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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Wondering if anyone here has ridden SkyMass in central Virginia. I'm new to road cycling but I have a goal to ride this route by Autumn. I live right at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains only 20 miles from the swift run entrance to skyline drive.

I wanted to see what other riders experienced on this route so I can get a better understanding of what to expect and train for. Right now I can only make it to 50 miles or so before being worn out. By Autumn I should have that sorted out. My bike has a compact crank with an 11-28t cassette which has been fine for skyline drive. I was thinking about getting a 12-30t cassette for the longer climbs up each mountain range.

Are there any other known routes in the 50 to 60 mile range that would be good for training? I intend on riding a 40 mile out and back from my house and up route 33 to swift run sometime soon.
 

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Yep, I'm actually doing an extended version on Wednesday. Compact with a 28 or 30 is plenty. The climbs on Skyline aren't bad at all. 5-6% is the norm. Mass is steeper at the top, but it's only a few miles long. The valley heading north is fast.

Work on your endurance. Eat and drink often. Pace yourself. It is a gorgeous ride
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yep, I'm actually doing an extended version on Wednesday. Compact with a 28 or 30 is plenty. The climbs on Skyline aren't bad at all. 5-6% is the norm. Mass is steeper at the top, but it's only a few miles long. The valley heading north is fast.

Work on your endurance. Eat and drink often. Pace yourself. It is a gorgeous ride
Thanks! I just started on some core strength training which already made a pretty big difference in my endurance. Only had time for 40 miles today but I felt at my strongest at the end of the ride. I should be pushing over 60 miles soon.

I've put in about 200 miles on skyline drive south of big meadows so I am familure with the 5-8% grades. Its the length of the initial climbing that looks a little intimidating to me. None of my rides have climbs anywhere near that long.
 

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Are you planning on starting in Front Royal, to 211, then up Mass and back through the valley?

The length of the climbs from Front Royal is a bit off-putting if you haven't ridden them before. I'd suggest doing an out and back from Front Royal to Elkwallow and back before attempting SkyMass. That ride is a bit under 50 miles with ~6k feet of climbing. And you'll get to see all the climbs on the SkyMass ride (aside from Mass obviously).

Do you ride with either a power or HR meter? Figure out your zones and start off easy. Pacing yourself is key to not blowing up. 80 miles is a long ride, especially if you aren't used to being in the saddle that long. I also recommend riding with somebody else. Cell reception is pretty terrible on Skyline. You likely won't run into too many people after you climb Mass. If you have an issue, you're 20 miles from your car...

The ride isn't super, super tough. Take it easy on Skyline. Then you bomb down 211, get through the Mass climb, then if you want, you can really hammer back up to Front Royal. My plan for Wed is the full SkyMass route plus the first 4 mile climb again. Going to be a long day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Are you planning on starting in Front Royal, to 211, then up Mass and back through the valley?

The length of the climbs from Front Royal is a bit off-putting if you haven't ridden them before. I'd suggest doing an out and back from Front Royal to Elkwallow and back before attempting SkyMass. That ride is a bit under 50 miles with ~6k feet of climbing. And you'll get to see all the climbs on the SkyMass ride (aside from Mass obviously).

Do you ride with either a power or HR meter? Figure out your zones and start off easy. Pacing yourself is key to not blowing up. 80 miles is a long ride, especially if you aren't used to being in the saddle that long. I also recommend riding with somebody else. Cell reception is pretty terrible on Skyline. You likely won't run into too many people after you climb Mass. If you have an issue, you're 20 miles from your car...

The ride isn't super, super tough. Take it easy on Skyline. Then you bomb down 211, get through the Mass climb, then if you want, you can really hammer back up to Front Royal. My plan for Wed is the full SkyMass route plus the first 4 mile climb again. Going to be a long day.
Yeah I'm going to start from Front Royal. Getting that climbing out of the way early seems like a good idea. Getting to Front Royal is over an hour drive for me. I'm trying to find better hill practice near home but I'll definitely ride that section of Skyline at least once or twice before riding the whole route.

I do have a HRM connected to my phone but I can't see it while riding. My max HR is 192 but I have a hard time keeping my average under 150. It's getting easier especially as my legs get stronger; my 40mile ride yesterday averaged 145bpm. I don't have a Garmin but I might by the time I ride SkyMass so I'll be able to see my HR.

The longest I've been in the saddle for on a road bike is three hours. The body position on a road bike is making it tough for me to find a comfortable saddle.

I'm used to riding solo with a well prepaired tool kit for any issues. I do intend on riding SkyMass with at least one more person though. Good luck on Wednesday!
 

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Yeah Skyline is about an hour from me too, so I only make out a few times a year, usually when I need long climbs in preparation for some tough rides.

Ok, couple things from your last post:
- If you are having trouble with comfort on the bike, particularly if you are having pressure from your saddle or back pains, if you haven't done so, I'd recommend seeing a good fitter. If you're in the NoVA area, I can recommend a few good guys. You should be able to ride for more than 3 hours without discomfort

- Being able to view your stats (HR or power) will greatly help you gauge your efforts and go out easy enough to not blow up. I picked up a power meter last year and it has been a HUGE help in that area. Not saying you need one, you can used perceived effort, but be mindful of how hard you are going early

- I just looked at the Mass segment: 3 miles, averaging 7%, so not too terrible. The last mile is the steepest section, so go easier than you think you could the first mile or two. After that, the ride is pretty easy, just a long day
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I live further south near Charlottesville but I wouldn't mind a long drive to get a good bike fitting. None of my three LBS have any real bike fittings. I don't have any lower back pain since I started core strengthening. The problem is sore sit bones and/or lack of blood flow making my privates numb. For a while I wasn't actually using my sit bones and just sitting mostly on my "taint." I had to move my saddle forward a little but now I can use my sit bones which has helped blood flow. Now my butt just gets very sore which I might just need more seat time to adjust to.

I never had to think of how or where I was sitting on my mtb saddle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Beautiful photo! I can't wait to ride it. I'm trying to figure out if Rt. 33 is "safe" for cycling during the week so I can train for the first climb on SkyMass.
 

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Check the Strava heat maps and if there are segments there, how many folks have ridden them. That's usually a pretty good indication of whether or not a road is safe.

If you're talking about the first 4 mile climb from the gate to Dickey Ridge, it's not too terrible. It's 5-6%, but nice and steady. I was exhausted by the time we got to it last week. I think I averaged like 190W (if that), so it's easy enough that you can ride it really easily, it'll just take a while. When we do SkyMass, we always end with that climb to simulate another ride
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The Rt 33 climb up the mountain looks commonly used on the heat map. I just don't know what days or times people ride it. During the week it seems like theres a good amount of trucks going over it. It is two lanes on the way up but I keep thinking if they have to slow down for me it could cause some issues.

I'd rather be over prepaired for a ride which is why I want to try and climb this mountain (literally). There is a somewhat short section thats 11-13% grade but most of it is between 6 and 8%.
 

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Drive the Rt 33 climb a few times on days/times you would try to ride it. I tend to be a bit over cautious with things like that. I want to make it home safely, first and foremost.

Good call on being over prepared for a ride like that. Totally makes sense. I just wanted to let you know those climbs aren't 'terrible'. But if you haven't done that much climbing in the past, it's worth putting in more time before hand.
 

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Dave, I did this ride again on Sat with a few buddies. Couple random thoughts to help with logistics.

There is a 7-11 after the descent down 211. We started at Dickey Ridge, so it was about mile 35 for us. If you start at the gate, figure it's around mile 40.
You can stop at Elkwallow if you need food/water. It's around mile 20-25 depending on where you start.
They reopened a store along Fort Valley Rd. It's on the left hand side around mile 55. That's a big help so you don't have to carry huge bottles up Mass.
We stopped at 7-11 and a quick 2 minute stop for water at the little gas station in the valley. That was plenty to have enough fluids to get back up to Skyline.
 

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I just did skymass for the first time a couple weeks ago. The Skyline part was cold and wet. Apparently, we passed a bear. I didn't see it through the fog.

The 211 descent is great. Massanutten is hard - especially after the climbing on skyline. Apart from a few kickers everything after Massanutten is smooth sailing.

I would not do the ride as my first big ride. IOW, the distance in of itself should be of little concern before you ride it.

For an idea of the challenge, the first 25 miles took us about 2 hours (Eastham park to Elkwallow store), the second 56 miles took just under 3.

Photo from top of Massanutten from last Sunday:

Vegetation Nature Natural landscape Plant community Highland
 

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I love SkyMass. Just did it a week or so ago. But doing it reverse, MassSky is MUCH better in my opinion. The climb over Mass is better, and the descent less sketchy (fewer sharp curves). You get to warm up riding down fort valley, instead of starting off cold on a long climb. And you get to finish with the best descent. Also, I take some back roads in Luray to stay off 211 for a bit.

Here's my Strava from the recent ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/629069961/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1467578184
 

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Great info! After watching a bazillion hours of TDF, I’m ready to go riding!

Can anyone point me to a site that can lists/reviews riding loops? Looking for a “miniature” TDF experience (mountains!).

Coming from VA coastline…will come up I64…looking for about a 2-3 hour road loop vicinity I64 & Skyline/BRP.

Ideas?

Is there an mtbproject for road bikes?

Thanks!

Bob
 
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