Belgian Waffle Ride North Carolina – BWR 2022 offered up
Traversing through dark green rhododendron tunnels, climbing to the tops of grassy mountain peaks with expansive views, and descending twisty single track is just a little bit of what Belgian Waffle Ride North Carolina 2022 had to offer. The weather hung around the high 70’s throughout the day with a nice cloud cover to start. Later into the race the sun came out in full force, but we all lucked out and avoided any nasty weather which was a pleasant surprise here in Western North Carolina where late afternoon pop-up storms are the norm. Hundreds of riders from across the United States and beyond gathered at the Kanuga start line to set out on an adventure filled with lots of sugar (arguably too much sugar), smiles, highs, lows, and 133 miles of gravel goodness.
First Gravel Race
While I’m no stranger to long days in the woods, this was my first gravel race and I have to say I am looking forward to doing more! I was feeling really nervous about riding in packs on the road. As the day went on I started to learn how to move fluently with others, while watching both the road ahead and the movements of riders around me. Learning how to stay with a group, especially on those flat and downhill pavement sections, is definitely going to be helpful in my future gravel events.
Just like any long race, throughout the day you’ll have some really awesome times… and some really not so awesome times. So, I’ll start with talking about the good parts! The single track! The mountain biker in me loved the Reeb Ranch single track descent.. Although the 14.8% climb we had to do two times over to get there wasn’t ideal, it was worth it. I also loved the brutal loose rowdy sections through Falling Creek Camp and was super stoked to get to ride on that private tract of land! Looking back on it, the only real bummer of the race was my second time climbing Staton road through Dupont. At that point in the race I was about 8.5 hours deep, tired, and my drivetrain was SCREAMING at me after the sandy muddy sections we rode through on our second Pinnacle loop, I really could’ve used some chain lube.
Let’s not forget my bike setup! I built my first gravel bike in March of 2022 and did not expect to be so taken by it. I have a Pisgah Bike Works (which I absolutely love) gravel frame outfitted with a mismatched Shimano & SRAM drivetrain and a GGA SL gulo wheelset mounted with Donnelly MSO x’plor tires. All in all, my bike weighs in at 19 lbs, which I was super thankful for when it came time to conquer that final 10% climb 120 miles deep into the course. A full day out on my gulo wheelset did not disappoint. They allowed me to accelerate quickly when putting the power down on pavement sections and climbing gravel roads. They also handled superbly on the singletrack. The lightweight wheelset allows me to pick my bike up and toss it around on technical sections, and the carbon’s strength allowed me to smash into things I normally would be more timid about on an aluminum wheelset.
Lasty, I just want to give a huge thanks to all the wonderful volunteers at the aid stations, those who did a great job putting up course markings, and everyone that helped out both before and after the race to make Belgian Waffle Ride NC possible! It was a great day out on the bike and I’m already looking forward to the next one.