Virginia Mountain Bike Trail

Virginia Mountain Bike Trail

The Virginia Mountain Bike Trail (VMBT) is a near 500 mile route through the heart of rural Virginia. It connects ribbons of rugged singletrack, remote forest service road, and rural country roads into one continuous, physically demanding track from outside Strasburg, VA to Damascus. The trail was created under the vision of Chris Scott of Shenandoah Mountain Touring. It is remote, technical, overgrown, and difficult. It is also incredibly appealing.

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I’m not sure where I first heard about the VMBT, but somehow I came across a video put together by Chris Scott when he and some companions set out on the first thru-ride of the entire trail. Immediately, I was entranced. That was an adventure I could really get behind. It occupied my thoughts continuously in the days after first seeing the video. I searched and searched in vain for any information on the route they took, to no avail. For now, the dream would have to wait until I could get some concrete information.

Then, late in 2014, the folks at bikepacking.com posted some information on the first portion of the trail, including a GPS track. All of a sudden, I was back in business. With the publication of a Part 2, there was now a complete GPS track to follow, along with the bare minimum of information on services available (read: not much). The dream was alive. I didn’t do much in the way of active planning, but started gathering gear for this and other potential bikepacking trips. The thought of attempting the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail continued to burn in the back of my mind.

I did a few local overnight bikepacking trips on the C&O canal, testing out my gear, and getting my feet wet. It was a blast, but I continued to dream of bigger, bolder adventures. Late July of 2015, I got a two week window free of any obligations, so it was go time. I only had about 10 days to get all of my gear together and prepare for the journey. It was a whirlwind of activity, trying and failing to get marked maps from Shenandoah Mountain touring, gathering last minute odds and ends and mentally preparing myself for the unknown. I had the GPS track and some information about food sources, but not much else. When I spoke with Chris Scott at Shenandoah Mountain Touring, he told me that this time of year was pretty bad to do it, that “it’s rough out there, a lot of trees are down”. Logan, at bikepacking.com told me “there’s lots of hike a bike sections, and definitely wear sleeves, it is pretty overgrown out there.” With that bit of advice, I set off.

The trip turned out to be more than I ever imagined it could be. I took a giant leap into the unknown, trusting that I could deal with anything that came up, relying on my wit and mental toughness to see me through to the end. The riding was harder than anything I’ve ever done, and there indeed was plenty of walking and plenty of overgrown areas, and lots of trees down. To anyone looking to ride the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. And wear sleeves, it tends to be pretty overgrown out there.

Virginia Mountain Bike Trail
Bring sleeves. And a machete.

I’ve written a serialized account of my journey on the VMBT. It contains my experiences, the people I met, and the highs and lows of the journey. These posts are not meant to be a “how to” or what to expect on the trail. Part of what made this journey so special to me was the true wilderness aspect of the trail, as well as my lack of prior knowledge of the trail. I don’t want to rob others of the same experience, so have deliberately left out many of the technical details of the trail. I am working on a post that will outline some of those things, but for now, I am leaving it out. Enjoy!

-BR

 

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