Enthusiasts produce map with sampling of rides in Haywood
You’ve got your chain well-oiled, air in your tires and water in your bottles. You are all set for a bicycle ride in Haywood County but haven’t the slightest idea where to go.
To help lost tourists with bicycles mounted on their vehicles and locals who may not know the rural areas of the county, bicycle advocates and tourism promoters have teamed up to print a guide to six of Haywood’s best rides. For each route, the guide includes a map with an elevation profile, turn-by-turn directions, and a brief description on what riders should expect and the scenery they’ll encounter.
Local bike club leader Cecil Yount said it’s a good sampling of what the county has to offer and can work as an introduction to out-of-towners who are looking to ride.
“So when visitors come to the area and ask ‘Where can I ride?’ we have something to hand to them,” Yount said.
Yount, who is chairman of Bicycle Haywood NC, worked with other members of the club to come up with the six routes. They include the “Waynesville Town and County Cruise,” a nine-mile loop that starts from North Main Street in town, and the more brutal, 45-mile “Cold Mountain Loop,” which leave from Bethel and passes by Devil’s Courthouse on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The list in the pamphlet is by no means a comprehensive guide of what is available in Haywood County for cyclists, but the club members aimed to include a good mix of easy and hard, long and short. The outcome is a product that highlights why Haywood County — with its mountains, rural scenery and the parkway passing through it — is a good place to go on a bicycle ride.
“It’s challenging riding; it’s beautiful scenery; 98 percent of the people are friendly,” Yount said. “It’s just an excellent environment for riding.”
The maps are a product of the bicycle club working alongside the county’s Tourism Development Authority and Haywood County Chamber of Commerce. Following the popularity achieved by the Blue Ridge Breakaway, a local bicycle event held each August, the biking and tourism community began to take notice of the untapped potential in cyclo-tourism.
Yount said he noticed that some participants in the breakaway — which has sections of its route featured in the pamphlet — became enamored with Haywood County cycling and planned returned visits for the sake of riding. Meanwhile, local bike shops and visitor centers felt like they were turning off potential riders by not having anything to offer them except some online resources, which rely on a data plan and good service or an Internet connection to access.
Yount said it came time to start catering to the bike crowd — and that’s spandex, not leather.
“Americans are getting out on bicycles more and more, and they’re riding across the country, or they’re going to places and taking their bikes,” Yount said. “We offer outstanding opportunities, and we need to be helping out our local community by bringing in cyclists.”
The group of cyclists and tourism leaders who came up with the map also hired consultants who provided advice on promoting bike tourism. Yount said another step is for businesses to provide bicycle racks or storage for tourists who travel with a bicycle and to let the cycling crowd know they’re welcome in Haywood. Many riders pass information along by word of mouth in the cycling community, and a good review can lead to repeat and new customers.
With the promise of attracting more cyclists, the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority footed the bill for the first printing of the maps. This month, 5,000 copies were printed and placed at visitor centers, gas stations, retail businesses and other places around the county.
Lynn Collins, executive director of the TDA, said the bike maps are one more addition to several trail maps the authority prints, from quilting to motor touring. She has high hopes that tourists will begin picking up the free brochures and the word about cycling in Haywood County will get out.
“We just have a lot of our visitors who are interested in bicycling,” said Collins. “We are getting more and more requests and see it as a segment of the industry that will be growing.”