Bingers get ready for a gravel grind on Mill Creek Road.
Historically, the Bookwalter Binge ‘Gran Route’ has been the most challenging of the three routes offering 87 miles, 7,000’ of elevation gain and finishing with a timed segment along the paved greenway, Point Lookout Trail.
This trail, which is maintained by the US Forest Service, has received damage from multiple heavy rain events throughout the year and is currently undergoing lengthy repair work.
Fortunately, we have the perfect alternative which keeps the challenging stats and adds a new element to the mix. This year, Gran Route riders will finish with a timed segment climb along Mill Creek Road which has a dirt and gravel surface.
Mill Creek Road is one of my favorite hidden gems when I ride east of Asheville and into Binge country. I first experienced Mill Creek Road as part of one of my favorite mountain bike rides.
After a couple miles of beautifully forested, twisting and undulating climbing that left me feeling like I was deep in the middle of the woods, I was amazed to realize how close I was to the Town of Black Mountain when I popped out at the top of the climb. From then on I began to include Mill Creek as a staple in road rides as an alternate way to get back up to the continental divide from Old Fort.
The climb is mellow enough to get some speed and turn a big gear, giving an amazing feeling of flying over the usually hard packed dirt, but also bites in pitches and twists enough that you aren’t quite sure what is around the next corner!
This will be a leg snapping battle ground for the final timed segment of the Binge Gran Route. Or, if you don’t feel like challenging yourself to a personal best on the climb, the nearby creek and melodic rushing water are the perfect recipe to zen out and relish the final mountainous miles of the Binge before cruising back towards Asheville.
On most occasions, Mill Creek Road is a hard packed and well-maintained dirt road that is well suited for tackling on a standard road bike setup. My standard 25mm width training tires do just fine, but slightly more volume would probably be ideal if you are looking to set the first “Binge Best” for the timed segment here. Whatever gearing got you over Bearwallow Mountain earlier in the day will be plenty for Mill Creek Road (which by the way I definitely recommend a slightly larger cassette, 28-32t for Bearwallow Mountain if using a standard 39 small chain ring)