For Sebastian Birch, getting to the Assault on Mt. Mitchell bike race was half the fun.
(OK, probably more than half).
It wasn’t about finding the Greyhound bus with the cushiest seats and most leg room, or hopping a ride with a friend or — even worse — strangers with a fondness for hitchhikers.
Birch actually set off on his bike, starting at his Jackson Township home, and pedaled for five days (averaging about 10 hours and 150 miles each day) until he arrived in Spartanburg, SC. Then, he put his feet up, relaxed and kept his mind on the race for a couple days before riding more than 100 miles in the grueling race to the top of 6,647-foot-tall Mt. Mitchell.
“I try not to drive anywhere, if I can,” said Birch, associate professor of music at Kent State University’s Stark Campus. “And one of my rules is you don’t drive to a ride, because why should I drive to ride my bicycle? I should just ride my bicycle.”
He said he enjoyed the planning aspect of the race, which took place May 16. He checked out the best routes from Ohio to South Carolina on Google Earth, meaning he literally saw the roadway he’d ride on. He ran into some problems when Google didn't show parts of some roadways, leaving those portions to the imagination.
Either that, or Birch didn't have the patience to click through hours of terrain on Google Earth, he said.
“Sometimes I had no choice but to get on four-lane highways with coal trucks going by. That was less enjoyable."
He planned and analyzed every detail of his trip, down to weighing the shoes inside Dick’s Sporting Goods to find the lightest pair for his ride.
He’s already planning a route to the 2012 race and said he’s open to ideas on roads to take. Birch blogged his experiences here, and hopes people with knowledge of more suitable routes can contact him through the blog.
As far as the actual race? That was the easy part.
“The race is the race. You just go and try to get there as fast as you can.”
That doesn’t sound like a bad attitude to have, considering Birch placed 58th out of about 1,000 riders who signed up for the event.
Birch mentioned he’s recently taken up swimming and is working to master that next. Do we see a triathlon in the future?
“I mean, eventually at some point. That's why I started the swimming,” he said.
“I don't know if I enjoy doing this stuff as much as I enjoy planning it."