JSTS Summer Tour 2024

  • June 28, 2024
  • June 30, 2024
  • Northern Region of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley

Registration

  • You must be a current JSTS Paid Member to register for this event.

Register

***REGISTRATION CLOSING THURSDAY, JUNE 20, 2024***

There’s more to the JSTS than “jst” the Jersey Shore! Being a club member gives you the access and privilege to join our annual trips to go cycling in exotic locales outside the Garden State.  Unlike other cycling tours, which often involve high premiums, a JSTS tour only asks that members pay their way, which basically means hotel stays and food. Otherwise, you get all the benefits of a super fancy bourgie cycling tour, for a mere fraction of the price!

The JSTS Summer Tour of 2024 will take place from Friday, June 28 through Sunday, June 30.

This year’s odyssey will traverse the northern region of Virginia’s bucolic Shenandoah Valley. The tour will be based out of the Hampton Inn hotel in the town of Front Royal ** and all rides will start from within a 15-minute drive from there. Room rates at the Hampton range from $120 - $160 for 2 adults staying in a room with 2 queen beds. The hotel features a full hot breakfast, a nice gym, and business space if you need to get some work done after the ride. We have negotiated special discounted group rates, which you can take advantage of by following the link that will be included in the confirmation email when you register for the JSTS Summer Tour 2024.

Front Royal itself is a 4-hour drive from Ocean/Monmouth County – recommended directions are at the bottom of this page.  We recommend arriving in Front Royal on Thursday evening, with enough time to get in some solid rest in preparation for Friday’s big ride.

The quality of each ride on this tour is nothing less than sublime. The roads are quiet and sometimes seem endless, rolling on without a major intersection for up to 30 miles. The awesome sights almost never stop coming, with breathtaking views around every corner. Sometimes it seems like the hills, which will rob you of breath in a very different sense, never stop coming either. Fortunately, Isaac Newton invented gravity in 1687, so that cyclists can be proportionately rewarded for their perseverant hill-climbing efforts with joyful freewheeling descents. (Don’t worry, none of these rides are that hard.) In three days, you will experience a very thorough taste of the abundance that this area has to offer cyclists. You’ll guzzle epic mountain top views, then sip and savor the fine details of Shenandoah’s rural wine and horse countryside. Each day offers a different type of experience as a tourist, and a different type of challenge as a cyclist. Which makes this the perfect trip for a club like the Jersey Shore Touring Society.

Each day of the tour features three different route options of varying levels of challenge. The ‘short’ route each day is still plenty long, will be immensely satisfying, and will provide a substantial but completely doable challenge to any moderately fit road cyclist.

You can find a summary of the riding options here, but make sure to read all the glorious details below!

Please note that this is a self supported tour. There will be no support vehicles to assist with bike maintenance before, during, or after a ride. There will be no vehicles to bail you out mid-ride should you get tired or should your bike suffer a mechanical failure that is not repairable at the side of the road. Ubers will be non-existent in many of the areas we'll be riding through. Fortunately, the roads are very clean and flat tires are very unlikely. But still! Make sure to carry whatever you'll need to repair a flat tire (or plug and inflate a tubeless tire puncture) on every ride. The nearest bike shops to Front Royal are a 20-30 minute drive, so make sure that your bike is in fine fettle before leaving New Jersey. Remember all your bike stuff, and if you have electronic shifting, remember to bring your charger. Don't rely on the contents of someone else's saddlebag: Bring your own stuff.

Day 1 (Friday) centers around Skyline Drive.  The first cost of entry onto the Drive for cyclists is $15, and your pass will be good for 7 days. If you already have an SNP (Shenandoah National Park) Annual Pass ($55) or a multi-agency Annual National Park pass ($80), you can bring 3 other cyclists into the park with you for free. Passes can be purchased at the gate, or in advance by clicking here.  The second cost of entry is a 4.5 mile climb up to the mountain ridge. It’s not a particularly steep climb (4 – 7% all the way), but it’s long!

Parking: For all Friday routes, park at the base of Skyline Drive.

Note: If you don’t want to ride up this hill, you can drive up and park at the visitor center at the top. You’ll still climb plenty today, don’t worry. However, if you are choosing the Skymass route, you will still need to either climb this hill at the end of your ride, or have someone drive you back up the hill to your car.

The short route is 21 miles long and goes from the base of the mountain up to Indian Run Overlook. Those 21 miles will collect almost 3000 feet of climbing, so even though the mileage might seem slight this is still a big day on the bike. The first hill alone is over 4 miles long and climbs over 1300 feet. Drink liberally –there are water fountains to refill your bottles when you get to the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center at the top (the Center itself opens at 9 am). On the way out, 8.5 of the 11 miles are uphill. On the way back, there is only one 2-mile climb. So if you can make it to the halfway point, you’ve pretty much made it. There are almost a dozen overlooks along the way, each boasting a very worthy view, so take it easy and enjoy.

Refill stops: The only refill stop on this ride is at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center at the top of the first hill. There are water fountains near the restrooms.
Note: If you’re feeling good and want more Skyline glory, by all means keep going. The next few miles are beautiful and mostly flat. A very nice extra challenge would be to get to the Hogwallow Flats Overlook at Mile 13.5, or the Browntown Overlook at Mile 15.

The medium route is 49 miles long and accumulates just a hair under 6000 feet of elevation along the way. None of the gradients are particularly steep, between 4% - 6% is the usual, but the climbs are constant. On the way out, unless you are going down, you’re going up. The way back will take 1/2 to 2/3 the amount of time the way out did. If you would like to do a shorter version of this ride and cut out 3 miles and 900 feet of climbing, turn around at Mile Marker 21, at the Hogback Overlook. Hogback is the second highest point on Skyline Drive, and doing a Hogback Out-and-Back is a significant milestone for cyclists from the Northern Virginia/DC area.
Refill stops: There are only 2 places to refill your bottles on this route. The first is at mile 4.5, at the Dickey Ridge Visitor’s Center (the store and nearby water fountains). The second is at Elkwallow Wayside, at mile 24.5. This means that if you get to Hogback Overlook with empty bottles, you’ve pretty much got to continue down to Elkwallow in order to refill, and then climb back up. (It’s worth it anyway, they have good sandwiches at Elkwallow and it’s a pretty place to stop and relax.)
Note: If you’re feeling good and want to keep going, from Elkwallow until Mile 31 is mostly flat, with just some shallow up and down gradients and some very nice overlooks along the way. There is water at Mile 31.

The long route is 80 miles long and grabs over 7000 feet of verticality. The first 21 miles are slow going, but don’t worry: The next 21 miles are either flat or downhill, all the way into the lovely town of Luray.  At mile 46 you hit Mount Massanutten, which should really be called Massasumthin’. It’s a 3 mile climb that starts mellow enough, but the last mile (maybe a smidge less than that) is between 10-14% --a real doozy! The view from the top is one of the best in the valley. After that, you can breathe easy—the mountains are over for the day. 20 of the remaining 30 miles are on Fort Valley Road, which is as perfect a ribbon of rolling country road as one is likely to find on this planet. Enjoy the views of Skyline Drive from below and feel impressed with yourself for having been riding all the way up there just a short time ago. Fort Valley has plenty of small rollers to keep you occupied, but they are gentle. Fort Valley also has the Fort Valley Country Store (you’ll reach it at approximately mile 60). This is as authentic as it gets. They are cyclist friendly to friendly cyclists, sell everything you’ll need to refill bottles and pockets for the rest of the ride, and make the most amazing sandwiches. Seriously, this is a rest stop worth making.

Refill stops: Mile 4.5 at Dickey Ridge Visitor Center (store and nearby water fountains). Mile 24.5 at Elkwallow Wayside. Mile 40 at Shell Gas Station in Luray. Mile 61 at Fort Valley Country Store. Mile 75 at Rivermont Grocery Store (it’s all flat and downhill from here, but it’s here for you if you need it).

On Day 2 (Saturday), the short and medium routes explore the glorious rolling ribbon of countryside that is Fort Valley. The long route rambles off to Clarke County for a tour of horse country. If you did the long route on Friday, you’ll probably want to do today’s long route, too, as the short and medium routes cover the same ground you rode in the second half of yesterday’s ride.

The short route is 23 miles long and is an out and back along a breathtakingly beautiful stretch of rolling country road. Start by riding through a corner of the George Washington National Forest, in a gorge along Passage Creek, before the scenery explodes into huge country vistas and views of some of the mountains that give the Shenandoah Valley the 'Valley' part of its name. The turnaround point is at the cyclist-friendly Fort Valley General Store, where you can refill bottles and refuel bellies on delicious homemade food, including a grilled cheese sandwich for which this ride is named. If you're feeling good, ride a little more before turning around --the road rolls on for another 7 miles before you hit the base of Mount Massanutten, which is a long and difficult climb.

Refill stops: Only one, the Fort Valley Country Store at mile 11.5

Parking: Park in one of the small gravel lots on the side of the road before entering the National Forest.  The lots are there for outdoor recreators such as yourself.

The medium route is an out and back along a spectacularly beautiful stretch of rolling country road. Start by riding through a corner of the George Washington National Forest, in a gorge along Passage Creek, before the scenery explodes into huge country vistas and views of some of the mountains that give the Shenandoah Valley the 'Valley' part of its name.

The last three miles before the turnaround point are all uphill, to the top of Mount Massanutten. It's not steep, but it's a significant climb. There is a great payoff at the top, one of the best views I've found in the Shenandoah Valley, but if you don't think you have 52 miles and 3800 feet of climbing in your legs today, you can turn around at any time before then and follow the route back to the start. On the way back there is a small detour, a left turn onto Boliver road. This is a beautiful, quiet, scenic back road that parallels Fort Valley Road, which is where the rest of the ride takes place. Boliver Road is not mountainous, but there are a few small climbs. If you want to take it a little easier, don't make the left turn onto Boliver and just keep following Fort Valley Road all the way back to the start. Doing so will eliminate 2-3 miles and ~600 feet of climbing from the ride. Don't worry: Even if you skip Massanutten and Boliver, you're still going to have an incredible ride. Fort Valley is just magical, one of the most perfect ribbons of rolling country road you are ever likely to experience. Drink up.

Refill stops: The only rest stop on this ride is the Fort Valley Country Store (you'll pass it on the way out at mile 11.5.  On the way back, it'll be on your right after you descend Woodstock Tower Road). This place is *authentic* and *delicious*. Great place to refill your bottles, pockets, and belly --the homemade made-to-order fresh food is amazing. (I'm partial to the grilled cheese sandwich, for which this ride is named.) They are cyclist friendly to friendly cyclists.

Parking: Park in one of the small gravel lots on the side of the road before entering the National Forest.  The lots are there for outdoor recreators such as yourself.

The long route carries you through some of the Shenandoah Valley's pristine horse and farm country and provides an interesting micro-views contrast to yesterday's grand sweeping macro-views. There are no mountains of which to speak, but there are plenty of rollers and small hills that will have your legs feeling the after-effects of yesterday's ride. Due to the quiet nature of the area, there are not a lot of refill stops. You'll find several options in downtown Berryville at mile 23 (a nice place to stop for breakfast or lunch). The next convenient refill stop is at mile 47.5, the Locke Store in Millwood. They sell standard soda and bottled water fare, but also amazing homemade pastries, soups, sandwiches, and more. That's it for rest stops on this ride, so fill up and eat up --you've still got 28 beautiful roly-poly miles to go!

Refill stops: Various options in Berryville at Mile 23. Locke Country Store at mile 47.5.

Parking: The Riverside parking lot on Morgan Ford Road, just before the bridge. Cross the bridge and continue north on Morgan Ford Road to begin the ride.


On Day 3 (Sunday) all routes explore the wine country piedmont of Hume and Rappahannock. All three rides start at different locations, but since we’re all riding many of the same roads, you can look forward to waving hello to your fellow JSTS’ers along the way!

The short route rides through a pristine piedmont with sprawling views of rolling country in all directions, with mountains always looming somewhere near and far. Speaking of mountains, this ride tackles none. However, you will still climb a lot! This quiet and beautiful loop is rollers and little kickers from start to finish, and over the course of 29 miles you'll roll up almost 2500 feet of elevation. This is the kind of ride you'll still be feeling tomorrow, which is why we saved it for the last day of the tour. It’s tough, but the peaceful and grand views make it well worth the effort.

Refill stops: At mile 17 the route detours 4 miles (total) out and back to a 7-11 for refills. The detour is a left turn off of Leeds Manor Road onto Old Bridge Road. If you don't need a refill to ride the remaining 12 miles, you can ignore the left turn onto Old Bridge and keep going on Leeds Manor Road.

Parking: Park at Leeds Ruritan Park, at the corner of Hume Road and Leeds Manor Road, and head east on Hume Road to begin the ride. 

The medium route gallivants through a pristine piedmont with sprawling views of rolling country in all directions, with mountains always looming somewhere near and far. Speaking of mountains, this ride tackles none. However, you will still climb a lot! This quiet and beautiful loop is rollers and little kickers from start to finish, and over the course of 58 miles you'll roll up 4500 feet of elevation. This is the kind of ride you'll still be feeling tomorrow, which is why we saved it for the last day of the tour. It’s tough, but the peaceful and grand views make it well worth the effort.

Refill stops: Due to the undeveloped nature of the area you are riding through, there is only one true resupply stop on this route, a 7-11 at mile 32.
Parking: Park in the Rappahannock Cellars parking lot. Please park in the section of the lot close to the road, and please behave courteously.

The long route is a hard ride! It's also very beautiful and a lot of fun.  The adventure begins easily enough, rolling out of Front Royal and then along a stretch of the Shenandoah River. 10 miles in, you hit the first and only *major* climb of the day, Blue Mountain. This doozy is approximately 5 miles long from absolute bottom to tippy top. There are a couple of very short dips and flat spots, but when the road tilts upwards the gradient consistently sits at 7-9%. It's like a Skyline Drive climb, but a little longer and a little steeper --one level up in terms of difficulty. Take it easy, don't race, drink lots, and any reasonably fit cyclist can do it. There is a shabby convenience store on the other side of the mountain to refill bottles at, so don't worry about conserving water.
Then comes a fast 'n easy country highway rip toward Leeds Manor Road. Enjoy it, because this is the last extended section of 'fast and easy' for the rest of the ride. The elevation profile doesn't look scary, but all those little .2 - .5-mile lumps add up and you will start to really feel them before long. Fortunately, the landscape around you is absolutely incredible, with views of pristine farmlands and mountains in the near and far ground in all directions.

At mile 67 there is a 3 mile (total) out and back detour that involves a small amount of stiff climbing and a large amount of awesome views. It shows as unpaved on the route map, but it's paved. If you're feeling exhausted already, skip it --there's a ~2-mile climb waiting for you just a little bit farther down the road. On the other hand, after that 2-mile climb is a 4-mile descent to the finish line, so maybe squeeze a little more toothpaste out of that tube?

This is the kind of ride that you will certainly feel tomorrow, which is why it's on the last day of the tour. It's a classic, though, and well worth the effort!
Refill stops: Very basic convenience store at mile 20. There is a park at mile 30 where you can refill your bottles with tap water. There is a small detour to a 7-11 at mile 48 for a full resupply of provisions. This is the last resupply stop on the ride, but you'll pass the park again at mile 62 if you need more water.

Parking: Park at the lot next to the gazebo and visitor center on Main Street in downtown Front Royal.

Gearing Recommendations:

A 30T low gear on your cassette will get you through just fine. A 32 is even better. If you have a 34, you might never need it, but you won’t regret having it just in case.
Between all the rides in this tour, the hills will almost never exceed an 8% gradient. There are only a few short sections that exceed 10% and might go as steep as 14% for very brief intervals. There is only one extended steep section, which only features in the Friday Skymass ride (the longest ride option that day), which sees gradients of 10 – 14% for almost a mile.

All in all, there is a lot of climbing on each ride, and some of those climbs are quite long, but there are no leg-breakers; you’ll be able to comfortably spin over everything.

Safety and Etiquette:

- Many of the roads we’ll be riding are quiet country backroads. They might be narrow, and they might be twisty. Drivers on these roads therefore might not be able to pass safely. If you find yourself in a situation where a driver is stuck behind you on a narrow twisty stretch, please pull over when safe (or when you get to the top of the hill) and let them pass. Making a good individual impression will make a good impression of cyclists in general.

(The outlier to this rule is Skyline Drive –don’t bother pulling over for cars there. The road is wide and it’s a National Park in which the road is intended for shared car/bike use. Go single file when vehicles approach, but no need to stop while climbing one of those hills, or to make a risky stop while descending.)

- The roads are quiet. Sometimes you might go several minutes or even a lot more than that without encountering a vehicle. Still, there might be a car around any given corner, so stay alert, stay on the right side of the road, and obey traffic laws.

- While cyclists might have the legal right to ride two-abreast, use your better judgment based on the road you’re currently riding on. And when you hear a car coming up behind you, go to single file.

- You might notice that the roads upon which you are riding and the countryside which you are riding through are almost completely free of trash and pollution. Do your part to keep them that way.

- While there are no super-technical descents on any of these rides, several of them are quite fast and do have multiple curves to maneuver. On Skyline, the curves are always wide and sweeping, and the road stays at a predictable and easy to navigate camber. Other descents can be a little trickier, with sharper curves and less helpful camber angles. It is highly recommended that you set your GPS screen to Map, so you can see if any sharp turns are coming up and adjust your speed accordingly. Don’t do anything dumb, stay within your comfort zone, and you’ll have a great time on every descent.

- This last one is just a tip: To each their own, but you will probably enjoy these rides more if you don’t turn each ride into a numbers game of gradient %’s, wattage expenditure, distance to the top of the hill, distance to the next hill, etc. The author has ridden each of these hills hundreds of times, and can guarantee that you will eventually reach the top of each one, and that you are capable of reaching the top of each one. Until then, look around, appreciate, and enjoy everything. Then enjoy the downhill .

Meals: 

We’ll meet for a group dinner at a local restaurant each night. The restaurant will be specially selected by a local gourmand (oh wait…that’s just me, your humble author) for quality and special dietary considerations. We’ll go to places where the food is good, the people are friendly, and you won’t get clobbered with a $75 per person bill ($20-30 goes a long way when dining out in Front Royal).

Non-cycling activities, for your non-cycling family members (or in case of bad weather):

Can’t get away from the family for the weekend? Why not bring them with you! The Front Royal area is full of great stuff to do, indoors and out, active and sedentary. Here are just a few ideas. If you need more, feel free to reach out to mike@b3bikes.com.

Active/Outdoors:

Hiking! There are some great trails in Shenandoah National Park that are very close to Front Royal. We recommend the Dickey Ridge/Snead Farm Loop and the Compton Gap Trail.
Outside of SNP, there’s a local favorite called Buzzard Rock, which is an out-and-back with amazing views. The trail goes on ‘forever’, but go as far as you like and then turn around when you start getting tired.
Andy Guest/Shenandoah River State Park, a 10 minute drive from Front Royal, is also a great place to picnic and hike.

Paddling! The Shenandoah River is very calm. You can rent kayaks, canoes, tubes, and other human-carrying flotation devices and spend the day on the river. Front Royal Outdoors is just a 5-10 minute drive from town, and they’ll take care of your whole trip for you –from equipment rentals to logistics.

Horseback riding! Royal Horseshoe Farms, just outside of town, has some very nice trails on premises and offers private and public rides most days of the week. Their instructors/guides are all very nice people. Call in advance to make sure you get a ride at your desired time.

Luray Caverns! This place is truly a wonder of the world. The author goes here at least once a year just to marvel for a couple of hours. It’s not so cheap, but it’s well worth it. You might have visited caverns before, but very few in the whole world rival these.

Also at the Luray Caverns, you’ll find a hedge maze, an antique car museum, an antique toy museum, and an historic village and museum of this area of the Shenandoah Valley (admission to all is free with Caverns ticket).

Luray is also home to some fun shopping and cuisine of all kinds, as well as a minigolf course and zipline ropes course.

Blandy Experimental Farms/Virginia Arboretum! A 30-minute drive from Front Royal. Acre upon acre of a variety of plants, flowers, trees, and other flora from all over the world –and you’ll spot an abundance of fauna, too! A truly memorable place to spend an afternoon exploring.

Indoors:

Explore Art Pottery Painting – Spend a relaxing afternoon painting pottery. Just be aware that it takes a few days for the pottery to be ready after you’ve painted it. Let me (Mike) know if you do this and I’ll deliver your pottery to B3 Bikes in Howell, NJ for you within 7 days.

Fireball Arcade – A pay one price arcade featuring lots of arcade games from the 70’s – early 2000’s, and several well-kept pinball machines.

On Cue – A very nice place for a game of billiards and a meal.

Mac’s Roller Rink – An unironically vintage roller-skating rink. Small but so charming, owned by some of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet.

Shenandoah Valley Axe Throwing Company – Food, drink, and axes. This place has quickly become a local favorite.

Royal Cinemas – A small theater with just three screens, but state of the art with comfy seating and excellent picture and sound quality. Located in downtown Front Royal.

The Family Drive In – A drive-in theater that is the real deal. You’ll feel like you’ve gone back in time to the heyday of Archie, Jughead, Betty, and Veronica. The Family Drive In? They never left.

Play Favorites – An adorable little toy store, started by yours truly (then sold to a friend), featuring a very fun and very inexpensive arcade/playroom in the back, with retro arcade games, arcade basketball, air hockey, and more. They also hold board game nights almost every night of the week.

Last but not least, please try to support your local bike shop:

Almost this entire tour has been arranged by me, Mike, co-owner of B3 Bikes in Howell, NJ. It took a lot of my time –and will continue to take a lot more of my time as the tour draws near.

I know, just like you do, that often-times bikes or bike-stuff can be purchased cheaper online than in brick-and-mortar stores. I know that Amazon and Facebook Marketplace exist. But, before you compare small dollars and cents when making your bike-related purchasing decisions, please consider that neither Amazon, Facebook, nor any other online vendor will ever organize a completely non-profit bike tour for you to enjoy. Nor do they contribute to the local communities and cycling communities in any meaningful way. They don’t host free bike maintenance and skills and nutrition clinics. They are not there to answer your burning questions about cycling, or to do everything they can to make your broken bike rideable the day before (or day of!) your most anticipated ride of the season.
We do all that at B3 Bikes, and a whole lot more. So we ask that, rather than measuring the value of every transaction only in dollars and cents, perhaps include into your purchasing-decision-equations the value of helping to support the people who actually care about you, try to do nice things for you, and share the same passion for bikes that you do. Thank you!

Directions:

Although your GPS might tell you that the fastest way to get to Front Royal is through Baltimore, DC, and Northern Virginia, that is rarely true. (The author of this document makes the back and forth commute ~40 times a year, he knows of what he speaks.)

The most consistently stress-free way to get from Ocean/Monmouth County to Front Royal is this:

Get on 195 West. Take Exit 6 onto 95/NJ Turnpike. Take exit 6 again in ~5 miles. Stay on 95, drive, then keep left to get onto the PA Turnpike. Stay on the PA Turnpike until Exit 226 toward Carlisle. Keep left after the toll. Pass the Love’s Truck stop, keep going past a few stoplights, then make a right to get on 81 South. Take 81 to exit 300 (on your left) toward Front Royal. After a few miles, take exit 6 toward Front Royal. The Hampton Inn will be on your right very quickly.

To make it simple: Exit 6 to Exit 6 to Exit 226 to Exit 300 to exit 6, Hampton Inn on your right.

** HOTEL CHANGE: TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Front Royal

Jersey Shore Touring Society is a 501(c)(7) non-profit organization.  P.O. Box 8581, Red Bank, NJ 07701

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