11 May The fun rolls on with Cycle North Carolina
A tradition of coastal biking and camaraderie
Every spring, more than 1,000 cyclists from all over the country come together for the three-day Cycle North Carolina (CNC) Coastal Ride. 2017 marked the 14th annual Coastal Ride. It was our sixth time making the bike trip, and just as much fun as ever.
For me, this event is all about place and people. The scenery is a refreshing taste of our state’s farming backroads and fishing communities. The routes are well-planned and offer something for everyone with varied mileage.
Our first year, Martin and I got out of our comfort zone, went without knowing anyone, and had a blast. We have since met other Charlotteans who are Cycle NC Coastal Ride regulars, which has added a new dimension of fun and fellowship. This year, our biker gang had 28 people, ages 20s to 70s. It’s always a good time after the rides. Lots of joking around and telling tales from the road. The camaraderie is great, whether you rode 100 miles or 20.
The whole event makes for great people-watching. Seeing tandem bikes for two riders never gets old. The official campground, rest stops and Saturday night dinner are full of interesting characters. The range of mileage attracts every level of rider. We saw families with kids, a bachelor party and all different ages. The median age is around mid-fifties.
Everywhere I go, I make a point to meet people and learn about where they’re from. The Cycle North Carolina atmosphere is very friendly. It’s easy to walk up to someone and strike up a conversation about their bike or jersey. I met one man sporting a jersey from a bar in Alaska. It turned out that he was from New Hampshire, and his daughter sent it to him from her military posting. This year, there were riders from 32 states, Washington, D.C. and Canada.
Cycle North Carolina’s local flavor
The location rotates every year between Oriental, Edenton and “Little” Washington. All are part of North Carolina’s Inner Banks and home to scenic rivers and sounds. There is a special feeling of rich history in all three towns.
Our first Cycle NC Coastal Ride actually introduced me to the Inner Banks. It’s a beautiful area to ride, with routes through farmland, along waterfronts, over bridges, and in both new and historic communities.
This year’s ride was based in Oriental. Also known as “The Sailing Capital of North Carolina,” it’s popular with sailors and boating enthusiasts like myself. We stayed at an Airbnb cabin, and many other riders also rented places to stay. Many cyclists camped at Cycle NC campsite on the Oriental waterfront, indoor campsite at a local gym or RV lots nearby. Others bunked at charming inns in Oriental, and some stayed further afield at hotels.
Registration fees include a T-shirt, SAG wagon and gear van support, and ride rest stops with food and drink to refuel.
There is a big celebration Saturday night, with a seafood dinner and local beer. The food this year was outstanding and plentiful. More taps would’ve been nice though, because the beer lines were long enough to scare off even the thirstiest drinkers.
Each of the three days offers different routes with various distances. All travel through beautiful countryside – true Americana with the crops, pastures and livestock. The roads were smooth and perfect for cycling. The locals seemed happy to have us, and the cars gave plenty of room when they passed.
This was the warmest weather we’ve had at Cycle North Carolina’s Coastal Ride, with highs around 85 degrees. But when you factor in the humidity and heat rising from the pavement, my bike computer hit a scorching 105 one afternoon! We made sure to drink lots of fluids and fuel properly throughout the day.
There were 10- to 20-mph winds blowing all three days. Funny how, no matter which way the road curved, it always seemed like a straight headwind. But I’m sure we were helped by some tailwinds now and again too.
To each his own
Martin and I clocked 27 miles on day one, 50 on day two and 13 day three, for a total of 90 miles. We generally ride at 14 mph, while faster cyclists average 16-17 mph or more. But the rides are more enjoyable if we pace ourselves, take in the scenery, and tap into our spiritual connection with nature on the open road. But we always finish and we always have fun. Meanwhile, the serious riders go zipping by like a swarm of bees, and everyone gets what they want out of the event.
This was my second year on my electric assist e-bike. Last year, I didn’t see any other e-bikes. This year, there were at least three of us. Like me, the others had medical issues but were still riding. With the strong winds, I had to keep an eye on my battery.
A few bumps in the road
For the first time in six years, there were some logistical mishaps with water and resupplying food at the rest stops. Maybe the increased attendance of 1,400 was a factor?