Dirt, Tires, Gears
The Shenandoah Mountain Adventure, Shenandoah Mountain Century, Mt Solon Metric Century and the Valley View Challenge routes take place on almost-entirely paved surfaces. Riders who participate in these routes will enjoy just a few brief connectors on little dirt roads, over low-water bridges and up country lanes. These short connectors make the experience all the better – and riders won’t need any event-specific equipment to prepare for the road surfaces. Riders in the Shenandoah Mountain Adventure will want to be prepared with appropriate gearing for the smooth, paved mountain climbs.
The Alpine Loop is a completely different challenge. Throughout its 105 miles, the Alpine Loop route features over 11,000 feet of climbing including the smooth paved climb on Virginia Route 33 and two incredible mountainous dirt roads.
The Alpine Loop’s first dirt section is up West Virginia’s Fultz Gap Road, where the pitches are the day’s steepest over the course of three amazing miles and 1,600-feet of elevation gain. Fultz Gap Road is a county road that is maintained for vehicles and includes a mix of primarily dirt with some well-worn-in gravel. The summit opens up to an unexpected mountain-top meadow.
Further on the route, known as the “Dark Side Climb,” the second major dirt section on the Alpine Loop is on Forest Road 85 which winds its way up the western side of Shenandoah Mountain toward the peak of Reddish Knob. The Forest Road is primarily dirt surfaced, and where it is loose includes the natural sand, grit, peebles and often-exposed slabs of rock. Midway up the climb, riders will rock and roll down a half-mile descent dropping 300-feet in elevation. It’s a thrilling experience, and a great set-up for the remainder of the climb. In all, the Dark Side Climb is about 6 miles of uphill dirt road. And if that’s not enough in and of itself, be ready – the Dark Side also features a KOM section!
The dirt climbs are what make the Alpine Loop the unique challenge that it is. If you talk with previous years finishers, you’re sure to hear amazing stories of how they tested their limits, cursed the mountain, rose to the challenge, forged new friendships and made some of their best memories right here on the dirt of the Alpine Loop.
To ready for the challenge we recommend that you prepare not only your legs, but your bicycle too:
Our tire recommendations include (but not limited to): Continental Gatorsins, Schwalbe Double Defense and Maxxis Re-Fuse. When you’re selecting tires, be sure to talk it over with your usual mechanics at your local bicycle shop – they know you and your bike well, and can help make your selection simpler. You can also read “Under Pressure: Tire Tech from the Paris Roubaix.” The article gives a glimpse into rigors of tire selection and air pressure – even for the pro teams.
Easy gearing is a must for the Alpine Loop. A compact, triple or a very large cassette will do the trick.
Other Equipment – Regulations
For complete equipment regulations that all riders must comply with based on the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo’s permit and insurance policy, visit the “Equipment” page.