Unfortunately, this year's longer routes had to be cut short due to the painfully slow pace we had in the snow. We only reached the bottom of the Bobblet's Gap climb before deciding to get on Route 11 and then Bike Route 76 for the long pull back. We leave you with some landmarks you will see along the route, in beautiful Botetourt County.
Fourth of July has felt like a holiday week this year. It fell on a wednesday, bisecting the week into a laid back chill-fest, well, except on the actual 4th. The 100k on the 4th ride out of Ballast Point Brewing was a startup event that snowballed into something that attracted riders from all backgrounds and skill levels.
The idea of spending 100k of my precious time on a road bike on 'Merica day when mountain biking was invented by 'Merica had me skeptical. Luckily, this was a perfect chance to really stretch the legs of my Canyon Endurace. As the name implies the bike is made for long distance and long days in the saddle. With tiny, flexy seatstays and 32c Bontrager AW2 tires, tubeless, with 60 psi in them, it rides like a cloud. This bike is made for mountain bikers coming off of their full suspensions.
The hardest part of the ride comes at Price Mountain. At 10 miles in, one is adequately warmed up and ready for the climb, but that makes it no less grueling. 10% grade for an entire mile up this mother. The payoff is more than worth it though. It is a mile down with hairpin turns and almost no cars.
The unique thing about this ride, and a lot of riding in Botetourt County, is that road and mountain bike routes often intersect. Seeing trails like this one along the road didn't help curb my craving for full squish and only one chainring, but at this point I was committed to riding my Velo.
Another mountain biking route that this route crosses is the Hoop Hole trail system. Hoop Hole is in the shape of an 8, has some really gnarly stuff, and some really sweet descents. Check out my blog post on clearing it out before the Rockstar VA 270.
The legend, Ken Taylor, Cull, came out to ride on the fourth. As we were chatting to people at Hoop Hole someone said "oh Ken Taylor, I've seen your name at the top of some segments!" Ken is a great all around cyclist and an even better friend.
Not everyone's cut from our cloth.
About 30 miles in, Karen Williams went down and kissed the pavement. Luckily we were right there to help out. She sprayed some water on her wounds and soldiered on to complete the entire ride! Great job Karen.
Towards the final third of the ride, me and Ken joined up with Chris and his son, Bradley Bayne. We formed our own Niner RLT9 club, as Chris was on a nice real Steel one, Bradley on an aluminum one with a beautiful paint scheme. I sold my Niner RLT to Ken a while back, rounding out the group of owners and former owners of a great gravel bike. Chris and Bradley live in the Botetourt area and were able to provide us with a good route back and even have us kiss some gravel.
Like Burning Man, or some other strange, yearly ritual, every mid January since 2015 a large group of the best riders in Virginia come together for one of the greatest gravel rides in the country. Forged in snow, Gravelocity has quickly become an astounding event thanks to Rob Issem and the Virginia Endurance Series
2018 had the best turnout of any previous ride, despite the average temperature of 20 degrees. No matter. We on the 54 mile ride would be doing roughly 5,900 feet of climbing, a perfect chance to warm up. Our launch point was none other than the great Wes Wilmer's house. Wilmer is a carbon Y-Bike riding, stud who eats centuries for breakfast, and we thank him for that. Oh and for letting us park at his house too.
We set off past route 11, through Camp Bethel, and into what we call, the Botetourt Turnpike, which is a gravel road sandwiched between Troutville and the Blue Ridge parkway. The Turnpike connects Bobllett's gap, Blackhorse gap, and Salt Pond road, all 3 of which we would be touching.
As far north as we could go, we ascended up Boblett's gap, a 3 mile 1000ft cruiser. once at the top, some elected to go down the other side, a crime in my mind considering that both sides of Boblett's gap have fantastic rolling humps that provide plenty of hangtime. Not fancying cracking my chainstays by catching air on a road (adventure) bike, we elected to go further north up The Parkway and descend Goose Creek Valley. If one could be so bold as to call a sectionRoad SingletrackGoose Creek Valley is it.
On the climb up these two nice blokes, father and son, from Staunton and Fredricksburg asked me where the mountain bike trails are in Roanoke. "Right here!" I said. All these gravel roads connect great trails like Spec Mines , Dody Ridge , The Glenwood Horse Trail , and we even passed Mineshaft on the way up Bobletts. At the top I pointed right and said: "Oh by the way, thats the Appalacian Trail right there."
The big one. The finale. The brutal, world renowned, Blackhorse Gap. This climb holds a special place in my heart and my Strava (my only starred segment). 1,152 feet in 2.2 miles, and 30 minutes of pain. We love it, we hate it, at least we're on Craybon Noodle Bar Plasti-Bikes™ (or steel if you're a baller) instead of our mountain bikes.
At the top I met up with Carlo Dy and his gang of vandals from Roaonoke and Virginia Beach. We continued on to our target: Salt Pond Road.
Gravelocity ends by getting on Gravel Dr. and going through a farm to cut back to Wilmer's place. This is private label gravel with only permission to ride it one day a year.
Until next year gravel grinders.