Sade ride will appreciate this news. George Hincapie, Tour de France legend and Greenville superstar, has announced his own Gran Fondo taking place on 10/27/2012. It will feature many of the same quad-killing climbs as good ol’ De Sade.

What makes this ride special is the celebrity of Hincapie and perhaps some of his closest friends. He and his jersey company have become the face of Greenville cycling, and hopefully will continue to contribute to the community for years to come. Hincapie should be riding along with special guests. They have not yet been named, but I expect a lot of BMC riders (maybe Tejay, Cadel?), and perhaps some other tour pros. Since this is Hincapie’s retirement year, the inaugural event should be extra special.

The longer ride is 80 miles and features the toughest climbs in the area. It starts outside of Greenville and heads straight to the Tryon/Saluda area. I have long complained about Skyuka / White Oak Mountain in the past. We’ll be reunited again, as it appears to be the first major climb. After that will be its younger brother, Howard Gap. It appears that they have eliminated the dangerous descent, as we’ll take the higher elevation route to Saluda, alongside Interstate 26. From there we’ll descend Holbert Cove, and come back through Green River Cove Road. Since Tour de Leaves is the week prior, that means I’ll be climbing Green River two weekends in a row. Ugh!

While these climbs will certainly be painful, they should be equally gorgeous. The fall leaves should be at their brightest in late October. That’s a worthwhile trade-off for the cooler temperatures, which from my experience will most likely (hopefully?) require arm warmers and little else.

There have been a lot of rumblings ever since the event was announced. One of the reservations people have is that this is a Gran Fondo, meaning it is timed. That timing chip tends to attract the hardest of the core, but with a 3,500 rider maximum and a difficult course, I expect there to be a healthy mixture of paces. Regardless how fast or slow you are, there will probably be many others right with you. I know that when I’m going up Howard Gap, the timing chip isn’t going to get me to the top any faster.

The other thing is the price. This is an expensive ride. The longest route is $170, and it scales down from there. A jersey is included in the price for the long ride, so there is that, but it’s a lot more than most. Mitchell is close, but with all the logistics to get people and their bikes up and down the mountain, it makes sense. That said, I think the price is fair for this type of event. Copper Triangle was similar. It was close to the same price, also included a jersey, and was superbly organized. I expect the same, if not better, from Hincapie. However expensive, this event could immediately become a major attraction, putting the area on the map for many.

Hincapie Gran Fondo


New Section: Routes

A lot of the stuff I add to the website are things that I would want for myself. For example, my Climbs section was started because I was spending a lot of time looking for interesting roads to climb when training for my first Mitchell. It grew from there.

The Routes section came from the same place. When I am in the Blue Ridge area, I often don’t have time to seek out group rides to show me around. I am always looking for convenient routes that I can take by myself. I find a lot of them on the internet, and some I make for myself. It would have been amazing had there been a single resource where I could find them all. If I cannot find it, why not create it?

This section was conceived a few months ago when I was training for my second Mitchell. It would have been too time consuming to put together a list of cue sheets like the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club has done to perfection. Instead I decided to use newer technology and use RideWithGPS links. Because people all over use this software, the content is vast and limitless. It also allows people to view the route on a map, see the elevation profile, and download it to their GPS device.

To begin, I asked a few friends if I could use theirs. Special thanks go to Neil Turner, Michael Powell, Scott Baker, John McSwain, and Jeff Dilcher for providing a starting point.

As of right now, we have routes that begin in Spartanburg, North Greenville, Brevard, Sylva, Tryon, Atlanta, and the North Georgia Mountains. In time we will add plenty more.

I am looking for a good source of content for routes out all over the Southeast, but I would specifically like to find some from Asheville, Boone, and Roanoke. If you know of anyone who creates these for your town, please send them my way.

Keep an eye on this section as I expect it to grow. Keep in mind that there is danger in undertaking any of these routes. You’ll notice a disclaimer on every page for a reason. Do your research and make sure you are equipped before trying these. While some are easy, others are epic rides that few people can accomplish on their own.

Steep Climbs Routes

South Carolina Routes
North Carolina Routes
Georgia Routes


Table Rock Weekend, 2012

Months ago, Neil Turner mentioned what might have been the best idea I have heard this year. He suggested renting some cabins one weekend, a few weeks before Mitchell, and getting a large group of people to ride their bikes all over the mountains for two or three days straight. He would coordinate the activities and more importantly, the food. Fortunately he had enough interest and began planning. As he put it, this weekend has occupied his thoughts for the last couple months. I hope he wasn’t too stressed about it, but whatever he did, it worked out like a charm. Thanks Neil for putting everything together. It was a tremendous weekend.

Because this was such a big weekend, I will divide it into two posts. This post will be about the cabins, the people and yes, the food. The next post will be about the wonderful rides.

The People:

Neil was our gracious host and coordinated pretty much everything. He even stayed away from many of the rides, which was unfortunate since is one of the most enthusiastic climbers, but he was content being the domestique on this trip.

John from Columbia brought a lot of experience with him, along with a disdain for dogs, descents and ‘cookie’ rides.

Janet from Greenville was relatively new to cycling, but brought a lot of swimming experience and some positive energy.

Much of the group was from Lumberton, NC. I had ridden with Tom * Mary before, randonneur extraordinaires! We also had Jim and Maria Parker, co-founder and proud riders of Cruz recumbent bicycles. Finally we had Matt, another mountain goat, and his wife Debbie, a multi-athlete who is not ashamed to mix femininity with athleticism.

Finally we had Dr. Bill from Spartanburg, a cheerful mountaineer, and his wife Becky, who offered to let me use her personal wifi.

We had a guest appearance on Saturday and Sunday from Tom of Greenville, who joined me for a Saturday spin and the rest of us for the Sunday ride.

The Food:

Included in the price of the cabin was all the food and drink one could consume. Given all the calories we were burning this weekend, that was a tall order, but fortunately the supplies did not come close to running out.

The first evening’s dinner was what Neil described as ‘Hobo Food.’ He built a fire and kept it aflame during a brief rainstorm. After the weather cleared, he served a number of vegetables, potatoes, ground beef, and heads of cabbage. The idea was to use the cabbage as an outer shell, add ingredients and spices inside, and then cover them with aluminum foil. The last task was to make a handle out of the foil and place it into the fire for 30 minutes. I halfway expected a burnt mess after removing mine carefully from the fire. Instead I found an unusually delicious meal.

Neil offered us a number of breakfast choices for Saturday morning. I had a bagel and bananas, wanting to eat quick before I left for Walhalla. Afterward he would cook pancakes to pre-fuel the other riders.

Saturday night was meat and veggie lasagna. It was heavy, sure, but just what the doctor ordered after we spent a day in the saddle.

Sunday morning before we had to check out, Neil spoiled us yet again. This time we had bagels again, fruit, and then he made eggs, potatoes, and sausage links. I ate a lot more than I should have, again replenishing the calories burnt the day before and stuffing myself for the upcoming rides.

We also had beer, soft drinks, and pretty much anything we could have hoped for.

The Entertainment:

Most of our entertainment was in the form of cycling or relaxing, so we had little need for anything else. I joked to Neil that since he was providing everything else, maybe he should do a song and dance routine in the evening. He assured (or promised?) us that would not happen. Most of our evenings were spent enjoying company, having a couple drinks, and turning in early. After all, we were universally exhausted from the main events, all of which took place in the mountains.

More on that soon.

IMAGE GALLERY

Cherokee Foothills Bicycle Tour, 2011, Tigerville SC

I approached Cherokee Foothills as a tune-up, a last hurrah before buckling in for the Bridge to Bridge ride in two weeks. At first it looked like it might not be challenging. As I discovered when reviewing the cue sheet, it would be just fine. Nothing like a lot of the other rides I have done recently, but good enough to continue my fitness. In the end, this turned out to be a beast of a ride, much tougher than I bargained for.

I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4am, earlier than any human being should be awake unless they are still up from the night before. Soon I was en route to Tigerville, SC, a familiar location for upstate cycling. I arrived with plenty of time to spare and felt great. A big difference this time was that I traveled to this ride totally alone. Of course I always like good company, but it was nice to go at my speed.

Cherokee Foothills Start

After starting at 8am, I hung with the lead pack for the first couple miles. The pace was manageable, but I did not want to burn my candle too early, so I backed off and rode solo. I still kept a good pace. I had an 18 mph average after 10 miles, with nearly 1,000 feet of climbing. These were literally the foothills and they were mostly rolling. Some kicked up to a steep grade, but were over quickly before we were rolling back down again. It was a nice, scenic, leisurely ride down roads I had often traveled before on other rides.

Eventually I caught up to some who had fallen off the lead pack. We rode together and caught up with some others. We ran a nice pace line until we approached the Watershed. As it turned out, most of those in the pack were doing the metric, so it thinned out for the Watershed. There was a lot of confusion at the intersection where the metric route split from the century route. One rider inadvertently started going up the Watershed with his riding partner down below yelling that he was going the wrong way. I caught up with him and steered him back down to his friend.

Cherokee Foothills first paceline

First paceline

Have I ever mentioned how much I love the Watershed? It is nice and quiet. Usually the only sounds are other cyclists and water trickling. It is not terribly steep save for a couple of sections, and is pretty much devoid of traffic, not counting cyclists. There are often a ton of them, as there were today.

I felt good on the Watershed and later found from the Strava data that I beat my personal best time. After a strong lower half, I lost some of my mojo on the upper half when the climbs get a little steeper. When I got to e top, I was riding alone again but felt great and enjoyed the ride into Saluda. Once at the Saluda rest stop I caught up with two other riders, Scott and Rich and rode with them most of the way.

Cherokee Foothills Watershed

Riding up the Watershed.

After Saluda, we headed north up Highway 176 towards Flat Rock. The traffic was a little heavy on this stretch, but we made it just fine. Then we turned back through Zirconia and back down the Watershed. We came down on a different road, one that I have not traveled before, up or down. The descent was just as fantastic as the way I am used to. It would be amazing if they repaved the roads. Scott pointed out that they probably don’t because of all the cycling traffic.

We hit the bottom of the Watershed and immediately noticed the heat. It was a lot hotter down here and would only get worse. Heat is my Achilles heel and I handled it poorly. I probably did not drink enough and was losing power the hotter it got.

The rest stop was supposed to be at mile 69. We went there and beyond. No rest stop. We found out later that it didn’t exist. Who knows what happened? There were not many century riders, so it is possible they packed up after the metric riders stopped coming by. The cue sheet said they would be open until 3pm and it was not even 1pm when we came through, so it was a little frustrating. Fortunately there was a store a few miles afterward. We rested and refueled. There was another stop at mile 85 and we topped off.

Those last 15 miles were rough. I lost my humor and almost all mental capacity. I just mindlessly peddled along. The last part was again back in the foothills. They were also almost completely out in the open, totally exposed to the sun’s relentless wrath. The hills were rolling like before, but because of the brutal heat, they seemed steeper and longer. I remember Oak Grove Road being particularly difficult. We had nice descents, but the uphills were often in the 9-10% range.

Sunny Day in the foothills

Sunny day in the foothills

At one time my Garmin showed 100 degrees outside. That was probably exaggerated, but it was easily 95 or higher from noon until 3pm when we finally finished. We came back on Highway 414, which thankfully was not too challenging. I almost screamed with joy when I saw Tigerville Elementary. It was almost over. Soon after we rolled into North Greenville College and got some relief. I practically guzzled water and did my best to eat. It wasn’t until I had spent some time in my air-conditioned car before I started to feel better.

This was a tough one. I ended up with around 6,500 feet climbing. The last 1,000 or so were in high temperatures and unquestionably the toughest.

Strava link


Cherokee Foothills Preview

One of the lovely Greenville Watershed views

This weekend is the Cherokee Foothills Bicycle Tour out of Tigerville, SC. For awhile there wasn’t a lot of information about this event. Even though I was registered, I wasn’t sure if this would be the right event for me. The question was how tough these foothills would be. I’ve developed an affinity for mountains and they would be ideal for my training at this point. After all, Bridge to Bridge is not even three weeks away.

Fortunately I got a hold of the cue sheet and found that this ride will be perfect for me. The century begins in Tigerville and rides around a lot of the rolling country roads before heading up to Saluda. We will take the Greenville Watershed, always a nice ride, up to downtown Saluda. From there it looks like we head up 176 towards Flat Rock, which will mean some additional climbing before heading back down again. My estimation is the century ride will be between 6000-7000 feet of climbing, which is perfect.

Rather than stay overnight, I’ll be leaving early in the morning — VERY early in the morning. I will probably get up around 4am and hit the road before 5am. Depending on the night’s sleep, which probably won’t be too great, I may be a bit weary for the ride. I’ll try to get us some good coffee along the way and I may bring a 5-hour energy to drink before the climbing begins.

My approach will depend on how I feel. It will be tempting and probably good for me to open it up and try to get through fast. But that won’t be necessary. I may go at a moderate pace if it’s hot, I’m tired, or both. For now it looks like terrific weather with a high in the mid-80s. There is a small chance of rain, but it looks like it will hold off until late afternoon or evening.

After pushing the mileage last week, this week I have taken it easy. This is not tapering, but more giving myself some recovery time. I will participate in easy rides on Wednesday and Thursday and rest Friday.


Midmorning on Paris Mountain

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So this Saturday was my 39th birthday. I’m usually not a big fan of elaborate birthday celebrations. To me it is just another day and not a big deal. For some reason this year was a little different. Maybe it is because this is the last year of my 30s. Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to do something fun. For whatever reason, my wife and I planned a little daytrip to celebrate.

We drove to Traveler’s Rest, SC, just outside of Greenville. We parked and went our separate ways for the morning. She went shopping and to a coffee shop. I, naturally, went up a mountain. I found a good cue sheet off the internet that went over Paris mountain, took me into Taylors through a country club, and then looped back to Traveler’s Rest. The loop should have been 19 miles. My goal was to ride my age, so after two loops and maybe a little extra pedaling, I would be done.

This was my first try at Paris Mountain so I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that the professionals did four loops at the Cycling Championships a couple months ago. They flew up the mountain, so it couldn’t be that bad, could it? It really was not that bad. It had a couple steep sections and kicked up at the end to about 10-12%, but overall it was in the 8% grade range and it wasn’t a very long climb. As I reached the top, I ran into someone who had just rode up the other way. He said that the way I had just come was steeper and more difficult. Coming from the Taylors side is easier because there are rolling hills and easier grades, but it is a longer overall climb. Descending was fun, and I decided that on my second loop I would go in reverse and come up the other way to get the entire experience.

Unfortunately this route turned out to be longer than I expected. When I reached Traveler’s Rest again, I had 25 miles already. Those miles were slower because I was following a cue sheet and trying to make sense of confusing road names. A couple times I had to pull over and check my GPS, and a couple other times I took wrong turns. On top of all that, because of the additional time taken, it was hot when I arrived back at Traveler’s Rest, and my wife had been patiently waiting. So I ditched the plan for another loop and finished my mileage on some Traveler’s Rest neighborhoods and a nice 3-4 mile stretch of bike trail.

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