Do’s and Don’ts on the Appalachian Beer Trail
Lessons from a first time bikepacker on the Appalachian Beer Trail, a craft beer themed bike packing route in western North Carolina…
The plan was to ride from Black Mountain to Brevard, NC via the Appalachian Beer Trail. The route was designed to follow as much forest road and singletrack as possible… oh, and to visit a wealth of craft breweries along the way. En route we discovered some do’s and don’ts about bikepacking.
Words and photos by Colt Fetters
1 Plan your route… at least a little.
I am somewhat adverse to planning for my own trips. I’ve always thought that it’s important to maintain spontaneity and be able to change plans should circumstances dictate. However, you must first have some sort of a plan to be flexible. I learned—or re-learned—that having no plan is a recipe for disaster.
For instance, on one cold night we were left eating and drinking delicious food and beer at an incredible brewery, which will remain unnamed. With each passing beer came worse and worse ideas for the nights sleeping location… until we finally settled on stealth camping behind the brewery. So we tiptoed through gates (which later closed & locked…), pitched the tent in a location hidden from plain sight, and laid our heads down.
The next morning, our alarm clock was the sound of a leaf blower. We listened as it got closer and closer to our guerrilla campsite, until the machine turned off. A man’s voice broke the silence “We’ve got ourselves a hobo!” he yelled. We rolled out of the tent, and attempted to explain ourselves to the man outside. Fortunately we were met with undue understanding and sent on our way.
All to say, next time we will have a better plan for nightly camp spots.
2. Don’t Drink Too Much Beer
Notice I didn’t say don’t drink beer, just not too much. What is too much beer? That’s for you to figure out, I definitely haven’t yet.
Our route took us through Black Mountain where we visited Pisgah Brewing then through Asheville where we visited Wicked Weed and Green Man Brewing. Then a couple too many beers led us to a house party in West Asheville where we weren’t cool enough to warrant social niceties (no one talked to us).
3. Use Your Resources
We used the route guide on BIKEPACKING.com as our main resource, which provided step by step directions to the Appalachian Beer Trail. This route offered resources including campsite locations, trail descriptions, and even a map complete with an elevation profile. Did we use this information effectively? No, of course not. When the trail is described as a “Daunting Hike-a-Bike”, by god listen to it! You are not immune. We faced roughly two miles of heinous hike-a-bike terrain on the Black Mountain trail in Pisgah National Forest. And following that was the most sustained technical descent I’ve ever travelled… on fully loaded rigid bicycles. A lighter setup may have soothed that beast.
4. Be Resourceful
Throughout the trip, a squeaking developed on my dry un-lubricated chain. Eventually it crescendoed with a high pitch and sustained squeal. A sound with which even the most loyal travel partners may just get fed up. I found myself riding all by my lonesome.
In this case, I wanted my friends back so I chose to get a little resourceful. Keep an open mind, be resourceful, and always, always carry butter in the backcountry.
5. Don’t Go Over Your Handlebars
Spend all kinds of time packing and repacking bags, trying to get your bikepacking system dialed. Adjust your gear and load based on the terrain you’ll be riding. I didn’t.
When cruising downhill on the technical Black Mountain Trail, my unconventionally mounted anything cage rotated on my fork directly into my front wheel.
Objects shoved into bike wheels at high speeds don’t fair well for the wheel… or the rider.
Day by Day
Day 1: Our trip took us from Black Mountain’s Kitsuma trail to the hidden gem that is Pisgah Brewing. From there we rode 20 miles of pavement to arrive at Asheville’s infamous Wicked Weed Brewery, then bumped across town to Green Man Brewing, and finished off our night with a grungy West Asheville House Party. After being unwelcome at the house party, we jetted off for camp in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest but not before indulging at Waffle House.
Day 2 took us through the Bent Creek single track to the North Mills River where we dove out of the woods to ride some pavement to the Sierra Nevada Brewery.
Day 3: We stopped for a feast of a breakfast at the Ingles grocery store then rode back into Pisgah where we followed wonderful gravel roads through the forest. We finished our day by riding single track into the Black Mountain Shelter.
Day 4 started with hiking our bikes to the top of Black Mountain only to ride down a fun rutted mess. This trail brought us into the Ranger Station in Brevard; but before I could get there one of my anything cages strapped to my fork, turned into my wheel, sending me over my handlebars. Scott and Mike finished the ride to Oscar Blues Brewery as I walked my bike downhill. We sat and enjoyed a beer at the Pisgah Tavern located in the Hub Bike Shop. Before parting ways after driving shuttle, we visited Highlands Brewery to celebrate the end of the trip.