Neil Beltchenko finished the 290+ mile Cohutta Cat bikepacking ride/race in just over a day and a half. Here are his notes on the ride, stats, and a few photos…

Posted by Logan Watts

Although relatively unknown in the mountain biking world, the Cohutta Cat is a 290-mile figure-8 loop that explores hundreds of miles of singletrack and gravel in Georgia and Tennessee. This route is no joke. It starts and ends at the Mulberry Gap Mountain Bike Get-a-Way near Ellijay, and it’s one of the hardest mile-for-mile routes around. The group depart set out on Sunday, and Neil Beltchenko was the first to finish – with no sleep – in 37 hours and 11 minutes. Here are Neil’s notes as well as a few photos he took along the way.

Neil Beltchenko Cohutta Cat

  • Neil Beltchenko Cohutta Cat
  • Neil Beltchenko Cohutta Cat
  • First day was awesome! It was dry, difficult, slow with lots of thorns, and finally fast. It had everything a bikepacking route should have. The route as a whole is extremely well put together.
  • Beautiful landscapes and amazing primitive dirt and paved roads.
  • Rain started after I left Ducktown, and it unleashed. Glad I brought so many heavy rain layers.
  • Arrived in Blue Ridge at midnight and stripped down at the laundromat to dry all of my clothes, including my shoes. The forecast looked promising, like it was going to stop. I left around 1:15 am in hopes that it would stop on my pedal out of town, but it didn’t. I was drenched yet again, but warm.
  • Rain finally stopped but with any rain in these parts, it left the roots and rocks quite slick. There were also leaves all over the trails, which made for tricky navigation. It also prompted caution when descending. Fell only once :)
  • Around 4:30 am on Monday morning, I noticed a horrible shrieking, It was my rear brake. I had shredded through the brake pads. This was an absolute mess to deal with given the sand and muck covering my bike. After taking my wheel off, I had to push my brake pistons back into the caliper to install the new pads. Some stupidity and lack of thought led me to lean my tire lever on the brake pad screw holder. It sheared right off before my eyes. My heart sank. I threw the new pads in with the screw and it held, but I was very careful when screwing it in. I kept an eye on it, and it held the rest of the race.
  • A slow morning on Monday finally gave way to more gravel and road riding on steep roads. Granny gear with zig-zags were needed.
  • Lots of wildlife. Bears, deer, rabbits, and possums (I spared one after it ran right in front of me with a skid and a quick maneuver).
  • Ohhh, and the not so WILD life. I had a water bottle to spray the dogs that wanted me dead, that was fun and also not so fun.
  • So many Churches. Maybe 50-75. Has anyone counted? They all look the same, too. Déjà vu.
  • Finally finished at 9:11 pm on Monday night with an official time of 37:11.
    Thanks to Daniel for the route and all of the Mulberry Gap crew. I’m hanging out today with my feet up in my creekside cabin.
  • Neil Beltchenko Cohutta Cat
  • Neil Beltchenko Cohutta Cat

Stats and Numbers

  • Bike: Salsa Woodsmoke / 29er / i9 Trail 270 / 120mm Pike
  • Bags: Defiant / Bedrock / Rock Geist
  • Type of riding: Gravel, pavement, singletrack, two track, and crawling over dead timber.
  • Mileage: 294.87
  • Moving Time: 32 hours 59 minutes
  • Total Time: 37 hours 11 minutes
  • Elevation: 34,198 feet
  • Hours Slept: 0
  • Hours Drying Clothes: 1
  • Go to food: Snickers bars
  • Go to beverage: Red Bull
  • Rain Protection: Adidas Terrex Pro 2.5
  • Neil Beltchenko Cohutta Cat
  • Neil Beltchenko Cohutta Cat

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