mountain biking

Bicycle Tourism in the Shenandoah Valley

Mountain biker, friend of the shop, and huge Harrisonburg advocate, Ben V.

Bicycle Tourism has been on our mind a lot lately at the shop. We've seen more and more out-of-town customers at Bluestone Bike & Run and we can't help but all feel a sense of pride over where we live.

Both from a mountain biking and road cycling perspective. It seems that every weekend there is a group coming to town to tackle some of our favorite roads and single track.

We know that Harrisonburg Tourism and the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition have done a lot of work looking at the benefits of bicycle tourism and we can say we've seen it first hand.

Here's a perfect example...

Recently a couple from NJ was visiting Massanutten Resort and wanted to take in some activities outside of what the resort had to offer. Through a quick web search they ended up at the shop, because they loved to check out local bike shops. From their opinion, shops are usually well connected to the community and the outdoors. They are right!

Chef Jakob Napotnik of Harrisonburg's Local Chop & Grill House speaks to why local and organic food is important to him.

We put them on some demo bikes for a day and they had a blast. When they came back they made a few purchases and then asked about a good place to grab a bite to eat while in town. Without any hesitation, we mentioned the Local Chop House. Kyle is good friends with the owner, Jeff Hill and the chef, Jakob Napotnik. At the Chop House you can't go wrong, they have the bar for a more casual meal and a dining room or patio for a nicer atmosphere. The food and drink options at each of the dining options are amazing. Jakob, even cooked for ESPN during live television when they came to GameDay at JMU last fall!

A few days after the couple had been by the shop we got a call from them saying how much they appreciated our help and that they had one of their best dinners ever at the Chop House. So cool! We smiled and thanked them again for their business and said we hope to see them again sometime. They promptly replied, "Oh, we'll definitely be back."

And another...

Pale Fire Brewing Sampler - Delicious!

Kyle has a good friend who lives in Asheville, NC. A lot of mountain bikers view Asheville as the East Coast's premier biking area. It has tons of riding options and it's a great vacation town in general. We'll Kyle's buddy has come to visit Harrisonburg a few times and every time he's said how similar the two areas are and that he actually enjoy's Harrisonburg's trail systems just as much and, in some cases, even more than his local trails. Our trails are top notch and so are the food and drink options. Asheville, NC and the surrounding area is home to about 50 breweries that are overflowing with vacationers. We're not quite there in Harrisonburg, but our beer scene is awesome and steadily growing. When at Pale Fire on his last trip, Kyle's friend, was amazed at the sampler and even more surprised the the place wasn't packed with only college students. From a bicycle tourism standpoint; as a visitor, Kyle's friend spent money at the bike shop, at three of the four breweries, two different local restaurants, and bought some local wine to take home to his girlfriend. He had a free place to stay, but it's guaranteed that he'll spread the good word of Harrisonburg to his riding buddies back in North Carolina and we'll see them come up here and stay at a local hotel or campsite.

These are two different, but similar stories. Bikes bring people to Harrisonburg and what's seems to be so special about the type of people they bring, is that they care about local shopping and supporting small businesses. Our observation is that cyclists as a whole care about community and are willing to spend their money to have unforgettable experiences.

So from everyone at Bluestone Bike & Run, we want to thank the local businesses and organizations that make Harrisonburg and the surrounding area great for people on bicycles. We know there is always room for improvement, but as a whole we are proud of our home. We want to bring more people to the area, which is why we've started a formalized Shenandoah Valley Wine & Bike Tour and plan to bring more similar events to Harrisonburg.

Let's get more people on bikes in Harrisonburg and let's get more people with bikes to Harrisonburg!

New Wild Oak Trail - GO RIDE IT!

My buddy and I got out for a great mountain bike adventure this past weekend. We had our hearts set on riding some trails in the George Washington National Forest, so we took off from Harrisonburg at about 6:15 am.

We were headed to the North River Campground in the GWNF, which is a solid 45 min from the shop. It's just under 20 miles, but there are some slow and windy roads in the forest.

We parked at the bottom of the Hankey mountain road climb. This is a dirt road that eventually turns in to single track. It's a long climb, but totally worth it. You actually climb this twice in the local mountain bike endurance race, Shenandoah Mountain 100

We used the climb to catch-up. Ben and I both have young kids, so there is plenty to talk about. In addition to family and work updates, there are always bike stories to swap. More often than not, I'm the one who's jealous of Ben's biking tales.

Once at the top, we were in the shade and looking forward to the rolling single track of Dowell's Draft. After a mile or so we stopped at an nice overlook to enjoy the view. Ben's birthday was earlier that week and to my surprise he had brought along some Shoofly pie. I'd never had a piece of Shoofly pie, but I can tell you now, that it is awesome! I think it is a safe bet that we are the only two people to ever have Shoofly pie at the Dowell's Draft Overlook.

Dowell's Draft Overlook, GWNF

After our fair share of pie we dropped back on the trail. Having recently undergone a bunch of trailwork and a light rain a few nights prior the trails were in unbelievable condition.

We ripped on towards a trail called Magic Moss that would eventually lead us to the newest reworked section of trail in the GWNF, Wild Oak. Magic Moss was a really cool trail; off camber in places and with plenty of rocks and roots. You eventually come to a T with the Wild Oak Trail. Head right and you'll go straight up the mountain, it's STEEP. Thankfully that wasn't our plan. We took a left and found the downhill portion of Wild Oak.

This new section was fast and designed to really flow. Needless to say I enjoyed it, like a lot. The single track also has a few features to test your skills. In the video above you can see Ben cross a long log that connects a big turn. He makes it look easy, it's not. (Thanks to the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition for all their hard work on this! - Learn more about the project and other projects on the club's website.)

The trail eventually ends and if I didn't have to be home for lunch I would have totally voted to ride back up the trail to do it all again. However, we had other plans. We took the gravel road back to where we parked. In our amazement the whole loop was only two hours, so we had some time to do a little more riding. We made a quick decision to ride the Lookout Loop.

We headed back up Hankey Mountain, a little faster than the first, as our legs were nice and warm. Lookout is a great trail with lots of rocks, ridge riding, fun descents, and the occasional punchy climb. We had roughly an hour and 45 minutes to do the trail, so we skipped the overlook, but I can assure you it was a beautiful view because the air was so clear that day.

The final section of Lookout before the swinging bridge is a rock garden on top of a rock garden, ha. Ben took it with no trouble on his big travel Santa Cruz Bronson and I actually rode it quite well on my smaller traveled Cannondale Habit. However at the very end I made a mistake and bottomed out the suspension a little too hard and created the first mechanical of the day.

After a quick assessment of the issue, we figured I was safe to ride back to the car and just deal with the bike when I got back to the shop. In no time we were back on the paved road riding back to our cars. On the road we ran into a friend from town, Bart C., as he was starting his ride. It was good to have his fresh legs give us confidence on the ride back to our cars, as we'd just finished roughly 25 miles on the trails. 

Rolling back to our cars was a great feeling. I don't think there is any better way to start a nice weekend than with a big ride early in the morning. It wasn't even 11:15am and we'd covered a lot of ground and got some great exercise - and had fun doing it!

This is a must do ride, either part or in full. Here's a Strava link to see it for yourself.

Help us get more trails like this, DONATE to the club today!

Stop by the shop for more specifics, if you'd like. 

PS, my bike is all good. Erik had it back to party mode in under 5 minutes. Good thing for great bike mechanics!

Two Hour or Less Mountain Bike Ride Near Harrisonburg - May Suggestion

There are hundreds of riding options in and around Harrisonburg, Virginia. But today's suggested 2-hour or less mountain bike ride is a simple out and back on Dowells Draft.

To get to the ride, you'll need to drive about 30 minutes southwest of Harrisonburg. Take 81 South and get off just before Staunton, VA, onto Woodrow Wilson Parkway. You'll eventually exit off the parkway onto 250 West. Turn right onto Braley Pond Road and in less than a half mile the trailhead will be on your right. There is a great parking spot at the the bottom of Dowells Draft trail, which can hold 2-3 large cars. If that is full, you can park along the road in one of many pull-off locations.

What makes this trail so special is a bunch of upgraded trail at the top of the ridge. The Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition worked hard to get what used to be a very, very technical trail section rerouted and turned into an awesome section of flowy, yet rocky trail.

You'll climb ~3.5 miles to the top and on a clear day will see a nice view through the trees. The climb up is steady, with a few punchy sections. Once you point your bike downhill be ready to move! The new trail at the top is amazing, with some rollers and bermed switchbacks. It is much more sustainable than the old trail and a lot less gnarly (in the bad way, like steep and fall on sharp rocks, bad).

After the new section, the trail continues to provide miles of smiles. However, a word of caution, as the trail is off camber at sections and if your front wheel gets off the trail, you're going down. Just manage your speed appropriately and mind your front wheel, so you can stay upright. All trails have their risks and that contributes to the adrenaline rush, which makes mountain biking so much fun. 

Once you reach the bottom you'll want to do it all over again! If you have more in you, there are plenty of other ride options right off of Braley Road, but if you're ready to head back to Harrisonburg, stop at the Tasty Freeze on the way back to town or take the scenic route back on Route 42 as a reward for a great ride.

More Ride Details can be found here: