Cycling The Blue Ridge Parkway with RV Sag

Welcome Dan Ketterer, a friend from Georgia Tech, that loves long distance bicycling trips. Every year, he does the San Francisco to Los Angeles AIDS/LifeCycle to benefit those living with HIV/AIDS and to reduce infections. He’s also done a bicycle trip through the Alps. We recently did a trip through the entirety of the Blue Ridge Parkway, him on the bicycle and me in the RV.

Bicycling the Blue Ridge Parkway with RV Support

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Why I Wanted To Cycle The Blue Ridge Parkway

About a week and a half ago, some friends and I took a short weekend trip to Asheville, NC.

The view from Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi RiverDuring that trip, being the lone cyclist, I went off on my own to go climb Mount Mitchell, the highest point East of the Mississippi, with my road bike.

It was during this short trek I immediately fell in love with the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).

Once I reached my destination at the top of Mount Mitchell and met with my friends to go back home, I immediately was motivated with singular focus into getting back here and riding the entire 470 miles of the BRP ASAP before the harsh mountain winters lead to the Parkway closing.

Potential Problems to Cycling The Blue Ridge Parkway

While researching cycling the BRP, I immediately ran into some obvious hitches:

Lodging on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a national park and lodging is sparse on the Parkway.

The available rooms on the Parkway fill up months in advance as well.

This is perfectly OK if you are driving the Blue Ridge Parkway or on a motorcycle like many that enjoy this park, and can take a detour off the Parkway to stay in a hotel off the Parkway.

But for cyclists, going off the Parkway typically means dropping down off a mountain to reach your destination, making your climb back up onto the Parkway in the morning a hassle.

Carrying Needed Supplies

Dan on top of the RV with his bicycle at the bottomMany cyclists who do a thru-ride on any long stretch of road need to carry essential supplies like hydration, food, sunscreen, and bicycle repair tools, clothes, etc.

There’s always a question of if you have enough supplies while managing to keep the total weight down.

This becomes even more true if your cycling route takes you into the mountains where you will be spending a lot of your day climbing. That added weight can make a big difference in your ability to take on a challenging climb.

Many cyclists who thru-ride the BRP utilize racks and panniers to carry their supplies. The added weight and limited room, especially when using a road bike instead of a touring bike, makes this a challenge.

Sleeping and Showering

Having to carry and pitch a tent and set up and break down your gear daily can be cumbersome.

Kimberly says: And isn’t sleeping in air conditioning so much nicer after a long day?

Not to mention, much of the Blue Ridge Parkway is in bear country. Do you really want to be worried about meeting a bear in the middle of the night?

Inclement Weather

Dan and the fog that hit as night fellInclement weather can come and make cycling climbs and descents dangerous.

The above issues will apply to many long distance multi-day rides (such as the Natchez Trace Parkway).

That’s a selfie Dan took one evening that really shows off the fog that can hit without much warning. To make things even worse, it was getting late in the day and by the end, it was totally dark with very limited sight visibility, for the RV driver or the bicyclist. And a very long and steep descent into the fog.

Benefits of Using An RV For Sag on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Thankfully, using an RV for sag allows for an excellent solution to many of the problems above.

Sag: A support vehicle following a group of cyclists or people who ride bikes. Basically, a support vehicle behind the bicyclist.

While hotel/inn lodging may be limited, especially on national park land, RV camping is abundant, if you are planning your thru-ride during an off season. I did my thru-ride on the BRP during the last few days of September 2019 as the BRP will often close in the winter if there is snow.

RV camping sites with full hookups were plentiful and many of them had enough space that advanced reservation was not needed.

These RV sites are directly off the Parkway and do not require traveling long distances off the parkway to get to them.

This allows for a degree of spontaneity (Kimberly and I are doing this trip less than a week after pitching the idea to do it to her), and you can adjust your trip based on how far you get every day.

Also, there is nothing like a hot shower and a cozy bed in air conditioning after a long day of riding.

Supplies and the RV

Carrying enough supplies becomes much easier with a friend coming with in an RV.

Rather than carry a heavy Camelbak through long climbs, we coordinated meetup points along the route every 40 miles or so where I was able to refill my water bottles and get sunblock, chamois, food, etc.

Kimberly says: Dan used the Camelbak for one half-day of cycling the Blue Ridge Parkway, until he decided that it added too much weight on the climbs. He ditched the Camelbak after that, and we planned additional meetup points throughout the day.

There are also quite a few visitor centers and picnic areas along the way that you can stop to refill water bottles en route. Dan carried two water bottles on the bike.

Another thing that Dan learned about having an RV along for the trip – when he found souvenirs, he was able to buy them and leave them in the RV. Presents for people back home and special commemorative items for bicycling the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. He didn’t have to carry them, or at least carry them for long.

Additionally, having an RV buddy who is making the trip along with you allows you to work as a team and can come to the rescue if you run into inclement weather or a mechanical issue you aren’t equipped to fix on the road.

Cycle the Blue Ridge Parkway with RV Support

Cycle the Blue Ridge Parkway with RV SupportSo, the next time you are looking for a good RV travel companion as you explore the beauty of America’s national parks together, consider asking a cyclist!

Long distance cycling America’s National Parks with an RV sag: the perfect combination


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