Having raced at XTERRA Tsali earlier this month, I knew how fun the trails were and how Bryson City is such a great town. The Tsali trail system is broken up into 4 loops; Right, Left, Mouse Branch and Thompson. Right and Left are open to bikes one day and the other 2 on the next. Since the race was just on the Right loop, I did not get the full Tsali exposure. I planned a trip with the kids to Bryson City for some fun in the mountains and to discharge from a long first half on the year. We got a cabin on the outside of town and had a blast. Tubing, jet boat rides and endless turns off the rope swing were definitely what the doctor ordered. We even took a trip down Rt. 28 to check out the Fontana Dam.
Since I am back to base training, in order to get my aerobic engine to the next level for nationals later this fall, I took advantage of the opportunity to do my Saturday, long ride at Tsali. On Saturday, it is the Mouse Branch and Thompson trails that are open. With no idea of what to expect, due to the fact that the only other time I was there was to race, and the trail went by so fast, I planned on a few easy laps to stay in the prescribed aerobic zone. Man, that is the perfect trail to just flow and have a blast! It is so much fun to ride that should be a must for anyone’s riding list. The best way I can describe those trails is: FATS meets Pisgah. They are super flowing trails in the heart of the Smoky Mountain. There’s nothing technical there, so it is a ride for everyone and one of the most fun rides around. Just because it is not technical does not mean you can’t challenge yourself. In 4 hours of riding I was able to accumulate 4,900’ of elevation gain over ~50 miles. That’s not bad for a base ride. For those of you that keep track of stats it was an average pace of 12.3MPH at a HR of 128. That is one fast zone 1 hr ride with plenty of elevation. Now if you really wanted to push it, you have the opportunity to fly off the mountain.
Even some spots to cool off
On Sunday I was scheduled to swim for an hour in the lake. How could I pass up another chance to ride at Tsali while I was there? So off to the trailhead I went, this time for a lap on the Right and Left loops. Those loops were very similar to what I rode on Saturday, with maybe a touch more climbing and descending along with a few more rocks (but similar stats). That ride was wicked fast, fun and just a great all-round place to ride. It was so much better than swimming. Besides, the swimming pool was waiting for me on Monday anyway.
One of the great things about the National Forest is that there is so much room to spread out and get away from the crowd without giving up too much convenience since the amenities are awesome. Tsali even has its own bike wash station.
Forget the photo, get on the bike and pedal.
Beautiful Lake Fontana