After getting to know Brevard, North Carolina, one would think it should land on every cycling aficionado’s top ten list.
Until now, however, this hidden gem nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains has mostly escaped the attention of the hoards that annually trek to Boulder, CO or Napa Valley, CA for training camps and cycling vacations. But eventually, best-kept secrets like Brevard always seem to make their way into the spotlight.
What makes Transylvania County 'cycling capital of the South?'
Well known throughout the east coast for its endless hiking trails, countless waterfalls, and spectacular autumn colours, Brevard also boasts some of the most challenging and scenic cycling found anywhere in North America. Terrain varies from gently rolling, valley blacktop to climbs on par with some of the mythic ascents of the Tour de France.
A must-see is the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most picturesque roads in the country with long-ranging views over the surrounding mountains and valleys. Perched high above the city, the Parkway can be accessed via Highway 276 or Highway 215. Both roads are twisting and challenging but well worth the ride (or drive), and together they make for a demanding loop that encompasses a pristine 12 mile stretch of the Parkway, a great reward for your efforts.
Other routes range from quiet roads paralleling valley streams, to moderate climbs through state forests, to ascending Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina, and Caesar’s Head, a 6.4-mile monster with an average gradient of 6%. The Assault on the Carolinas is the largest road cycling event based in Brevard, occurring every April, with over 1200 cyclists pushing their limits on these local roads.
A mountain biking hotspot on the rise
For those who prefer knobby tires, both Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State Forest offer ample opportunity for mountain biking, with trails ranging from very advanced and technical, to more leisurely, flowy riding with spectacular vistas available to all.
Brevard is quickly becoming a mountain bike hot-spot, with both Trek and Specialized having hosted local events to announce the release of their new mountain bike lines in recent years.
The Bike Farm
Off-road racing events are also held regularly throughout the year. Two of the biggest are the Pisgah Stage Race held in April and the Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell (ORAMM) held each July. Both races attract cyclists from across the country and typically sell out well in advance. Make sure you plan ahead!
If you need to rent a bike while visiting the area or repair your own set of wheels, rest assured there is a local bike shop ready and willing to handle all your needs. Sycamore Cycles and The Hub offer bikes for rental and have experienced staff that can handle your repair needs or simply help you map out a ride. If you want help putting together a truly unique one-day ride or configuring a two to seven day training camp that will expose you to all the best that Brevard offers and get your season off on the right foot, contact me at either Busche Endurance or Carmichael Training Systems for a guided experience. I promise not to disappoint!
Go Here: Exploring Transylvania County
What to see & do on cycle breaks
The beauty of Brevard does not end when your ride does.
High Falls | VisitWaterfalls.comVisitWaterfalls.com
Fly fishing is a popular local-pastime and there are great guide services available, such as Davidson River Outfitters. If you’re looking for a place to cool off before heading home, try dipping your toes into one of the swimming holes along the Davidson River, sit at the base of Looking Glass Falls to ice your legs, or take a trip down Sliding Rock. But be forewarned, it is easy to lose track of time soaking up the beauty that surrounds you.
Base camp for adventure
For more low-key activities there is plenty to see and do in the Brevard area. You can spend a rest day exploring the numerous art galleries and specialty shops that dot Brevard’s quaint downtown, or take a drive through the scenic Highway 276 arts corridor where you will discover unique art and pottery pieces at family-run galleries such as Mud Dabbers Pottery.
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself on a summer escape to Brevard, you should plan to catch a performance by one of the many incredible musicians who routinely entertain at the renowned Brevard Music Center. Visit May 26-28 to celebrate White Squirrel Festival, a three-day festival high on home town spirit. It's equal parts street party, soap box derby and all around good time.
Where to refuel and re-hydrate
Following a hard day’s worth of outdoor adventure, Brevard offers numerous dining options.
For a laid back refuel, try out Pad Thai or El Ranchero restaurant. Pad Thai has a very unassuming exterior, but their assortment of curries are a home run every time. At El Ranchero, the chili verde pork plate accompanied by a big glass of horchata is enough to satisfy even the biggest of hungry-cyclist appetites. For a more formal dining experience, the food and atmosphere at either Jaime’s Creole Brasserie, Jordan Street Cafe, or Square Root are sure to impress.
For those with a sweet tooth, the selection is ample. Dolly’s Dairy Bar is conveniently located at the entrance/exit of the forest and offers flavors themed by the many summer camps of the area. If you are in downtown Brevard, it is hard to beat the classic strawberry milkshake at Cardinal Drive-In or the Carolina Blue Morning shake from Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop.
Brevard’s breakfast choices are also outstanding. Blue Ridge Bakery is dynamite for any kind of pastry. If you get there early, you might be fortunate enough to grab a maple-bacon donut fresh out of the oven. The breakfast burrito at Sunrise Cafe is sure to satisfy, or for the classic, small-town diner scene, Creekside Subs (locally known as Julie’s) provides your staple breakfast choices at inexpensive prices. Be prepared to wait if you go at a peak meal hour.
If you find your appetite is quelled but your thirst is unquenched, Oskar Blues Brewery offers a wide assortment of drinks and indoor or outdoor seating. Play beanbags or sit and socialize while your kids play with the abundance of children’s toys. Another great spot for adults who would like to grab a drink or bite to eat while children play is Magpie Meat & Three in Brevard’s up and coming Lumber Arts District. They provide a reduced menu for their outdoor picnic area where adults can grab an appetizer or drink while kids can play on their assortment of trikes and children’s toys.
Whether you want to simply vacation with the family or you wish to spend a bit of time training in one of nature’s sweet spots, Brevard is a humble mountain town with something for everyone. Cyclists of all levels can rest assured that a gorgeous new road awaits each day of your visit, spouses can hike if they prefer, children can splash in the water that abounds, and everyone can enjoy a bite (or two) at one of the excellent local eateries. Just be careful when you come for a short visit that you don’t end up staying much longer than intended- many who have visited have found it impossible to leave!