Monday, March 28, 2011

Bicycling: "Beauty and the Beast" near Tyler, 2011

(ABOVE: The beautiful pine trees of East Texas provide shade for much of the ride.)

"Beauty and the Beast" is an annual bicycle ride in Tyler, TX during late March. I signed up for the event last year, but I ended up missing it as I stayed in Tulsa to work during a big Spring snow storm.

I've wanted to do this ride for years as Tyler is my mother's family headquarters: I have two aunts, a cousin and their families living there. My grandparents enjoyed a beautiful home on well-known Cumberland Road. My Mother grew up near Tyler in the small town of London, TX. The community of Carlisle was renamed Price, TX for my great-grandfather J.M. Price. For the ride this year, I stayed with my Aunt Marcia and my Mother drove in from Orange to see me. :)

The weather this year was great for cycling: near 70 warming to low 80s by the end of the ride, not overly humid, and a south breeze of 15mph. Morning clouds helped too.

How was the ride? Awesome-- I was extremely impressed! The event appeared to be exceptionally well managed, especially for a smaller town ride.

Here are the details:

About 700 cyclists signed up to ride distances ranging from 22 to 67 miles. The course is rarely flat...lots of rollers. (Rollers are rolling hills offering gentle climbs and fun descents. Most cyclists love them!) It appeared that the 53 and 67 mile courses were most popular. I debated whether to ride the 67 miler, but my group of three cyclists chose the 53, so I stayed with them. I chose having fun rather than stretching my endurance!

The terrain varied from an elevation of 350ft to as high as about 550ft. The best part: the roads were smooth and free of debris: no rocks, sand or glass. I didn't see even a single pebble loose on the road as the course appeared to have been swept-- this was the cleaned course I have ever cycled. Very few folks had flats. Most surfaces were asphalt with minor road patches-- a very comfortable ride.

The well-marked course had lots of smiling volunteers. I was surprised to see that US Highway 69 was temporarily closed to allow us maximum safety. Traffic was reduced on the FM, county and state highways for the rest of the ride-- I never felt unsafe. Every major intersection had DPS (highway police officers) and volunteers making sure that regular auto traffic was cleared for bicycles.

Rest areas were located every 10 miles and offered shade, plenty of restrooms, snack fuel, water and sports drinks to keep you going.

And the ride was beautiful! The "beauty" lived up to its name with pine trees, wildflowers and scenic hills, farms and well-kept properties.

Regardless of which distance you choose to ride, the biggest hill (the "Beast") is during the last 5 miles. For experienced riders, the Beast isn't difficult. Some may choose to walk their bike up the 200 ft Beast which is near 0.25 miles long at 11% grade (according to my bike computer).

The ride ended a few miles later back where you started from at K.E. Bushman's Winery and Celebration Center. The huge, modern facility offered a festive indoor, upper scale atmosphere. A spaghetti and wine dinner greeted the finishers. Inside, they even provided towels for you to wipe your sweat after your ride!

Overall, I give "Beauty and the Beast" 4.5 out 5 stars. The only improvements I can think of: 1) Timer chips would be nice. It's fun to see how your time compares with other riders. 2) The ride ends without fanfare. Not that it's important, but some type of finish line, perhaps with a giant timer clock, would be cool.

If you are looking for smooth roads, curves, hills, trees, wildflowers along a safe route, you need to try "Beauty and the Beast"-- I'll be back next year! George

(BELOW: My Mother and I. She drove to Tyler to watch me ride. Yay!)

(ABOVE: Lots of friendly folks clustered at K.E. Bushman's Winery for the start. BELOW: I rode at about 90% of my capacity for the first hour of the ride. A respectable 19mph average.)

(ABOVE: This rest stop in Troup, TX provided a brief cool down. BELOW: You are rewarded with sunlit, wildflower covered fields when you pedal out from the pines.)

(ABOVE: With my sightseeing and the hills, my average speed dropped to 17.2mph. BELOW: Just before the "Beast", friendly folks cheer you along your way.)

(ABOVE: This is the biggest hill. The 1/4 mile climb of the Beast doesn't last very long, but it's a steep 11% grade according to my bike computer. I rode 6mph. BELOW: My average speed dipped to 16mph after the Beast. I sprinted at about 25mph for the last miles after the hill to get my average pace back to 17mph.)


  1. Dork.

    Just messing with you, buddy. Looks like a great ride. I'm glad you got to go. I'd like to try it sometime.

  2. Jason-- you wouldn't have to pack heat for this one... ;)

  3. Excellent post I must say.. Simple but yet interesting and engaging.. Keep up the awesome work!

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  4. Great event! I rode it years ago, and I have been eager to return, this time with some granny gears!

  5. Excellent because this is my favorite activity, specially because some years ago I was one of the best in that sport, I'd like to retake that sport because I love it.