A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Related: Read an avid cyclist’s story of how he overcame a life-changing crash to hit the pedals again. [caption id="attachment_172693" align="aligncenter" width="1140"] Most people know about the Wright brothers’ passion

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Related: Read an avid cyclist’s story of how he overcame a life-changing crash to hit the pedals again. [caption id="attachment_172693" align="aligncenter" width="1140"] Most people know about the Wright brothers’ passion

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Joy Rides

Related: Read an avid cyclist’s story of how he overcame a life-changing crash to hit the pedals again.

Most people know about the Wright brothers’ passion for flight, celebrated in the sculpture garden of the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. Few know that the pair supported their hobby by working in the bike shop that they opened in 1892 in Dayton, Ohio, and selling bicycles that they built. Photography courtesy of THE DAYTON HERALD (JULY 23, 1895, PAGE 8) VIA NEWSPAPERS.COM; THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (LC-DIG-PPPRS-00541), SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM (NASM 2006-28254)

Building a Better Bike

Before their obsession with manned flight, the Wright brothers were smitten with cycling. Orville and Wilbur owned Wright Cycle Exchange, a successful bike shop in Dayton, Ohio, where they sold, repaired, and even manufactured their own bikes. There, they honed their engineering and problem-solving skills, incorporating several cycling innovations before turning their eyes to the sky. Even then, a bicycle served as a test platform for refining the wing design that ultimately carried them aloft the morning of December 17, 1903, on the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk.

Wright Brothers National Memorial
1000 North Croatan Highway
Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
(252) 473-2111

Helmets? Check. Training wheels? Check. A sunny day in Sanford for (from left) cousins Jaxon, 4, Kelan, 3, and Keilani, 5, to explore on their bikes? Check. photograph by Art by Court Winter

Free Riding

Once mastered, the trick of remaining upright on a bike stays with you forever. Training wheels are a common aid for helping young riders find their balance. And once they do, watch out: Bicycles open up a world of adventure and possibility that seems infinite — even if it only means riding to the end of the block and back.

Bikes from Pleasure Island Rentals in Carolina Beach (including fat-tire bikes ridden by Mom and Dad) allow the Tluchowski family — (from left) Matt, Easton, Sophia, and LeeAnn — to roll down the beach in style. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

Sand Cruisin’

Traditional bikes can sometimes get bogged down in fine sand. Enter “fat bikes,” with their beefy, oversize tires that enable them to tackle even the most unforgiving sand. But you don’t necessarily need a specialized bike to get your beach biking fix. Fortunately, several North Carolina communities offer paved paths that hug the shore and are perfect for your classic 1950s-style beach cruiser. Notable possibilities include the 11-mile Emerald Path on Emerald Isle, the network of trails that make up the Island Greenway in Carolina Beach, and the many multi-use paths along the 108 miles of the Outer Banks.

To learn more, visit emeraldisle-nc.org/176/bicycle-path or carolinabeach.org/visitors/island-greenway.

Hundreds of cyclists from around the world attempt to ride to the top of Mount Mitchell. Most spend the better part of the day climbing to the peak, but if you want to finish in the top 10, you’d better do it in under six hours. photograph by TOM MOORS, DEREK DILUZIO

Race to the Top

An epic 102-mile ride to the summit of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, The Assault on Mount Mitchell, held annually in May, is a one-time, bucket-list kind of challenge for many people. For Richard White, who has ridden the event 31 times, it’s more like a habit. One he’d like to break. “I keep trying to give my bike away, but no one will take it,” he says with a chuckle. Most riders agree that the Spartanburg, South Carolina, to Mount Mitchell ride is the toughest in the Southeast. It includes 10,000 feet of climbing, about half of it in the last 20 miles. And then there’s the weather. Over the years, White’s seen it all — heat, cold, rain, sleet, wind. Yet the 69-year-old cyclist soldiers on, much like the event itself, which has been run since 1975 by the Freewheelers of Spartanburg cycling club. The club offers excellent support — from well-stocked rest stops to a post-ride dinner to a traditional cup of tomato soup and a patch at the summit. The views along the route are spectacular, especially along the Blue Ridge Parkway. But none of that can compare to White’s favorite part of the ride: “Getting done.”

For more information, call (864) 414-6581 or visit theassaults.com.

Every year, riders bike from the mountains to the sea on the Mountains to Coast Ride. Photography courtesy of CYCLE NORTH CAROLINA

Rolling Across the State

Every year, anywhere from 800 to 1,100 riders gather at a designated small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains before pointing their bikes eastward. For the next seven days, the riders stay the course until they’re savoring the salt air of the Atlantic. That, in a nutshell, is the Mountains to Coast Ride, organized by North Carolina Amateur Sports and supported by Visit NC. What better way to truly show off the wonders of the state than at a pace that allows one to soak in every sight and scent and experience? Best of all, each year’s route is different, with nightly stops in a series of small towns whose residents make riders feel as welcome as apple butter on a scratch biscuit.

For more information, visit ncsports.org/event/cyclenc_mountainstocoast_ride.

Riding for a Cause

When Yevette Yarborough-Trotman took up cycling, she looked around and wondered, “Are there other people who look like me who cycle?” She found her answer in Black Girls Do Bike, an organization founded in 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Today, the organization has more than 100 chapters worldwide, including eight in North Carolina. Yarborough-Trotman resuscitated an inactive Raleigh BGDB chapter in 2017 and has turned it into a 600-rider-strong peloton of empowerment, specializing in group rides — and good deeds. In 2022, they showed up en masse to a Bike MS event in New Bern and helped raise more than $32,000 to fight multiple sclerosis. “For me,” Yarborough-Trotman says, “it’s been life-changing.”

For more information, visit blackgirlsdobike.org.

A version of Pisgah Tavern has been a destination for cyclists for more than 80 years, since back when Fred Hunter owned the original. Today’s incarnation is part taphouse, part bike shop. photograph by TIM ROBISON; HISTORICAL PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ROWELL BOSSE NORTH CAROLINA ROOM, TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY LIBRARY

A Pedal & a Pint

Named after a famous Transylvania County roadhouse from the 1940s, The Hub’s reincarnation of the Pisgah Tavern isn’t much different from its namesake, which welcomed cyclists and beer lovers alike. The Hub maintains the traditional role of selling and fixing bikes, while the Pisgah Tavern serves as the unofficial watering hole for mountain bikers who’ve just tackled the steep, rocky, single-track mountain trails in Pisgah National Forest and lived to tell the tale. It’s fitting, too, that a shop dedicated to spinning wheels would also offer a rotating selection of beer taps and food trucks. It all adds up to a cyclist’s version of nirvana. Located at the entrance of Pisgah National Forest, The Hub & Pisgah Tavern represent the evolution of many North Carolina bike shops into vibrant community gathering spots.

11 Mama’s Place
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
(828) 884-8670

The E-Bike Brewery Crawl along a paved portion of the French Broad River Greenway culminating at New Belgium Brewery. photograph by Tim Robison

Biking Beer City Style

E-bikes are powering a quiet revolution in two-wheeled transport, making even challenging, hilly environments accessible to more riders. Devin Deholl, founder and co-owner of Asheville Adventure Company, calls it “breaking down fitness barriers.” His business was one of Asheville’s first e-bike tour companies. Today, it offers several e-bike tours, including a popular pub ride that takes in multiple craft breweries via local bike paths and quiet neighborhood streets. Deholl loves how e-bikes make it possible for riders of different abilities to share experiences — like, for example, grandparents and their grandchildren. And the thrill of seeing a rider on an e-bike for the first time never gets old: “They get this look on their face,” says Deholl, “and it’s almost like reliving the first time they rode a bike. That feeling of effortlessness, like someone is pushing you from behind.”

For more information, visit ashevilleadventurecompany.com/adventures/ebike-brewery-crawl.

Ready to go cycling? Explore these 11 cycling trails across the state.

This story was published on Aug 25, 2023