Trail guide estimated that the climb was somewhere in the ballpark of 6 miles (10 kms) to the top. I had ridden Laurel on my first trip to NC four or five years ago, but my memory of it was all wrong . . . what I remembered was a long drawn out difficult climb with a couple short hike-a-bike sections. What I experienced this time was the almost the exact opposite.
Rhoda dendron Tunnels
I found Laurel to be the type of climbing that you could sustain all day long. Mind you, there were a few steeper sections, and I guess if you went at it hard you could really cook yourself on the way to the top. We weren't sprinting by any means, nor were we lollygagging about - just a steady push.
I had ridden 34x21 for the entire trip - a last minute bent chainring led me to switch out the front to a never used 34T Middleburn ring and I figured a 21T cog in the rear would suit my early Spring legs. I wouldn't lie and say that I didn't walk at all in the four days, cause I did my share of pushing the bike, but then again, so did some of the local single speeders that I was riding with on Saturday.
The climb didn't seem quite as long or as difficult as I remember, however, the hike-a-bikes seemed longer and more plentiful.
We took a pass on heading down Pilot Rock. We had ridden Pilot before in the past, and it's nothing to be feared as long as you're careful and keep an eye on your speed and lines. In saying that, one fork and one frame (and one shattered soul) were destroyed during that descent. Sometimes riding smart is knowing when to not ride something. After three days of pretty tiring riding we pulled the plug on the initial plan of riding down Pilot and on to Pilot Cove and up Slate Rock (apparently a local we met on the trail said that Slate was a mess with lots of trees down). Muffled minds and weak, wearied upper bodies needed for the constant attention heading down Pilot were lacking. Instead, we turned around and bombed down Laurel, though less technically challenging, was a blast.
During our descent Curvy Butt, in an attempt to ride high on some rocks to avoid some mud, slid into the mud and went boom. Had a squishy swishy diaper bum after that and he was not too pleased.
As a reward for four days of wicked riding we headed to the Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company for dinner. Curvy Butt is a lightweight - he's eating the medium on top, I got the large on the bottom . . . the time it took him to eat one slice I had three down . . . pffffft, lightweight. I can also tell you that before I closed my eyes for the night that entire pizza was in my belly.
The restaurant is worth checking out if you're in Asheville - it's a bit quirky, got good service, good food and even has a movie theater. We sat at the Mexican Wrestling theme table.
We weren't the only Canadians there. A bunch of ladies were sitting next to us at the William Shatner table (who if you didn't know is a Canuck).