I met up with my two good friends, Brandon Kline and Chris Smith, in Charleston, West Virginia, on Sunday, October 13, 2013, to head down to Frankford, West Virginia, in Greenbrier County to ride the Rapha Continental Cold Knob ride they did in 2009. It was a “shattering” 91-mile, 9,200 feet of climbing ride with a lot of gravel. We loaded our three USA made steel bikes – one Waterford and two Gunnars – in my Honda and hit the road. After a little over 2 hours of driving we got out of the car around 10:30 a.m. and suited up. Wheels were down about one-hour-and-a-half later than expected. On a ride like this as a cyclist you don’t take a camera bigger than an iPhone. Images below all captured via my iPhone 5
I think the group's moral was already depleting as every downhill we hit the rain seemed harder and colder as we made our way toward what we believed was Cold Knob with its peak of about 4,000 feet immersed in a thick, foreboding fog. As we kept turning those slow miles, warming our legs, the thrill of the ride and the exploration of new roads negated the cold and uneasiness of the rain. The roads leading from Frankford to Cold Knob Road were by far one of the best road systems I have ever ridden. Seemingly, it was as if we were riding a bike path (see image below) through thick trees, along and up-and-down mountain sides and past fantastic homes and farms as well as dilapidated homes having seen better times.
The roads were so amazing and pristine to us that we didn't notice the rain had ceased. We finally arrived to the first big climb as we turned left onto Cold Knob Rd. - a 6-mile climb with an average grade of 6.8% on gravel with some pitches over 15%. The rain had turned some of it into mud as well. The roads leading to Cold Knob were sparse with traffic, but the gravel climb seemed like a highway with trucks and ATVs coming and going as ducks to a pond. The looks we received were priceless as we crawled up being passed and breathing in petrol exhaust on our skinny tired bikes.
Once we reached the top we had about 14-miles of flat, rollers and a long descent. The top of the mountain was worth the hours of climbing and sludging through the mud and rain. The view was breathless as the Cranberry Wilderness, in the Monongahela National Forest, was nearing it's peak foliage for the year and stretched as far as you could see left and right. As we pedaled on we rode past some of the 119-windfarms on the ridge. Most see these colossals from a far; we rode right beneath their enormous blades as they sliced the air like we rode through the rocks. We had read there were several mountain-top mining sites along the mountain and as we saw the landscape full of life, voided by rubble and death the signs that screamed "WARNING BLASTING" were of no alarm to us. I recommend riding this route on a Sunday*
After the climbing that we never thought would end, we had 5-mile descent with a average grade of 9%, which we met with unwavering satisfaction after the sustained climbing behind us. I had a gashed front tire that Brandon had booted up so I had to take the descent laced with switchbacks and fall color with a hand on the brake and grit in my teeth - until next time I told myself as the descent leveled off and I met Chris sitting on the ground waiting for me. We merged onto 219 South heading back to the car with a couple hours of daylight and 30 miles and 4,000 left to climb.