Water please.

Big Dam Bridge 100 – 2012 Edition

All Sports Productions Ad
Nervous preparation for the ride (in a NLR parking lot)
Nervous preparation for the ride (in a NLR parking lot)

The first Big Dam Bridge 100 took place in 2006, shortly after the official opening of the bridge. Since then I have participated in the 100-miler and the 68-miler. I hadn’t been training for the long ride this year and wasn’t sure how I was going to cover the event when I ran into Phillip Prater at the Gauntlet event last weekend and he suggested that I ride in the CARVE Car. It seems some of the guys were planning on making a go of the 4-hour mark for the race ride by having a support vehicle for fluid and nutrition hand ups. Since there is no way of ever embedding myself with this group of riders on a long ride like this I jumped at the chance to cover the Big Dam Bridge 100 from the front of the pack.

Round Mountain near Conway, Arkansas. (mile 30)
Round Mountain near Conway, Arkansas. (mile 30)

Arlene Gill, wife of one of the riders was driving and Jennifer Rankin, another rider’s wife, was doing the hand ups. All I had to do was take pictures and stay out of the way. I can’t believe how quickly the whole morning went by.

The riders left us in the parking lot to line up several minutes before the 7 a.m. start time and we headed for the first spot we would provide support. Arlene had pre-driven the course and had worked out all the best places to do hand ups. The plan was to get ahead of the group and wait around at a predetermined spot. Once the lead group went by we would follow behind for just a short bit while riders dropped back to exchange bottles. Once we felt like everyone had what they needed we would pass them and get up to the next place to wait and do the same.

Water please.
Water please.

At Round Mountain near Conway the group of about 30-40 riders came through quickly. The roads were smooth and fast. We soon caught up and bottles started flying in and out of the car window. As fast as Jennifer was handing them up, working out of at least 3 coolers, the floorboards were rapidly filling up with empties. The excitement was soon over, but only for the moment while we watched for some four-lane road to get past them and head to the next hand up spot to experience the thrill of the rolling hand ups all over again.

Heading toward the Toad Suck Bridge near Conway.
Heading toward the Toad Suck Bridge near Conway.

Once we crossed the Arkansas River at Toad Suck we moved on to our next waiting spot in Houston, AR. We had a little time so we stopped by the organized rest area that none of our riders would be using. The lead riders would be rolling through before the volunteers at this stop were truly ready for the long line of riders that would be coming their way throughout the day.

In Houston, riders make a wide u-turn crossing some train tracks in the middle of the turn. We were happy to see them all make it over the tracks unscathed. It was time to do the bottle thing again. Arlene was a little nervous about this one since we would be forced to get around the bikes on a rolling two-lane road. If we didn’t get by them before the climb up Wye Mountain we would probably miss them at our final support station of the ride.

Just after the turn in Houston, AR.
Just after the turn in Houston, AR.

Despite the concerns, everything went well and we were able to pass them just before heading up the mountain.

Wye Mountain is the big climb of the Big Dam Bridge 100. The crux of the climb is 3.1 miles long with 573 feet of elevation gain. The climb starts at about 65 miles into the ride when legs would be starting to feel the mileage and the pack would separate a bit. Wye Mountain was about how much energy the climbers had conserved in the first 65 miles. Did they pace themselves well? How much were they willing to burn with 30 miles left?

We parked at the junction of highway 113 and 300.. This time we would be doing stationary hand ups. We carried a couple of the coolers to the roadside. I figured out some camera angles I liked and we waited.

A lone rider makes the final climb on Wye Mountain.
A lone rider makes the final climb on Wye Mountain.

Things got crazy at the top. The front group stayed together better than we had figured and one rider who happened to have thrown some extra wheels in our car needed a new front. Jennifer and Arlene were busy with the water hand ups which left me to help with the wheels so I ran to the car, grabbed the wheel and got it to the rider. While I was happy to have been able to help, it meant missing my photos of the front group topping the hill. It looked a lot like a bunch of very serious bicyclists coming over the top of a hill – imagine it. Since this was our last water hand up station we stayed around a bit to give out what was left of the water to riders following behind the lead pack.

Robert Mooney is happy to be reaching the top.
Robert Mooney is happy to be reaching the top.

Once the water was gone we headed down the backside of the mountain and toward the finish line. Downtown North Little Rock, the Argenta district in particular, goes all out for the finish of the ride. The trolley tracks are closed, food is available everywhere including free hot dogs, most of main street is closed off for the day and vendors of all sorts are lining the street with canopies, tables and chairs to give tired legs a much needed rest.

It was satisfying to watch many of the shorter distance riders coming in as we waited for the 100-milers. No matter the distance, riders are happy to finish. The announcer was encouraging finishers as they came across the line and volunteers were helping them as they started getting off their bikes. This is where you see all kinds of bikes, kids on bikes, folding bikes, comfort bikes, mountain bikes and of course road bikes. It was great seeing so many smiles.

NWACC - Trail Tech
The first racers riders cross the finish line.
The first racers riders cross the finish line.

The first 100-mile finishers came in around 4 hours and 15 minutes. I’m sure the riders will spend the next 12 months trying to figure out where they can gain those 15 minutes. Should be pretty exciting next year.  For now, it’s time to rest…unless someone wants to dance.

Time for a party.
Time for a party.

Some facts about the 2012 ride:

  • Approximately 2500 total participants.
  • Three crossings of the Arkansas River, two over the Big Dam Bridge.
  • The ride uses most of the Arkansas River Trail system.
  • The ride takes place in three counties, Pulaski, Faulkner and Perry.
  • 2012 is the seventh year of the ride.
  • It travels through some beautiful countryside.
  • You need to try it sometime. 


Ozark Outdoor Supply Spring Hiking Ad
See also  Section of Razorback Greenway to close temporarily for trail repair

15 Responses

  1. I do applaude the BDB RIDE and really all of the local rides that are popping up all over the state of Arkansas, as of late, as I am an active participant in most of them. Let me also say that I definitely appreciate the fact that others go into these things with personal goals that they are trying to accomplish. That said, you have just written an entire blog on the one aspect that I cannot, for the life of me understand: making a ride a “race”. And even more unfathomable for me is the concept of having a “team car” for freaking bottle hand-ups. On a 100 mile ride. In Central Arkansas. On what almost amounts to…oh no, wait…IS an AMATEUR CLASS FUNDRAISING RIDE. Chill. Again, I can appreciate the training aspects of going hard and using this an a ramp to the next big event or stage race, but you have to understand that the majority of the people riding in these things are very green amateurs and have no idea that you are the next Mario Cippolini in training. Just be polite, pass on the left, enjoy the ride and don’t be an ***. There are races and there are rides. This is supposed to be a ride. Either that, or they should split this thing into two separate rides (pro and am) on two separate days.

    1. The Big Dam Bridge 100 offers rides for just about every level and speed of rider. The riders that we covered in the ride were off the front of the pack very early and spent most of the ride totally separated from all other riders. Having covered the ride twice before from the saddle we felt it would be interesting to see how it would go for this group. They are a good group of people. Many of them are very involved in local bicycle advocacy and some will be helping with Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day next weekend. They paid entry fees just like everyone else and always look forward to the semi-closed course that the BDB100 offers. The bottle hand up offered them the opportunity to try something new (and gave us a chance to tag along). It’s a group I’ll never be able to keep up with but I’ve always been curious about how these rides go for them. I thought others may also be curious.

      1. Joe, I appreciate your comment and I will say that my response to the blog might have been a little over the top. But my past experience has been years of collective with BDB’s, Tour de Rocks, Arkys, Tour de Deltas et al, where the course is “out and back”, even for longer routes. As of late, as with the BDB, where the longer courses are more circuitous in nature, my original rant holds no merit (I should have been a little less broad-stroke-vitriolic and more specific), I acknowledge. Where my gripe sits, is with the “out and backs”, or where the longer route eventually joins with the shorter route, when inevitably you have the intersections of fast vs slow riders. In the past, I have had more than one friend claim of carelessness by certain teams (of which I will not name, and it is ALWAYS the same group. They are NOT mentioned in this article), to the point of forcing off the road, taunting and verbal abuse. Since I am normally in the “faster” group, or therabouts, for the longest time I didn’t believe a word of it, because I hadn’t experienced it for myself – everyone that I had grouped up with was spotless, as Phillip mentioned below. That is until this year’s Tour de Rock. As I was reloading bottles at a rest stop I heard this screaming and cursing and “get outta the fracking way you moron dumba****…” and then a zooming past of the large team of riders (narrowly missing, but pushing off the road the person for which the insults were hurled). The team was very apparent. We all know them. We’ve all seen the jerseys. But I was at a loss. We helped the person up and got them back out on the road. L-I-V-I-D. Oh, I was pissed (I guess on a certain level, still am HA!). But I digress…Overall, (and in response to Phillip down there), as I clearly stated in my comment earlier, I have no issue with people having goals and trying to achieve them in: amateur rides, river trail training sessions, Ft Roots Repeats etc… just don’t be a jack-wagon about it. And not to be a nit-picker, but I don’t think that any of this is an issue where the “I paid my money too!” argument even comes into play (nor was that my point). I mean, I have a job and pay taxes too, but does that mean that I can get out of my car and move barrels on I 40 because I “need” to make it to Beale Street Faster? If you pay your money and have a well drawn out and executed plan for how to handle the greenhorns (which it appears that you did…the team car comment was a low blow by me, and for that I apologize), that is all fine and good (preferable, even), but I don’t know that everyone is that organized or considerate. Again, I back off of the pointed commentary that was directed at the blog post. I meant no harm toward Carve or any team that rides within the rules, both written and unwritten. Anyway, we all have to fight the uneducated drivers in this state, so why get into each other’s grill about stuff? Great blog. Won’t proabably ever comment again, but great blog nonetheless.

  2. @Lookyloo……as Joe said, we ALL paid entry fees, just the same as you did. Pretty much EVERYONE goes into this RIDE with a goal. It may be a goal of just finishing the 50, beating 6 hours in the 100, or beating 4 hours in the hundred as we were trying to do. How is it any different because our goals are different than yours?? Should we not train as hard to reach goals that we set for ourselves? We took EVERY opportunity to be polite as we passed people near the end and ALWAYS told them we were coming up on them….no different than when we encounter people on the River Trail on any other day. I am sorry you have an issue with us setting a goal, but it is NO different than someone who just wants to cross the finish line.

    1. Look, there are rides and there are races. If people want to be racers, then get a card and race. Don’t come out and complain about the recreational riders–it is a recreational ride. But maybe you’d rather stand out as a fast rider amongst regular riders rather than get your butt kicked by other racers. Everyone sees your $2000 carbon wheels and your kits and your carbon bikes and wow, we are so impressed. That is why you are there, isn’t it? It isn’t for the ride because you and your teams ride many miles more than that every weekend without rest stops and SAG support, and you could just as well do it that day, too, without paying an entry fee, but then you would only have each other to impress. Goals are nice, but rides like that are not the place to be setting a land speed record–if it happens, well, it happens, but tolerate the riders who are there for the bike ride, the scenery, and the jersey. You don’t impress me because I know that you are too much of a coward to lay it on the line in real competition.

      1. Becky, I don’t think anyone was complaining about recreational riders. Most of the riders in the group we covered race in various mountain bike races and the very few road races in the state. These are the same folks that do the Criterium races in the summer and many of them did the Leadville 100 mountain bike race this year. This group is made up of not only professional racers and category one mountain bikers but also bicycling advocates who work for better bicycle facilities and laws in Arkansas.

        No one seems to complain about the “serious” runners who compete every year in the Koman Race for the Cure which is certainly designed as a fun run/walk. As John posted, these riders were off the front of the 2500 person pack quickly. by using their own SAG they left the aid stations untouched for those behind them.

        Let’s see if we can keep the conversation civil without a bunch of name calling and hatred. We are all bicyclists and we are all different. I find that reassuring.

  3. I had to be out of town this year for a family matter and I really enjoyed the live facebook updates that kept me posted! Glad everyone had a good ride Saturday!

  4. As one of those recreational riders who paid my money and enjoyed my ride, I can attest that I was neither bothered nor threatened by my brethren who were shooting for the 4-hour mark. In fact, I never even saw them, and I’m reasonably sure that LLoo didn’t either. At the word “go”, they were way up the road, safely away from those of us back in the masses. Good write up, Joe, and congratulations to my fast friends who enjoyed an impressive ride.

  5. I have to say I agree completely with Phillip and JBar. As one of the people who rode in the front group, I can say for certain the ride organizer did not provide our support vehicles and had no participation in our efforts to ride the course as fast as we could. So why this fact is “unfathomable” to LLoo is beyond me. I can also assure all readers that everyone in our little group is completely aware this is a “fun” ride and not a sanctioned race. However, like most who ride this type of event, we are competitive and have “fun” competing with each other and testing ourselves. Most years, articles covering the BDB, and other such events, focus on all the other participants… those fighting cancer, obesity, enduring age and so on. In fact, while I cannot speak for our entire group, I can say that most of the people I know who ride at the front are more impressed with the cyclists out on course behind us fighting to hit their personal goals. I’m personally amazed at the strength and tenacity of so many people who ride this event… many of whom are fighting to overcome something. Cycling is a hard sport. I respect and celebrate anyone willing to throw a leg over their machine and test them self, regardless of their average speed.

    So, the fact Joe and his team at ArkansasOutside.com chose to write about our group this year is fine with me. Maybe next year Joe will choose to write about the non-conventional cyclists riding their unique machines? Most of the paid participants will be left out of this article too, and I, for one, won’t be offended.

  6. Joe,
    I was the frantic rider with the flat at the top of Wye. Thank you so much for helping me with the change. I was able to chase back on the lead group but would have otherwise been stuck in no mans land between groups if not for your assistance. I feel terrible that it caused you to miss getting some photos. The one’s you were able to get look great. Thanks again for all the help!


    1. No problem Hunter. I hope I didn’t sound too disappointed. In reality, it was the only time I felt like I was really part of the ride. Glad I could help.

  7. Joe, thanks for the great write up. It’s always nice to hear from the many different perspectives of various groups of people signed up for this fun event.

    I was unable to participate this year, but in the past I have always pushed myself to my personal limit on this event regardless of my fitness even though I knew it wasn’t an official race. I was never able to keep up with the top finishers but always gave it my best in a manner that was respectful to all the other paying participants. It was interesting and informative to read about this event from the perspective of what this tough group of folks went through.

    Keep up the great work,
    Stephen D.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *