On May 4th, 7 am, at Rockfish Gap, Va., Ryan Davis is venturing out to complete an end-to-end-to-end ride of the Blue Ridge Parkway – 938 miles of self-supported bike packing.
Davis firmly believes in the power of bikes. He feels they bring people together and builds a strong community of passionate people.
Davis is going into this as an adventure cyclist, a certified nurse, someone living with Tourette’s Syndrome, and an avid lover of all things bikes and people. As his ride quickly approaches, he is eager for the self-discovering journey he is about to embark and the person he will come out as on the other side.
You can track his progress here, or check back to Blue Ridge Outdoors for updates. We were able to catch up with Davis and ask a few questions before he begins his journey this week.
What inspired the RCR ride?
The RCR stands for Rockfish-Cherokee-Rockfish. It is a self-supported road cycling adventure, from mile marker 0, to mile marker 469, back to mile marker zero, all along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Basically it’s just me doing an out and back as fast as I can with no outside help, other than what the road provides. I just had to give it a name. I got the name idea from the famous Paris-Breast-Paris. The RCR and the force behind it was made for many, so right now all it as is me.
There is never just one thing that inspires me to do something. I guess since the time I started riding, the mission to become faster, more efficient, and ride with more enthusiasm was derived by my surroundings and that inner force that continues to push me to do so. So what I’m doing is just going out and making something with it. I was always amazed by the people pushing their limits, whatever those may be—anything that pushes someone past their comfort zone. After I found what I wanted to push myself in, I’m finding ways to make that happen.
The idea of the RCR came to me in a pub in Mannheim, Germany, a few weeks after the Transatlantic Way Bike Race. I Just thought it would be cool to bring a little bit of that passion back, so I needed a place for it and wanted it to be in the region I call home. I couldn’t think of any other road than the Blue Ridge Parkway
Has anyone else done a double-thru-ride of the Parkway?
I don’t know really. Back in 2000, a guy named Chris Boone cycled the 469 miles in a crazy fast time of 29 hours 36 min. People cycle the BRP all the time, but I’m not sure if anyone has ever done a self-supported ride out and back.
Why are you starting at Rockfish Gap? Are there logistical advantages?
My dad lives in Charlottesville, which is always a good environment to prepare, rest, and visit. I also think it would be a better location to leave my car. If I complete it in the rate I want to, I’ll be tired, and I don’t want a long drive home.
Where will you sleep and eat along the way?
The plan is to sleep as little as possible and still be able to get the mission done without destroying myself or putting myself in danger. I plan to bivy as much as possible, since it’s most efficient for a quick rest. The hard part is knowing when to stop or not. There are lots of variables when figuring out when and where to sleep. Shelter is sparse and legal camping is limited, so I’ll have to use my best judgement there. If I’m exhausted enough and I get to a place to where I feel like I’m endangering myself, I’ll take a nap somewhere.
I’ve been on an extremely low carb diet since New Year’s. I felt it was necessary to get lighter on the bike, so I dropped 25 pounds. My diet always changes when I get going on the bike though. I start to crave chocolate milk, fizzy drinks, peanut m&ms, chocolate muffins, and hopefully sandwiches. I’ll be burning through some calories, so getting enough will be my biggest concern. Of course I hope to manage a balanced diet, but the appetite gets weird after that many miles. I will have a tub of peanut butter in my jersey pocket, and a spoon in the other for emergencies.
Have you biked the Parkway previously?
I have biked it twice, one time in August a few years ago, and also last April. Both times I started in Cherokee and finished in about 7-9 days. The first time I was fully loaded with an approximately a 100-pound rig. The second time was probably around a 50 pounds. This go around, I’m aiming for around 50 pounds, but it will be mostly food and water.
How far do you plan to ride each day?
I’m going to try and look at it not in days but as one long consecutive day, that way I’m not limited by night and day or when I should sleep or when I shouldn’t. My goal currently is to average 18-20 hours of saddle time per 24 hours, so however far I can get in that time.
How will you handle the tourism vehicle traffic?
I chose spring for this very reason. I find it to have much lower traffic than summer and fall. School is still in and no holidays going on. The only thing during this time of year is that it can get cold, and weather can be interesting, so multi-seasonal gear is essential.
Any favorite spots along the Parkway?
It’s all so beautiful. The viaduct is always a cool segment, and I love the tunnels, but I’m sure mile marker zero will be hard to beat. All the down hills will be good times. After a couple hundred miles it will all blend in essentially. I’m always hoping to see plenty of wildlife as well.
What do you think about for 989 miles?
My basic needs are always first. It keeps the chatter at bay, but if those basic needs are met, I try to always think pleasant thoughts. I think about family, friends, the ones that helped me get to this very moment, love, and life’s unanswered questions. But my brain never slows down. I know I’ll be playing a lot of tricks on myself. The season is just starting, and I have Tourette Syndrome, so I am predicting it could get to be a problem. My tics can cause a lot of muscular strain in my neck, hips, wrist, and ankles, so I’ll have to focus on trying to calm that. If I end up going to a dark place, and I’m sure it will happen due to it being chemical to an extent, well, that is when the real challenge begins. Finding the strength to keep going at that point can be tough, but hopefully, I can understand it and just keep spinning.