5 Questions with Pro Cyclist Kerry Werner About His New Venture
Virginia Blue Ridge Adventures is a guided cycling tour business founded by Roanoke newcomers Kerry and Emily Werner. They moved here in the summer of 2020 and immediately fell in love with the access to high-quality, diverse, and plentiful trails, roads, and hikes that the Roanoke Region has to offer.
The two professional cyclists come from Winston Salem, NC just two hours south of Roanoke. They had traveled to the area to compete in the VBR Go Cross Cyclocross UCI pro bike race. But prior to a spring 2020 visit, they hadn’t known about the gems tucked into the hollers and scattered about the ridges of the Roanoke Valley.
Let’s get to know the Werner’s and learn more about their new venture Virginia Blue Ridge Adventures…
1. Was there a specific ride or moment that spurred this idea?
No, actually quite the opposite. That first year in 2020 it seemed like every ride that we were going on and getting a lay of the land was just fire. It helped cycling feel new and exciting again. We had been in Winston Salem, NC for the past four years and the change of scenery; rolling farmland to proper mountains, and lots of backcountry riding; was just what we needed. So it was more of a build up, not just one great ride that got us here, but almost every ride, spanning the spectrum of mountain biking, gravel, road, and cyclocross.
2. If you could change one thing about the Roanoke Region’s outdoor community, what would it be?
The access and support for outdoor infrastructure in Roanoke is better than any place I have lived before. I just wish more people knew about it! The city itself maintains all the greenways and in-town bike path infrastructure as well as Mill Mountain trails and all the trails at Carvins Cove Reservoir. The City of Roanoke’s recreation department puts on a spring MTB mid-week race series (Disco Race) and a summer mid-week CX race series (Summer Cross). Also, there’s the big Go Outside Festival in October.
If you check Roanoke Outside’s event calendar it’s almost overwhelming how many events are going on. Thanks to all this support from the local government, the community itself is strong and alive. There is a lot of potential for growth. We just have to get the word out, which is partly what we hope to achieve with VBRA.
3. What is VBR Adventures’ mission and how do you plan to give back to the outdoor community?
Simply put we want to share our area with y’all by offering guided cycling tours of various disciplines; custom tours, group events, and private skills sessions. It will span the spectrum of road, mountain biking, gravel, and even bike path cruising around downtown.
In doing this we aim to safely provide all customers with an absolutely awesome riding experience while also giving back to our community. We are going to donate 5% of every trip booked to help build local cycling infrastructure. Why? Because we love the trails, access, and opportunity here in the Roanoke Valley and we want to keep it awesome. Therefore, we feel that the sustainability of our trail networks, bike paths, and community are just as, if not more, important than the enjoyment we get from them. So we are going to use our dollars to keep our area open and accessible.
4. If you could pick one ride to take people on, which would it be?
This is one of those questions that is really hard to answer because there are so many rides in the area that offer something different worth experiencing. The ride that comes to mind is a little ridden area just outside of Catawba, Va. It is a big day but can be split up to ride any of these trails by themselves. I am talking about North Mountain’s Dragon’s Back and the animal trails. The Dragons Back is a 13.8-mile, ridgeline single track and the animal trails are four trail options that drop off the north and south side of the ridge. In the fall when the leaves are on the ground and the undergrowth is matted down, the views of the Roanoke Valley are amazing. It’s cool to see similar views you would see from the Blue Ridge Parkway but from across the valley. The trails are really challenging in terms of elevation gain and technicality but the sense of accomplishment from even doing a 10-mile loop on North Mountain is as high as the ridge itself.
Here is Strava route that allows you to ride all the trails on North Mountain. If completed you have successfully slayed the dragon! Be warned! The 36 miles seems like a small ride but the 8K ft of vert will make this feel like a monster day. Be prepared for a long day.
5. Do you ride mountain bike, road, and gravel? What is your favorite? Do your tours go on any of those terrains?
Our area has a little of everything and we offer private tours and skills sessions in each discipline. We have the Blue Ridge Parkway for those wanting to stick to pavement. We have miles of gravel forest service roads in the two adjacent National Forests, George Washington and Jefferson. On the mountain bike side of the spectrum we have Mill Mountain trails in town, Carvins Cove just on the outskirts of town, and even more enticing are the backcountry routes that will make you feel like you are really out there. Then of course we have Go Cross, a Cyclocross race that takes place at Fallon Park, Southeast Roanoke. Is it on the National Cyclocross Race Calendar and people travel from all over the nation to race it.
I have been really excited about the gravel opportunities surrounding the Roanoke Valley. These rides often provide shelter from heavy traffic, are more engaging than pounding pavement, and can give you more of a sense of adventure without the full-on planning of mountain bike backcountry ride. It’s a good way to get away from the city, your work and personal life, and disconnect. Gravel therapy in a sense.
Bonus Question: How does the world-famous Sherman Shields feel about the Roanoke Valley?
As a beagle who’s sniffed many trails and hiked several mountains, including 14ers in Colorado, Sherman has been stoked. He loves cruising the greenways on bikes or on foot and can’t stop putting his nose to the ground when his paws touch dirt. The Roanoke Valley is two dewclaws up!
For more information about Virginia Blue Ridge Adventures head to www.vbradventrues.com and sign up for the newsletter for updates on events, bookings, routes, and adventure ideas.
Virginia Blue Ridge Adventures
727 Spruce St
Vinton, Va 24179