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Brasstown Bald Ride(27 posts)

Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:14 PM
I saw JS Haiku's call to arms (or legs) to join him for some post Thanksgiving Day fun on Brasstown Bald. Brasstown Bald is the highest point in the State of Georgia, at 4784 feet. I checked the map and figured I could make it there in a reasonable amount of time so I decided I would go. Am I ever glad I did!

From Chattanooga, TN, I was expecting a four hour drive to Robertstown. It only took two hours and fifteen minutes so I had some time to spare before the ride. There are a lot of things to see in the area; the town of Helen, Unicio State Park, DeSoto Falls, and the road up to Brasstown Bald, to name a few. This is where I began to worry about having a double and nothing more than 27 teeth on the cassette.

Checking the weather the days before the ride I was expecting the temperature to be around 25 or 30 degress at the start with a high of 40 or so. I was wrong. It was in the 40's when we rode out and the hills kept the internal furnace temps pretty high. The sun was out, the sky was blue and a stout morning breeze gave way to calm before we got on the bikes.

JS Haiku Shop, Tarwheel and I met in Roberstown, GA. We had planned on making a loop of it but due to the quickly falling sun and a chill breeze, we decided to turn it into an out-and-back ride. Good choice in my opinion as I believe the loop was to take us over Hogpin Gap on 348, and my legs were nothing but overcooked pasta after the Brasstown climb. If you want to follow our route on a map; Robertstown, 75, 180, Brasstown Bald, and back.

We made it back before dark with just under three hours of ride time and around 40 miles ridden. My altimeter was showing a bit over 5100 ft elevation gain for the day and steepest point of 23%. I don't know about the 23% thing but I have no doubt the road to Brasstown Bald has the steepest sections of road I have ever ridden, and the steep-ness just keeps on going. I can't wait to go back!

All in all, I had a great day. I enjoyed riding with JS Haiku and Tarwheel, Jeff and Tom; nice folks. The weather was nice, sunny but cool. And the scenery was exceptional. No flats or mechanical problems. Oh, and my legs were up for the hills. What more could I ask for?

Hey, JS Haiku and Tarwheel, you guys add what you know, ok.

Happy riding,
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:16 PM
JS Haiku and Tarwheel heading north on 75, just after we started. There is a little store on this road just outside of Robertstown you should check out if you like glass and/or rocks.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:19 PM
Still on 75, the road turns up as we begin the climb to Unicoi Gap. A fairly long but not too steep climb.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:22 PM
Tarwheel topping-out at Unicoi. Sorry about the lighting there, the sun was in the wrong place.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:25 PM
And JS at the top of Unicoi.

Looking around, there appears to be several hiking trail-heads hear. Next time I am here I think I will check some of these out.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:28 PM
I think that's JS in this one. This time at the start of the Jack's Gap climb. Jack's Gap seems a bit steeper than Unicoi but I like this climb better. The road has some fun twists in it, especially on the way back down.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:30 PM
I didn't arrange those rocks. . . it looks like my shadow has eyes and is screaming in agony.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:37 PM
Tarwheel makes the top of the Jack's Gap climb, only to have to read all the signs warning of the Brasstown Bald climb ahead.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:47 PM
JS in front of the signs Tarwheel was looking at. JS, is that the "hand concealing the oh-sh!t this is gonna be steep grin" look?
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:51 PM
We talked one of the hiker folks into taking our picture before starting up the Brasstown climb. They wished us luck.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:54 PM
Brasstown gets steep and here is Tarwheel working his way up. On the way up I stopped twice to snap some pictures and stopped once because it was so steep; didn't walk it though.
23% grade, my foot!tarwheel
Dec 2, 2002 5:40 AM
I was standing in my 39/29 combination and could barely turn the pedals. Shortly after Mike took this shot, my chain jumped down to the 26 gear and I literally could not turn the cranks -- so down I went. Fortunately, he didn't capture that on film. I had to push my Gios for a while here, as well as the final climb from the parking lot to the summit. After falling over once, I didn't want a repeat. This was easily the steepest climb I have ever ridden.
sure doesn't look that steep in the pic, but it was at least 23%JS Haiku Shop
Dec 2, 2002 6:40 AM
...and 12-15%+ leading up to it. the really steep part only lasted 200-300 yards, then "leveled back out" to between 10% and 12%. when i came around the corner and saw the gradient, then saw Tarwheel up the road pushing his bike, i figured i'd pick him up quickly. this was not to be, as i was forced to unclip, dismount, and push the bike up the steepest few hundred yards i've ever seen. got back on and rode to the parking lot after walking for ~5 minutes. this really brings new perspective to the angliru and other "killer" climbs in the grand tours. as TW said, i was physically unable to turn the pedals 'round, though i felt fine as far as energy and aerobic capacity. it was equivalent to doing leg presses to failure. ugh.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 6:57 PM
A picture of the view on the way up Brasstown.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 7:01 PM
The team car pulled up next to JS, encouraging him, "GO, GO, JS, GO" blasting from the loudspeaker. . . well, not really.
venga! venga! venga! ;-) (nm)wonderdog
Dec 2, 2002 7:32 AM
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 7:08 PM
Another of the same hill as before, only higher up this time.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 7:12 PM
Tarwheel making it to the parking lot. There is a parking lot near the top. You have to park here and walk up to the summit. Normally I beleive we would have had to stop here but the service road was closed for the season, so we rode on up to the top.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 7:16 PM
JS on the service road, nearing the summit. This one was hard on the breaks on the way down.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 7:20 PM
Looking down from the summit to the parking lot.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 7:22 PM
Some more of the view from the summit.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 7:25 PM
This one was taken from a viewing platform on the summit.

We had someone take a picture of the three of us here but it was to far out of focus to correct. Tom, did yours turn out?
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 7:27 PM
Another from the top.
re: Brasstown Bald RideMike P
Dec 1, 2002 7:29 PM
On the way home I was rewarded with a colorful sunset.
Great photos, great ridetarwheel
Dec 2, 2002 6:13 AM
I grew up close to Brasstown Bald, but hadn't been up to the top in years -- or I probably would have begged off this ride. The climb was much longer and steeper than I expected. We initially planned to ride a 47-mile loop, but it took so long to get to the top and the daylight was getting low, so we rode a 38-mile out-and-back. On the way out, 16 of the first 19 miles were uphill. Coming back was no piece of cake, though, because some of the descents were so steep that you had to ride your brakes to keep from hurdling off the corners.

Mike P is a real billygoat and was climbing far enough ahead of us to snap plenty of shots, as evidenced here. JSHaiku and I calculated that -- between the two of us -- we were carrying close to 100 lbs of extra weight up the hills, so that was our excuse for lagging behind. Interestingly, the extra weight didn't seem to help us on the downhills as we also seemed to lack Mike nerve on the corners. I rode my brakes so hard coming down Brasstown Bald that I'm gonna have to install some new pads.

Although the weather was relatively mild at the start in Robertstown (elevation about 2000 feet), it was below freezing on top of Brasstown with a howling wind. I got so cold that I was shivering all the way down the mountain and was worried that I wouldn't be able to clamp the brakes hard enough with my numb hands. The final 3 miles of the climb is so steep that we were all standing in our lowest gears. It is the steepest section of road I have ever ridden, and 3 miles felt like 15. This was the first climb that I couldn't handle with my 39/29 Campy gearing, and I ended up walking a couple stretches. The smell of burnt brake pads from passing cars filled the air. Coming down was even worse because it was so steep and winding that you had to ride your brakes all the way. I told Mike and JS that I wasn't sure if I was shaking from the cold or pure terror, and I wasn't kidding.

The good thing about a ride like this is the sense of perspective it gives you. The wimpy little 1-mile climbs we have where I live now will seem like nothing.
Sounds like fun, sorry we missed it. nmMB1
Dec 2, 2002 5:26 PM
J's review (it's a book)JS Haiku Shop
Dec 2, 2002 7:05 AM
as i was already in dawsonville for the post-turkey-day shopping frenzy (PI outlet, cha-ching!!!), my wife's family accommodated us by taking two cars and chauffering Mrs. J and Haiku Junior back to Hotlanta whilst i drove another hour NE to Robertstown, just E of Helen, GA. twisty, narrow mountain roads on the way made for lower speeds than expected. i arrived 25 minutes early at the designated meeting point to find Mike P (herein MP) and Tarwheel (TW) already waiting.

i'm not surprised to read that the first 16 of 19 miles were uphill, and our speed going out showed it (and the last few miles coming back were pretty fast). i'd gone over Unicoi in the 6-Gap ride this year, and was familiar with the wide, winding mountain roads (though we crossed it backwards this time). yes, MP is a billy goat, as evinced by his climbing ahead, snapping photos, then *riding back down* behind me (i was consistently the "laughing group"), snapping pics, then riding up ahead again. LOL.

descent off Unicoi was nice and we hit Jack's Gap (i think it's Jack's that leads to BB) pretty fast. i found MP and TW at the entrance to BB, near the SAG site from the 6-gap. in that pic, i'm actually sucking down a powergel, and it's steeper than it looks just behind.

the BB climb is a 3-mile affair to the parking lot (i think), then another half mile up the service road (where physically challenged folks are shuttled. drivers of cars coming down where all white-knuckled with nose to the windshield and saucer-eyed. it was the steepest climb i've seen yet. the 18% average gradient for 3 miles was provided by mostly 8-10% pitches with a generous amount of 12-15% thrown in, and then the really steep stuff. that last 1/2 mile to the observatory started with a road-wide locked vehicle gate, meaning one had to dismount and remount on the other side, and the road was mucho steep. it was a challenge just to get back rolling (uphill). there were two switchbacks on the way up, the first gave a beautiful shot of the surrounding mountains (and a *steep* dropoff).

the observation deck 2/3 up the observatory was freezing cold with strong winds and ice. i put everyting i had back on, and still huddled in any windbreak i could find.

everything said here about the BB descent is true. i nearly bottomed-out my rear canti on the way down that steep part. any time at all off the brakes and you were immediatly going 30+, and the road was pretty twisty and dangerous. the descent from Jack's was nice, the climb back over Unicoi uneventful (a "bump in the road" after BB!), and the descent from Unicoi was nice (41 mph max, I'm a wuss!).

t'was most enjoyable to meet and ride with BB and MP (i'd already briefly met MP), and i hope to ride with them again soon. MP, thanks for documenting our journey for the books.

11.4 avg
41 mph max
38.39 miles
3:20 on the bike
??:?? total time

glad i had: 30x32 low gear

wish i had: team car for "professional foul" pull up the steeps

regrettably,: i carried far too much in my jersey pockets, should have used the camelbak.

biggest challenge: regulating temps through clothing. shed nearly all outer layers climbing, then the descents required everything i brought (and then some).

quote of the day:

J to TW: you know, i'm a power sprinter, not designed for these types of climbs. in fact, i was second choice only to George Hincapie, who got the USPS contract over me at the last minute.

TW to J: hmm, guess that explains the jersey.

J observation to group: we're all in for RBR "Fred" awards. J for triple, lights, and USPS jersey on a 'cross bike, MP for lights & camelbak, and TW for bar-end mirror and stem police. LOL.

notable PI outlet purchase: PI road shoes, $109 in the catalogs, $56 in the store. score!!!

peace, and i'm out, yo.