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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee is one of the best ways to see the Volunteer State

The Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee is one of the best ways to see the Volunteer State
By:  Michael Lander

The Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee is usually about 400 miles
over seven days and is held annually.  This year's event will be
the 27th one and it will take place 11-17 September 2016.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Tennessee State Parks Ranger -
Daniel Basham)

If you’re looking for a challenging ride, and you want to see some of the best scenery that there is to see in
Tennessee, you need to look no further than the annual Bike Ride Across Tennessee. 

Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (or BRAT) is one of the best ways to see and experience some of the natural beauty that can be found in the State of Tennessee, a state which advertises itself with its official state slogan of “America at its best.”

“The Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee (or BRAT) is an event that is usually around 400 miles, over a 7-day period, with the participants doing about 50 to 80 miles each day through the great state of Tennessee,” Morgan Gilman said.

Gilman is the Sales and Events Marketing Manager for
Tennessee State Parks.

“In addition to the 7-day ride, we also offer an option for participants to only do a single day, a 3-day, and a 4-day ride, too,” Gilman said. 

The upcoming ride in 2016 will take place from September 11 – 17 and this will be the 27th one that has been hosted by the Tennessee State Parks, the
Tennessee Park Ranger Association, and Friends of the Cumberland Trail.

The BRAT has approximately 250 cyclists who participate
in it each year.  This number can vary depending upon the
difficulty of the route, which changes from year to year.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Tennessee State Parks Ranger -
Daniel Basham)

This year, the ride will begin and end at
Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville, Tenn. 

Click here for this year’s route:

For those who do the BRAT, they are treated to seeing some of the most scenic and diverse landscape within a state that is 440 miles long, 120 miles wide, and that has a cumulative total of 42,143 square miles.

From the flat delta region in the west, to the rolling hills in the middle of the state, to the mountainous terrain in the east, those who participate in the BRAT get see this and more as they pass through vast rural areas, small towns, and various landmarks that exist along the way.

“The BRAT began in 1987 and, for the first two years, the ride went from the home of Elvis’ Graceland and the Home of the Blues in
Memphis to the majestic Great Smoky Mountains area of Chattanooga.  The routes were then changed after that with loops around various other areas throughout the State of Tennessee.  Since then, we have tried to change up the routes to give the riders some new experiences and different scenery to look at from year to year,” Gilman said.

The 2014 BRAT began and ended at Tims Ford State Park
with stops at Henry Horton State Park, the City of
Fayetteville, South Cumberland State Park, and Old
Stone Fort Park.  (Photo:  Courtesy of Tennessee
State Park Ranger - Daniel Basham)

“This event now attracts approximately 250 riders each year, but this varies according to the difficulty of the route,” Gilman added.

While the numbers may vary on any given year, the ride continues to attract those who have never done it before and those who keep coming back to do it again.

“BRAT riders are very loyal and they seem to love the ride.  They also appreciate the ranger support and the varied routes through some of the most beautiful areas in Tennessee.  We have many who have participated in it for years and a courageous few who will be doing their 27th BRAT,” Gilman said.

The ride is probably as popular as it is because it is well-supported and everything is planned out with much of what a cyclist would need being provided. 

“The Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee is unique because we have some of the best support staff around – Tennessee State Park Rangers.  Our rangers support riders throughout the route with blue lights when needed, traffic patrol, and EMS services.  We also have three support stops each day that are fully stocked with food, water, and Gatorade.  We also have a bike mechanic who is on the route each day with riders for any bike issues that might arise and one that’s stationed at the camp each night,” Gilman said.

The route is marked with spray paint and signage and all cyclists receive a cue sheet, along with downloadable GPS files, to ensure that they don’t get lost or get off course.

Cyclists who participate in the BRAT receive all the support
that they need from Tennessee State Park Rangers who
help to make the ride one of the best in the state.
(Photo:  Courtesy of Tennessee State Park Ranger -
Daniel Basham)

“In 2016, the cost for the full 7-day ride is $400 for early registration.  This fee includes 2 meals each day, 3 rest stops that are fully stocked, campsites, hot showers, bike mechanic services, a t-shirt, and entertainment,” Gilman added. 

Those interested in doing the BRAT, can register at

Gilman suggests that you travel light and that you bring a bag to store your belongings that is waterproof and made of a sturdy material that will hold up for the week.  You are allowed 2 bags per rider and each bag should weigh less than sixty (60) pounds since you may, otherwise, have trouble loading and offloading them from the baggage trucks.  You will also want to mark your bag and you should avoid any sharp edged straps or buckles on the outside.

To ensure that your clothing stays dry, he recommends packing them in large plastic bags, pressing them flat to remove the air, and then sealing them.

Cyclists are treated to a wide variety of beautiful scenery
and a great diversity of terrain throughout their 400-
mile trek around the State of Tennessee.  (Photo:
Courtesy of Tennessee State Park Ranger -
Daniel Basham)

Some of the gear that Gilman suggests that you bring includes a helmet, sunglasses, water bottles, (or some other way to hydrate), tubes, tire levers, patch kit, etc., cycling clothing with short-sleeve jerseys for the week, long sleeves (for cold or rainy days) cycling shorts, wind breaker, bike shoes, gloves, shoe or toe covers, camp clothing that consists of shorts, long pants, socks, underwear, short and long sleeve shirts, walking shoes, a hat, gloves, rain gear, a warm jacket, toiletries that include a towel, washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, lip balm, chamois butter, soap, shampoo, medications, Band-Aids, calamine lotion, insect repellent, a tent, ground cloth for the tent, a sleeping bag, camp pillow, a flashlight (with extra batteries and bulbs), and any miscellaneous items like a camera, a pocket knife, reading material, personal identification, cash and something to put your dirty clothing into.

To read and learn more about the Bicycle Ride Across Tennessee, visit the
BRAT website and their facebook page.

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