Middle Tennessee and the Cumberland Plateau will be the focus of this year’s Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee, an annual road-cycling tour that showcases Tennessee’s scenic back roads and state parks.
In its 23rd year, the seven-day cycling event known as the BRAT will cover 450 miles, making a figure-eight across the hilly midsection of the state. A three-day, 200-mile tour during the first half of the trip is also offered.
“The BRAT is a leisurely paced tour that highlights the beautiful rural areas and off-the-beaten-path sections of the state,” BRAT ride coordinator Ryan Forbess said. “Each year, we try to go to a different region of the state, and this year we are featuring the Cumberland Plateau.”
Cyclists will launch out on the morning of Sept. 9 from Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville, heading north and traveling on scenic back roads and state highways.
Throughout the tour, participants will visit and camp at four Tennessee state parks throughout the region: Cumberland Mountain, Standing Stone, Pickett and Harrison Bay. Live music and activities will entertain participants each evening.
The city of Kingston will also host cyclists for one night at historic Fort Southwest Point, a federal frontier outpost that was constructed in 1797 and garrisoned by federal soldiers until 1811. The fort served as a major point of interaction between the Cherokee Nation and the United States government, as well as a way station for early migrants traveling between Knoxville and Nashville.
Upon return to Cumberland Mountain State Park midweek, a day of rest is scheduled. Outdoor recreational opportunities, including hikes and canoe tours, will be offered for cyclists wishing to explore Tennessee’s natural landscape.
The BRAT is designed to challenge expert and experienced recreational cyclists. Nearly 300 cyclists participate in the BRAT each year, according to Forbess, and more than half of the participants come from across the United States and world. This year’s race will include cyclists from California, Utah and Washington, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Because of the geography of Middle Tennessee, this year’s route will include elevation changes of 5,000 to 6,000 feet, Forbess said.
“We will go off the plateau one day and then come back up it the next,” he said. “There are some challenging days due to the nature of the landscape, but as a result, the ride also highlights some of Tennessee’s most scenic landscapes.”
BRAT participants must be 18 years of age. However, according to Forbess, parents with children in tow can also participate.
“Occasionally, we have cyclists who bring their kids along on a tandem bike or in a bike trailer,” Forbess said. “One woman brought her son along when he was a toddler, and then, many years later, they came back and rode together as adults.”
The cost to participate in the Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee is $395 for the seven-day ride and $225 for the three-day ride. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Cumberland Trail Conference and the Tennessee Park Rangers Association. Registration has been extended to Sept. 1.
Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a freelance writer and naturalist living on Walden’s Ridge. She enjoys writing about the natural world and exploration opportunities found within the southeastern United States, one of the most biologically and recreationally rich regions on Earth. Visit her blog at www.YourOutdoorFamily.com.