If there is a prime time to tour Watauga County on a bicycle, autumn is it.
The temperatures start to fall, but not enough to resemble winter conditions. The views along High Country roads are still lush with vegetation, which turns in October to bright reds, yellows and some stays green.
There are several rides and races that take place in the Watauga County area year-round. A major event that takes place in Watauga County is the Mountains to Coast Ride, a seven-day ride across North Carolina. The ride begins in Blowing Rock, and goes through Hickory, Spencer, Siler City, Clayton, Greenville, New Bern before ending at Atlantic Beach. The ride is from Sept. 28-Oct. 5.
There are several options for cyclists to choose from and are located at https://ncsports.org/event/cyclenc_mountainstocoast_ride/registration-options/.
The CowBelle Classic returns to Sugar Grove on Aug. 24. The event, which is available to women only, begins and ends at Old Cove Creek School on Dale Adams Road in Sugar Grove.
There is a 15-mile route, a 20-mile route, a 35-mile route and a 65-mile route. More information can be found at www.cowbelleclassicride.com.
Another event is the Boone Grand Fondo 2019. A national series, it was held in Boone on Aug. 4. The national championship of the series was held in Asheville on July 21 and will return to Asheville in 2020.
The High Country’s crown jewel for cycling is the Blood, Sweat and Gears, which celebrated its 21st year. This year the ride was run June 22 and involves climbing over 4,500-foot gap at Snake Mountain, its signature obstacle.
The High Country is home to a pair of college cycling teams. Appalachian State races in the Atlantic Coast Cycling Conference and hosts the High Country Cycling Classic in the spring. Lees-McRae, located in Banner Elk, also races in the event and is a member of the Southeaster Conference Cycling Conference.
The Cycling Classic involves two races, the Cove Creek Road Race and the Mountaineer Criterium. Both involve races that are mostly loaded with college teams, but there are some races that are open to the public. The Cycling Classic was held on April 27-28 and the website is www.hccyclingclassic.com.
There are also several trails to ride a bike that don’t involve a competition.
The Blue Ridge Parkway provides spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is recommended to either go to the Parkway early in the morning or after rush hour to avoid traffic.
There are also group rides of varying abilities that gather at different sites in Boone or Blowing Rock. There is a Monday night ride that goes from Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock that is an entry-level ride.
The Boone Area Cyclists Club has also been in existence since 2009. The club’s website http://booneareacyclists.org/ has information about rides in the area, including the Boone Bike Shop Ride on Tuesday nights and the Magic Cycles Shop Ride on Wednesday nights.
There is also the Westside Rambler’s Thursday Night Ride that begins at Valle Crucis School at 5:30 p.m. every Thursday. The Eastside Rambler’s Tuesday Night Ride meets every Tuesday at the Food Lion on U.S. Highway 421 located west of Boone. This ride also meets at 5:30 p.m.