BikingPedal Power: Best Long Distance Rides in the Blue Ridge

Pedal Power: Best Long Distance Rides in the Blue Ridge

Spring training is over. Now it’s time to go the distance. Whether you’re a spandex-clad road hog or singletrack-loving dirt bag, there are plenty of opportunities to test your pedal mettle. These are the best long distance bike rides in the Blue Ridge. Get pedaling.

Black and Blue Double Century and Relay

June 8 • Todd, N.C.

With a course designed to test the will of the strongest cyclists, the Black and Blue Double Century and Relay covers 200 miles through the epic winding mountain roads of the North Carolina High Country and southwest Virginia highlands. Ride it solo or rotate through eight 25-mile legs with up to eight teammates on the course that starts in the small town of Todd and climbs 16,287 feet, while twisting through the rural roads near the state line before returning to the finish at the Riverside Restaurant on the banks of the New River.

Stoopid 50 Backcountry Race

June 16 • State College, Pa.

Riders typically take between five to eight hours to complete this 50-mile backcountry slog in the biker-beloved Rothrock State Forest near State College. Cover the terrain that’s been designated one of IMBA’s Epic Rides, as you pedal through a mix of singletrack and fire roads, conquering legendary trails like Pigpile, Shittaka, and Tussey Mountain Ridge.

Iron Mountain 100K 

June 30 • Damascus, Va.

Take off from Damascus and traverse the wild and scenic terrain of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in Southwest Virginia. Entering its fifth year, this race is becoming a new regional favorite, thanks to a fun course that utilizes a stretch of the lengthy Great Eastern Trail Bicycle Route in development. Iron Mountain 100K riders follow a long stretch of mostly singletrack that includes plenty of technical wheel stumpers: gnarly roots, rocky dried-up creek beds, and some steep climbs. Although the elevation change isn’t terribly demanding, riding 65 miles off-road is never a picnic, so expect your legs and lungs to be screaming by the end. 

Total 200

July 6 • Washington, D.C.

Saddle sore will have new meaning if you can make it through this double century ride. The Total 200 starts with a quick lap around the U.S. Capitol before taking Pennsylvania Avenue out towards Maryland. Cyclists eventually hit the century mark at Point Lookout State Park, located on the southern peninsula where the Potomac River meets the Chesapeake Bay. After riders refuel with some lunch and leg rest, the course loops back north towards the District. While the distance is epic, the terrain is mostly flat with a few rolling hills, gaining just 5,600 feet in 200 miles. A shorter 200K option will also be offered. 

Gran Fondo Alleghany

July 13 • Covington, Va.

No one said cycling was easy. Riders learn why when they tackle this punishing route through the mountainous roads of the Alleghany Highlands. At this growing event, cyclists maneuver the winding asphalt that burrows through the dense woods of the George Washington National Forest. Organizers have put together a new route this year to keep the course fresh for returning riders, now testing cyclists with a stout 108 miles that climbs 11,500 feet. It all starts with the Pitzer’s Ridge climb as the route leaves Covington and roller coasters its way toward the finish in Clifton Forge. Shorter options of 72 and 29 miles will also be offered. 

Jerdon Mountain Challenge 

July 20 • Old Fort, N.C.

If you missed registration for the sold-out Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell, or you just weren’t ready for the full 63 miles, you can ride this warm-up the day before. The Jerdon Mountain Challenge covers much of the same terrain as the epic endurance challenge, including Old Highway 70, Kitsuma, Star Gap, and Jarrett Creek. Riders are spared the infamous climb up Curtis Creek Road to the Blue Ridge Parkway, but this ride still covers 30 miles and ascends 4,000 feet, so you’ll need plenty of stamina to get it done.

Six Hour Race to Sunset at Blankets Creek

August 3 • Woodstock, Ga.

Ride solo or grab a team of two or three and pedal as many seven-mile laps as possible on the Blankets Creek Mountain Bike Trails, just north of Atlanta. Laps will get easier on the well-built SORBA singletrack as the sun sets, as the race starts at 3 p.m. and ends at 9. 

Bridge to Bridge Incredible Challenge

September 15 • Lenoir, N.C.

Dubbed “100 Miles of Pure Hill,” this lung-busting ride from downtown Lenoir to the top of Grandfather Mountain is known as one of the toughest cycling challenges in the country. The course climbs approximately 10,000 feet (the majority of it in the last 50 miles), as riders move through the Yadkin Valley to some of steepest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway, before a final brutal ascent on U.S. 221 to Grandfather’s famous Mile High Swinging Bridge.

Places to Go, Things to See: