Archive for September, 2010

Roof rack reveals the hidden mountains

High Pine Church Rd, Uwharries

Our honeymoon bicycle tour brought us to many wonderful places in North Carolina, and just about all 700 miles of road that we cycled we decent cycling roads. Some areas particularly impressed us for a variety of reasons – beauty of nature, quiet and accommodating roads, challenging climbs and thrilling descents, stunning views, interesting culture. One great thing about having 2 weeks for a tour was that we could leave from our door, plan a huge loop of the state covering 25 counties, and return all on our tandem. However, if we want to hit any of special segments again that aren’t so close to home, we can’t usually just bike there. Therefore we made the decision to invest in a roof rack for our car.

Acquiring a roof rack makes sense for a lot of riders out there. It just hadn’t come to that for us yet. In fact, we’ve never driven anywhere in order to go for a ride. Until now. One of those special North Carolina places that beckoned us back is the Uwharrie Mountains, and that’s where we returned this weekend.

First the rack. We found the Thule rack to best accommodate our Hyundai Elantra touring wagon which had factory roof rails installed. All Star Bikes in Raleigh recommended the Rocky Mount R4 tandem rack, which telescopes to fit a single or a tandem bike. One selling point of this tandem rack is that it has a swiveling front fork attachment so that one can attach the front fork of the tandem to it before having to hoist the rear of the tandem up onto the rack as well, enabling only one person to put the tandem on top of the car themself. I haven’t figured out yet how to place the rack on the crossbars so that I can attach the front of the tandem to it without the tandem’s timing cranks hitting the car first, meaning I need my partner to help lift it up all together before we can affix the tandem. I’ll keep playing with the positioning to try to get it right, but I guess it doesn’t matter much since it’s a tandem bike, so most likely I will usually have my partner with me.

Also, as seen above, I installed the rack backwards, which enables us to be able to open the rear hatch of the wagon. We didn’t notice any problems in transit, but does anyone know if this is potentially bad for the rack or tandem? The only issue so far is that when the tandem is not on the rack, it looks like our car is armed with a rocket launcher.

Roof rack in place, we returned to a highlight of our NC bike trip, the Uwharrie Mountains. The Uwharries were actually the second day of our trip, a very accessible 60-some miles away from our home in Saxapahaw (so barely an hour drive: I’ve figured out from bike touring that one day’s ride is basically equivalent to one hour’s drive…). We enjoyed many qualities of this hilly region. The Uwharries are amusingly baffling: in the middle of the Piedmont, all of a sudden a hidden mountain range seems to percolate up out the earth without a warning of even a mild bump on the horizon. We entered from the eastern point, Seagrove, a renown pottery area, of red clay and rolling farmland. Once riding within the Uwharrie region, we encountered sudden steep grades, panoramic views (like the pic at the beginning of this post), and some technical descents with switchbacks. Our favorite stretch was Flint Hill Rd, offering seven miles of thigh-burning climbs, quick drops, and brief wilderness areas that are reminiscent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It even smelled like mountain laurel. Another huge plus for the area are the quiet roads. In 2.5 hours of riding yesterday, we easily had enough fingers between us to count all the cars we saw. And bonus, there’s the quaint Pisgah Covered Bridge to vist.

Here’s an action shot of our cue sheet for the day as seen by the stoker:

Of course, we didn’t leave North Carolina behind in these hidden hills. There’s plenty of chicken farms, churches, and regional heritage to remind us exactly where we are.

Accept Jesus Christ or prepare to take the heat

It certainly was a hot day, even in the late summer here, but this church sign seemed to abandon the usual puns and humor, and went straight to the point. This sign seemed to offer a bit more fun:

True Blugrass Cornbread Revival

This sign at a gas station seemed to offer a bit less fun:

Free ride in a sheriffs car

With all of the great riding so close to home, it was still a debate as to whether we really needed a roof rack. But yesterday’s Uwharrie ride made it feel worth it already. We’ll also be able to avoid what happened to us the last time we needed to take the tandem somewhere for an organized ride. We had put the seats down in my old Honda wagon, and laid the Burley Duet in as far as it would go, but still had to tie down the hatch: the result was that the exhaust pipe blew up into the car, getting us dizzy and stoopid before the start of a century. That issue is solved.