Skyline Drive, VA - ride report (with pics)

My friend Zach and I went to Shenandoah National Park to ride on Skyline Drive. We left Northern VA at 8:15AM or so and stopped to get some bottles of water and snacks for the ride. We got to Front Royal in about an hour and then parked in front of the north entrance to the park. You could see the start of the uphill climb already and my friend Zach (who would be biking) knew that he would take longer on the climbs than me so he started out ahead of me. I stretched and got my bag ready (took some extra clothes because it was cold and windy outside). I started out with my 125mm cranks on and brought my 150mm cranks and a crank puller in my bag in case I wanted to swap. I left about 10-15 minutes after Zach and payed the entrance fee to the park ($8 for bikes, and yes I tried to argue for less for the uni, but to no avail…).

The whole ride was on narrow windy roads with “gentle” gradients most of the way. The best parts of the ride were the windy steep turns that had a short sone wall on the edge (see pics below).

Traffic wasn’t that bad in the morning and I climbed steadily without stopping until I met up with zach after about 3 miles. We stopped at the first overlook (~4-5 miles or so) where I decided to switch to the 150mm cranks. These proved to make the climbs easier so I stuck with them the rest of the day. I got a lot of comments from people saying that I was crazy to climb skyline drive on the unicycle.

We kept on going and there was about a half mile of flat riding which was a very nice brake for both Zach and me, but the climb continued shortly after. Zach had to get off and walk a few times, but we set up some meeting spots at mile markers (the whole drive is marked, which is very nice).

There was a good portion of steep downhill after 9 miles or so for a good mile and a half or so which we both were dreading for the way back. The climb started once again soon after and we were steadily climbing for the next 4 miles or so. We stopped after going 15 miles in because Zach’s left leg was cramped and we knew we still had a few long uphills on the way back. The way back was going to be mostly downhill though, so Zach wasn’t too worried.

I left the 150mm cranks on because I didn’t want to bother swapping them out and I was getting a lot of speed wobbles on the downhill parts and for about 11 miles of the way back I was wishing that I had a hyrdaulic brake on the coker. My legs were starting to feel weak towards the last steep 4 miles of the ride and were definitely getting a good workout. Zach, on the other hand didn’t have to pedal for the last 7 miles of the ride hahah. I noticed at the end of the ride that my knees didnt hurt at all like they usually do after doing a lot of serious downhill. I think the longer cranks might have actually helped my knee pain by giving me more control to slow my speed on the downhills than the 125s usually provide.

We got back to the car and stretched and then drove back up to Northern VA and were both pretty worn out.

Overall…there was a lot of traffic on the ride since the sun was out and it was a popular time to drive through Skyline Drive. All of the cars gave sufficient room when passing and there were still long stretches of the ride where no cars went by us. It is definitely a fun place to ride and I shouldn’t have been worried about the car traffic.

Total distance: ~ 30 miles or 48km
Ascent: 4436 ft or 1098m
descent: 4436 ft (since we went up and back)

You can see the elevation profile here (click display elevation on left):

Here are a few pictures from the ride as well:

rock on. Wish I could have joined you. This job of mine is really cramping my style. Still, let me know the next time you plan to ride it, especially if you want to do the whole thing.

I dont udnerstand, do you pay $8 for the parking, or to ride on the road? It seems like it should be free. :thinking:

Looks really fun though, how high is that place?

Skyline drive goes through Shenandoah National Park, so it is a park entrance fee.

I think the max elevation is something like 3,800 ft (we didn’t reach the highest point on the ride though so our max elevation was less). The ride starts at about 600 ft or so.

Will do. I think it is going to take some more training and getting my brake fitted right on my coker for me to do the whole thing in 2 days. It would be quite the accomplishment!