Well I’m back home with my 2012 bike tour complete and only a little worse for ware. Day 6 and 7 were among my favorite days of the tour. The saddle sore that’s been plaguing my ride all week seemed to let up a bit and route for both days was very nice. Day 6 took us from Winder to Mt. Airy. We spent most of the day on a smooth but almost traffic free back road that slowly wound up a ridge, we gained about a 1000 feet of elevation in 25 miles so you were climbing steady for about half the route but the incline was gentle you could barely tell.
The final day from Mt. Airy to Tiger was only 40 miles but had more significant climbing. Of Course climbing is always relative, we gained about 1000 feet over around ten miles with the last 3 miles having a succession of tough grades, but compared to other climbs I’ve done it was pretty tame. As we worked our way higher to the North in front of us were real mountains, probably around 3000 feet, even though these are just the foothills they were impressive to ride into.
Day 7 was the only day I actually rode with Jason, I waited around a little and he hurried up a little and we managed to leave around 7:30. I rode pretty much every other day by myself, this tour was really too hilly for pace lines. Me and Jason matched up pretty well but I suspect it had something to do with the 150 extra miles he did compared to me. He rode many of the Bonus miles and did the optional century on the off day.
BRAG Final Thoughts
BRAG was a very good tour, there was lots of support out on the road, several sag vehicles, motorcycles, and more than enough rest stops. Often times there would be 4 rest stops on a 50 mile ride, which I could comfortably ride with one rest stop. There was one gentleman who was a Macon County Law enforcement officer who was supporting the tour at the camp sites, he seemed to be everywhere at once and always working and friendly.
If you consider doing BRAG I would advise you to pay attention to when the HQ closes, they often post that the registration HQ tent closes at 6 PM and the organizers turn their phones off. On Saturday when I arrived I forgot to account for Eastern Time, I planned on getting their at 5PM but actually got there at 6PM. When I went to pick up my registration I was about 10 minutes late and the registration was closed. It wasn’t a big deal but I had to go register in the morning. Every other tour I’ve done has registration late into the night before the ride.
The route was very good, it was planned out so that it would have been a big challenge for a beginner or casual rider, and for the seasoned veteran there were Hammer Head options to get some more miles. I intended to ride every hammer-head option before the tour but the saddle sore that was causing agonizing pain earlier in the ride had me racing for the finish ride.
Eventually I realized that Roswell is a suburb of Atlanta and it was a very busy place but bike friendly, apparently the optional century around Roswell was almost completely in subdivisions and had constant stop signs and traffic. Jason didn’t complain about it but I heard several other people. The day we left Roswell we spent the first 30 or so miles in lots of traffic. It wasn’t a problem but I would have prefered a more rural setting, though I have to admit that Roswell was a cool place to visit.
There were lots of strong riders on this tour, and lots of riders that weren’t. In what is beginning to become a bit of a pet peeve of mine, it seemed like many of the riders feel they need to “own the lane” all the time. Many riders have mirrors and will make room for you when they see you come by, but others seem to be almost oblivious to the fact that there are other people on the road with them.
Perhaps one of best reasons to do a week long tour is hang out with hundreds of like minded people. I met and talked with several riders around camp. One fellow named Larry litterally lived on the road, he traveled the world by bike, had ridden in Norway, France, Italy, Switzerland, Slovinia, Mexico, and many other countries as well as all over the US.
By the way, BRAG stands for Bike Ride Across Georgia and sometimes it actually does go from one side of Georgia to the other, other times its a loop that starts and ends in the same town. This year it was across the skinny Northern part of the state but went south to stay out of the mountains. Going across a state is cool because you usually see more terrain and cover more distance, but the drawback is getting back where you started. BRAG arranged for a charter bus to get us back across and the baggage truck carried our bikes.
There was an optional meal plan, where you could buy tickets and get breakfast and supper at each school. Some of the meals were apparently good and others were bad. I heard alot of grumbling about a 7 dollar charge for 1 dollar school breakfast in Roswell. A meal plan didn’t make sense to me, we weren’t in the hinterlands, there were plenty of food options in towns and a big part of the fun on a bike tour is the vast amount of food you get to eat. Good thing the meal plan was optional.
Don’t get me wrong, BRAG wasn’t perfect, but it was very good and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a week-long bike tour. I don’t think I ever waited in line for more then a minute for anything. They treated us right and I didn’t feel like a human money dispenser on the ride. On a few rides I’ve been on, it seems like every little thing they can come up to charge for they will. You want water, it’s a dollar a bottle; you want snacks or Gatorade during your ride, pony up the cash; you want to go in the school and take a shower, not unless you’ve paid an indoor camping fee; you want a ride to town, pay the shuttle bus; oh yeah and can we have a donation for our soft ball team. On BRAG the sag stops were all free and very well supported, most of the towns offered us freebies and shuttles and the cost of the ride even with a bus ticket back to the begining was a great deal.