When catching up with my long time high school buddy Peter Disera (Name drop!!), he mentioned he was flying solo on a road camp, and invited me join him in California. As good as that sounded, I couldn't make the dates work, and he said he was also going to Carolina for a week of Mountain Biking and suggested I come along. Although I hadn’t MTB’d in years, this past summer I picked up a trail bike and had tons of fun the few times I rode it. Anyway I took Peter up on his offer and agreed to go.
In case you aren't in the loop, Peter is currently our national MTB champion and has several other impressive results on the resume, which includes being the Vice World Champ in junior, and he also landed on the box this past summer at a U23 World cup. Needless to say I thought the trip would be interesting.
We planned to drive down from Barrie, and make our way to Brevard North Carolina, where we had a house rented for the first week of the New Year. With just the two of us on the guest list so far, I invited a friend who has become my main riding buddy back in the Maritimes, Jon Burgess. Jon is also the head coach of the Nova Scotia provincial team, and he was easily convinced to come.
Upon booking the trip, Jon and I asked ourselves a similar question. Peter is the best MTBer in the country (he’ll be mad at me for claiming that) and he's down to train for a week with a couple of glorified weekend warriors? Somehow the answer is yes, and I think that really speaks to his character, as I'm going to go on a limb here, and say not many national level athletes are willing to spend a week with some Jerry's, right in the thick of preparation for a full World Cup calendar....... Luckily I think we held our own!
Anyway we left Barrie in Peters Suby and sent it south in search for warm weather. That weather never came as North Carolina was experiencing far worse then normal weather and the long term forecast wasn't seeing any positive temps.
Although the weather was sub par, it was extremely dry so we were able to manage the frigid temps and get in some big miles. At the end of the first week we had buried 26 hours of riding and had barely ridden the same trail twice. Peter and Jon being MTB guys kept me on my toes as I was definitely getting out of my comfort zone on several descents. That showed when I hit the deck pretty hard on day one, and ripped a large hole in my goretex jacket. The same jacket that I lost, about a month after I bought it 4 years ago, only to recently find it deep in the back of a closet. I think the garment is just too good for me.
Anyway, It was awesome to get back in touch with an old friend who I haven't seen that much since High School. Forgetting about some of Peters quirks, he kept Jon and I on track with his ridiculous attention to detail. If you are ever wondering how to collect the most possible air miles, plan a trip for 30 people, Book flights 3 full years in advance, or you need the terms and agreements of your credit card's vehicle rental insurance recited, Peter is your guy. In the odd chance he doesn’t know what you’re looking for, hell sure as hell help you figure it out. Unfortunately for Peter, in 2018 starting a travel agency may be a less then sound business venture, but hands down peter would be a thug of a travel agent. For the record, I'm pretty sure your aero plan Visa card doesn't cover car rental insurance on any kind of truck. Consult Peter though.
The Pisgah Forest is located south west of Asheville NC, which is home to the famous Biltmore Estate. The Biltmore family was one of America’s wealthiest families and loved spending time in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Because of the beautiful local scenery, they built a modest summer home there, which is the largest private home in America. The Biltmore’s ensured the Pisgah Forest was left to its natural beauty, which fast forward a century has left us with a world-class multiuser trail network.
The area has really transformed it self into an active living Mecca, with an evident love for its local MTBing. Heavily rivalling BC for Toyota Tacoma's to resident's ratio, Brevard is a great little town with immediate access to Pisgah's best trail networks. Close to town is also the DuPont state forest with offer less punishing climbs and much smoother trail then some of the rugged Pisgah terrain.
Fitting with the MTB vibe is an endless amount of local breweries that are heavily invested into the local MTB scene. Furthermore the bike shops are fantastic, specifically Sycamore Cycles, who were more then helpful, and kept our bikes running with several on the spot repairs, while we slammed espresso from their in house cafe. Sycamore also had a full fleet of Norco demo bikes on demand, which was sick to see in such a patriotic country (USA). GO Canada.
Being an arrogant roadie, my opinion on a MTB trip may be skewed, but I'm going to go ahead and say the Brevard MTB experience would be put in the same category as your household Moab and Sedona trips. As a bonus we can road trip there from Toronto, and do the trip at a fraction of the cost, compared to going west! With this trip being focused on lots of riding, I plan to head back sometime with non-world cup athletes, and enjoy a much higher ratio of IPA's to kilometres ridden, then endured on this trip.
The week of riding was fantastic and we logged close to 70km a day in the saddle with over ten thousand Metres of climbing. Although I heavily enjoyed a full week of lugging my 30lb rig around, with baggy clothing and a brimmed bucket, the final day of the trip was forecasted to be 15 degrees and sun. I couldn't let myself pass up a road ride in weather like that. I had secretly packed my road shoes and pedals just in case I got the itch. With a solid sales pitch to Jon, I convinced him to join and we rented a pair of road bikes in Greenville and banged out a century ride on our last day.
When picking up the road bikes, Jon had to borrow pedals, and neither of us had a single water bottle. (Sorry I’m going waterless before I use a camelback on skinny tires) When the guys working at the shop asked how far we were going ride the rentals and Jon replied with "hopefully about 100 miles" there was a visible jaw drop, silence, and I could easily identify a concerned tone in their responses. Do I really look like that much of a rookie? I guess the no water bottles are pretty hack. (We just put Gatorade bottles in the cages so we didn’t have to buy bottles)
Anyway Jon and I finished the century alive and well, and it felt really good to get back out on the road steed. This ended an awesome final Christmas break of my undergrad degree and unfortunately these lengthy Christmas breaks will be coming to an end. I'm now heading back to Halifax for my last semester of university, which has flown by far to fast and the thought of not having the amazing ride community that has taken me in over the last 4 years makes me emotional. Sorry now I'm off topic.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my adventures in Carolina. If you actually managed to keep reading to this point you probably need a drink. If you just skipped to the end, you saved yourself a whole lot of time, and all you need to know is Pisgah Forest is awesome and you should go there.