A few thoughts on the Beech Mt. Metric. This is a hard ride and it is essential that you know your limitations and understand the demands of the course before you show up.
Old Beech Mt. Rd (begins about mile 4). This is a steady straightforward climb figure 25 - 35 mins for most people. It’s about 5 miles long with a false top approximately 1.5 mile from the top. The average grade is around 4% and there are no really steep sections.
After your first descent you’ll make a hard right on 321 and immediately start going uphill again. You climb about halfway up this hill (maybe 3 mins) and then there’s a left hand turn down over a bridge and a short hard popper of a climb - you go from descending to a 7% 6 min effort and it’s very easy to get yourself in trouble and there are always a lot of dropped chains here from poor shifting decisions. The hardest part of this climb is that it’s steepest at the bottom and it keeps going beyond the turn at the top. So if you overspend yourself in the first 200m you’ll be going backwards after you make the turn at the stop sign.
You then spend about 20 mins winding through the valley with a few rollers but nothing crazy before hitting next climb.
Mountaindale Road: This is another steady little 3-4 mile climb much easier and shorter than Old Beech Mt. Having a group to work with would be nice here as you can find a nice steady rhythm and you shouldn’t run out of gears. 15 - 20 mins bottom to top.
Stone Mt. Road; This is a nightmare of a 2 miler with an average grade around 10%. 10 - 15 mins and unless you’ve got a 32 and weigh nothing you’ll be standing for much of it. The biggest mistake folks make here is hitting the bottom too hard. Up until the second switchback - ride as easy as the grade allows. Just be patient and wait for it to get hard - you don’t want to be making it hard at the bottom.
After Stone you loop back around through that same valley you already did riding past the turn on Mountaindale and straight on to George’s Gap.
George’s Gap: Another steady 15-20 min consistent climb - it starts quite gradually and builds to about 6% grade in the final 2 miles. I love this climb - it’s beautiful and just when you start to feel tired of it you’re at the top.
You’ve got about 4 miles to go from the base of Georges Gap until you final big efforts. Most of this is flat and fast except for Mast Gap which is a 1 mile long nightmare of a hill that is straight and steep and not super fun on tired legs. Just suck it up and get over it.
194 form Vaile Crucis - A long steady 30 - 40 min climb (maybe more for some people) with a false flat about 2/3 of the way up. This one is hard with mixed grades and some sections over 8%. It’s hard to find a steady rhythm here. You’ll descend about 5-7 mins and then you’re there…
Beech Mt - a super hard 3 mile climb again averaging almost 10% with some sections much steeper. Again unless you are a tiny climber or running climbing gears you can expect to be standing for much of this climb.
The Goals: These are the things you need to figure out before your ride.
Your Gearing - the moment you hit Stone Mt. is not the time to decide if you want that 32. If you are frequently out of gears riding at grades under 6% you should think about changing your gearing for this outing.
Your ability to stand! If you can riding standing for several minutes at a time now is a very good time to start practicing this!
Your fueling - it’s hard to eat when climbing and descending - this course does offer a few short sections of flat terrain through the valley and you should make it a point to fuel during these times.
Your pacing strategy - you need to figure out how slow you need to ride the front half so you can stay strong in the final two climbs. Those are very big asks of anyone and there is real danger in overriding the front part of this course. If you are worried about you ability to make the elevation demands you must purposefully ride super easy on all the climbs that allow you to do so. Stone Mt. and Beech will force you to the max no matter what so save your big efforts those moments.
Your brain - you need to be prepared for the mental low spots when the going gets hard.
The ride has a shorter route and it’s very easy to cut off sections of the course without getting lost. The first is to cut off Stone Mt. Rd by just staying straight on Mountaindale. It will reconnect with the ride at Bethel Rd and you’ll effectively cut off about 8 miles and the hardest climb prior to Beech Mt. Doing this will not be as short as doing the 43 mile route but will avoid the really steep pitches of the course prior to Beech itself.
The second is to skip both the Mountaindale and Stone Mountain climbs by riding straight past Mountaindale Rd and heading right to Georges Gap. You’ll end up skipping about 20 miles of the course and cutting off about 2000 feet of elevation.
Park in Banner Elk rather than at the top of Beech Mt. This will allow you to skip Beech altogether if you get there and are really wasted. You won’t have to wait for a sag wagon and you’ll still have banked a great climbing day. Please use the information below so you know where to park in Banner Elk so as not to annoy the town.