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Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb

August 19, 2024

road cyclist at Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb (MWARBH)

The 50th year of the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb (MWARBH) takes place in 2023 and benefits the Tin Mountain Conservation Center – it consistently has been selected by Strambecco as one of the best cycling events in New England. The “Auto” reference relates to the events associated with the auto race that goes by the same name. Lest there be any doubt, they run on different dates, and the cycling hill climb is all about peddling power. The event organizers, Mt. Washington Auto Road partnered with TMCC, bill the event as the hardest hill climb in the world. Whether or not that is true, it’s a beast of a climb at 7.6 miles and +4,500 feet of elevation gain. The average course gradient is 12%, with 18% and 22% extended sections at the top. MWARBH is not just a race; it’s a journey of determination, camaraderie, and a chance to ascend the highest peak in the northeastern U.S.

Event & Course Info

The history behind the Mt. Washington Auto Road only adds to the allure of this event. Built by hand over 150 years ago, the road ascends over 4,000 feet of elevation in just 7.6 miles. Since 1973, cyclists from around the world have taken on the challenge of conquering this relentless climb, either racing against fellow competitors or battling against the clock. It is one of the few times this private road is open to cyclists, making it is as iconic as it is bucket list-worthy – a dream for road cyclists seeking an ultimate test of their abilities.

In the early 1990s, a perfect partnership formed between the Tin Mountain Conservation Center and the Mt. Washington Auto Road. While the Auto Road offers visitors an opportunity to experience the majestic beauty above the tree line, the Conservation Center’s mission to promote environmental appreciation and responsible stewardship aligns perfectly with the event’s goals.

The race is a one-way all uphill course to the summit of Mt. Washington, reaching 6,288 ft. in elevation. Aid stations, portable toilets, water, commemorative fleece blankets, finisher medals, and first aid await you at the summit. However, be sure to pack extra food, water, energy drinks, and warm clothing in your support driver’s car. Emergency Medical Services are stationed at both the base and the summit, ensuring your safety throughout the event. While there’s no mechanical support on the Auto Road, the challenge of self-sufficiency adds to the sense of accomplishment. Descending by bike is prohibited, so special planning is required to coordinate a ride down.

Although the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb (MWARBH) is technically a race, it is open to anyone who feels they can do the climb. Naturally, it takes solid preparation, and a climbing (low) gear ratio is strongly recommended. You also need to keep a careful eye on the weather. Mt. Washington is known for some of the worst weather on earth and has the world record for non-tornadic winds speed at 231 MPH.  There is a make-up day for the race in the event weather interferes with the primary date. This fully supported event, with a capacity of 635 riders, provides various participation options – race it, ride it, or simply enjoy the journey. Those that have conquered the climb over 10 times, earn their place in history and are lovingly known as ‘Rockpilers.’

The month prior to the event, there is a MWARBH Early Bird Ride ride available to 150 cyclists (formerly known as the practice ride) offering a minimalist and untimed experience to ascend Mt. Washington, starting between 5am – 6am. This event lacks crowds, elaborate ceremonies, and the need to pin on a race number. Instead, it’s just you, your bike, the mountain, and the serene sunrise. To participate, riders must ensure self-sufficiency and arrange for a support driver and vehicle to meet them at the summit for the descent, as biking down the Auto Road is strictly prohibited.

Area Accommodations & Things to Do

Finally, the surrounding Mt. Washington area is quintessential New Hampshire, and along with the event, festivities make for a unique, albeit challenging, weekend.

There are many great lodging options in the area including Alpine Garden GlampingThe Glen House, and Quality Inn & Suites. There are also plenty of vacation rentals to choose from if you prefer to have a more home-like experience while in town for Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb (MWARBH) from apartments to larger homes perfect for a family or group of riders. For those who appreciate the simplicity of sleeping under the stars, Moose Brook State Park and Jericho Mountain State Park offer camping options, promising nights of serenity and connection with nature.

Nestled in the picturesque White Mountains, Gorham, NH boasts a charming culinary scene that celebrates its natural surroundings. Local eateries here blend traditional New England fare with innovative twists, utilizing fresh ingredients sourced from nearby farms and artisanal producers. The town’s proximity to outdoor recreational opportunities also influences its culinary offerings, with many establishments offering nourishing options for hikers and adventurers.  Be sure to check out Public House EateryNonna’s Kitchen for some delicious Italian, and White Mountain Cafe for some grub before or after epic hillclimb, all located right in Gorham.

For those traveling in from out of town who might want to make a long weekend of the event, there are many other outdoor activities to enjoy. Known for its challenging terrain and stunning views, hiking Mt. Washington is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts, with Tuckerman Ravine Trail and Lion Head being popular routes. Mt. Madison via the Valley Way Trail is another rewarding hike, offering breathtaking vistas of the Presidential Range.

Mountain bikers will enjoy Moose Brook State Park with its network of mountain biking trails catering to both beginners and experienced riders, as well as the Presidential Rail Trail allowing cyclists to enjoy a leisurely ride amidst scenic views of the surrounding mountains and countryside.

Finally, for those that enjoy being on the water, the Androscoggin River has a stretch near Gorham that offers a pleasant and relatively calm paddling experience for kayakers and canoeists.

Related Events

While Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb (MWARBH) is the only event produced by its organizer, there are many other top road cycling events in New Hampshire and the broader New England area, including The Prouty and the Vermont Gran Fondo which is a stop on the Gran Fondo World Tour and a Gran Fondo National Series event. For multi-sport athletes, check out other Strambecco best-rated events taking place in New Hampshire, such as the 24 Hours of Great Glen (24HOGG) mountain biking event that takes place in Gorham as well, and the Bear Brook Classic organized by State 9 Racing.

MWARBH strava profile
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