Bristol App-Gap Middlebury Gap Ride
Updated: May 14, 2019
Estimated Mileage: 67.2 Estimated Time: 2 hours, 17 min
The Bristol, App Gap, Middlebury Gap ride contains four mountain passes in a 67 mile, two hour loop. The highlight of the ride is the 7 mile, 53 turn Appalachian-Gap, which is the best sport-bike road in the state.
Our ride begins in Bristol, where you can get food and gas. Food options include pizza at Cubbers, breakfast at Snaps or the Bristol Bakery, or if you have time for a longer stop and a brew pub beverage, try the Bobcat Café.
Ride north from Bristol on VT-116 to VT-17. The first section of VT-17, "Baby Gap", is two miles long and contains ten medium radius turns spaced by short straights. This section has a quick rhythm that makes you ride a snappy confident pace.
At the end of Baby Gap you relax into a straights and sweepers pattern. Rest and enjoy the views of the backside of Sugarbush and the Mad River Glen ski areas. The unbroken mountain side is protected Green Mountain National forest and unspoiled by houses or other visible structures.
When the view fades, put your mind back together for the climb through App-Gap. This very technical set of twisties is all mountain road, with tight radius, hair pin and decreasing radius turns and short straights. Twenty-eight of the fifty-three turns on App-Gap are in the first 2.7 miles between Gore Rd in Skarksboro and the parking lot at the high point of 17.
The parking lot at the top of App-Gap is an ideal spot to rest and enjoy the view to the west. On warm summer days you will find groups of motorcyclists here, photographying the view, talking bikes and enjoying the ride. Join in and ask about their ride and enjoy the bike show.
Heading east on VT-17 will lead you downhill on a straight. The straight ends in a set of five tightly linked, steep turns, just above the Mad River Glen practice hill parking area. A hot entrance from the straight will get you a pucker moment, so be careful with your speed. The turn just above the practice area has slippery crack filler in the normal line, so you need to run this turn tighter than ideal to avoid the filler.
When you pass the practice area parking lot, the road straightens again before a set of tight turns. The large sweeping hair pin at the Mad River Glen main lot is much bigger than it appears, so go deep to reach the apex and use the full radius of the turn.
Past the Mad River Glen hair pin, the road straightens for a short stretch and then descends again into a series of tight technical turns. The combination of the grade and the tight turns is challenging: finish your braking before entering the corner to reduce the load on your front tire.
Just before reaching the east end of VT-17, you will pass the Hyde Away Inn. The Hyde Away is motorcycle friendly with covered storage for overnight guests. The tavern has outdoor dining, a pool table and Vermont microbrews.
At the end of App-Gap, VT-17 joins VT-100 in Waitsfield, where you’ll find a gas station and convenience store. Turn right onto VT-100 to head south to continue the ride.
Shortly after turning onto VT-100 you will pass the Purple Moon Pub and the Easy Street Cafe in Waitsfield. These two restaurants are joined like Siamese twins in one long purple building. The café provides breakfast, lunch and dinner and the Purple Moon Pub begins serving at 4 p.m.
It is best to plan your ride so you hit VT-100 during off peak traffic hours. A sunny fall day can turn VT-100 into a mini-van, SUV gawking tourist crawl-along. Mid-week and early Sunday morning are best to catch a smooth ride down 100.
From VT-17, VT-100 follows a relaxing sweepers and straights pattern for 11 miles through woods and open country. The road begins to tighten when you come to Granville Notch in the Granville Gulf Reservation.
The notch is a dark, twisty section of road that is frequently bumpy with frost heaves. Be careful of tourists pulling off at the Moss Glen Falls Natural Area – a high roadside water fall with an easy boardwalk trail. Vehicles frequently enter and exit the road at the falls.
South of Granville, you come to Hancock village. The Old Hancock Hotel at the intersection of VT-100 and VT-125 is home of “Flannel shirt gourmet” with homemade pies, venison, pizza and blueberry pancakes. You frequently find BMW’s and Ducati’s parked out front – a sure sign of good food.
Turn right onto VT-125 and climb west up 2,200 feet to the height of Middlebury Gap. A Long-Trail parking lot at the top of the gap is a high traffic zone, so look for entering and exiting cars as you reach the peak.
On the west side of the peak, VT-125 opens to westerly views and the grounds of the Middlebury College Bread Loaf campus. The campus is marked by yellow Victorian buildings with green trim and large porches that stand on rolling lawns dotted by Adirondack chairs. The Bread Loaf campus is home of the oldest writer’s conference in America, started in 1926 by Robert Frost and other Middlebury college faculty.
The Robert Frost trail parking area, just west of Bread Loaf is a good place to stretch your legs or enjoy a short walk.
VT-125 then descends to Ripton, a small hill town with a general store. As you enter Ripton, look right for the Ripton constable who likes to sit in the parking lot of the Ripton Community House, where the speed limit drops from 50 to 25 Mph.
Past Ripton center, VT-125 enters a riverside section of twisties that has 16 turns in three miles. This section of road was rebuilt in the spring and summer of 2010 and then damaged during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The pavement is still excellent except for a few patches due to the storm damage (2012). Overall, the road quality speaks well for the reconstruction job, which withstood the onslaught from Irene.
Past the twisty section, the road flattens and straightens in East Middlebury, where you’ll find gas and restrooms. Turn right onto VT-116 at East Middlebury and head north on VT-116.
On VT-116 you'll ride sweepers linked together by quarter to half mile long straights in a relaxed rhythm. Sycamore Park is at the Bristol end of 116 on the north side of the one lane bridge. The forested park is shady and cool with riverside picnic benches.
After passing the park, follow VT-116 to the VT-17 intersection. The two roads run as one into Bristol center, where the ride began. Go again, anyone?