EPICENTER: WHY KNOXVILLE IS THE SOUTH’S NEW MTB KING
In a state better known for the Grand Ole Opry and Graceland, Knoxville’s riding is becoming a hit too.
Located just west of the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, Knoxville is blessed with never ending ridges and valleys–AKA really good geography for trails. Thanks to the blood, sweat, and tears of some exceedingly motivated mountain bikers, this East Tennessee city of 200,000 is laced with some seriously epic riding.
At its core is the Urban Wilderness, a 60-mile network of trails that interconnects a number parks and green spaces on the city’s south side. The town firmly planted its flag on the “best places to mountain bike” map this past spring with the opening of the Devil’s Racetrack, a high-flying, big-hit gravity trail that rivals anything in the U.S. While the trail is certainly noteworthy, it’s just the latest awesome thing Knoxville has done on its path to becoming one of the premier mountain bike destinations east of the Mississippi.
Perhaps one of the best ways to experience all the goodness Knoxville has to offer is to attend during the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club’s legendary and ridiculously fun Fall Fest. To put things in perspective, the event’s organizers are liable to roll up in a stretch limo that’s capable of carrying as many mountain bikes as humans. Get the idea?
“If you haven’t started making plans for a visit, you probably will when you factor in Knoxville’s mild climate, good eats, and southern hospitality to boot.”
Where to Eat
When you roll back into town after a solid day of riding, find an outside table at Balter Beerworks and sit down for a meal of street tacos, sliders and $4 craft beers (the special price for those who pedal there). What’s more? Balter’s caters to local cyclists and are strong supporters of the outdoor recreation scene. Their Legacy Parks “Beer of the Week” helps support the trails all around Knoxville.
Post-ride on the south side? Trailhead Beer Market is the perfect option near the near the Urban Wilderness trails. This unique taproom features Alliance Brewery on draught and a plethora of other beers for sale in the market. If you happen to be there on Thursday night, you’ll have a chance to play trivia with the local trail nerds from AMBC. Not only are they really good at building and maintaining trails, they’re the reigning weekly trivia champions.
Where to Buy Spare Parts
Knoxville has a handful of great bike shops and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Tennessee Valley Bicycles, a full-service shop on Magnolia Avenue, is a convenient place to launch a ride to the Sharp’s Ridge trails. Even more convenient is the neighborhood watering hole located right next door for post-ride recovery.
If you liked the idea behind Balter Beerworks’ Legacy Parks Beer of the Month, you’ll feel good about stopping by REI Knoxville, too. A major AMBC supporting partner, this shop has funded and helped organize some crucial trail projects in the region, including a $10,000 grant for a pedestrian overpass that forms a key link between the Urban Wilderness South Loop and Baker Creek Preserve. And–thank the organic produce gods–there’s a Whole Foods Market right next door!
Assuming you visit in the warm months, Knoxville’s climate is definitely on the lush side. In fact, it’s a little jungle-like in places. For an exciting rest day activity, find your way to the Ijams Nature Center for a canopy tour with Navitat. Satisfy both your inner science nerd and thrill-seeker personality as you zip-line through the treetops. They’ve got lights and are open late, in case you want to play into the night.
GUEST AUTHOR LESLIE KEHMEIER
Leslie Kehmeier is a Colorado-based outdoor adventure photographer and mountain bike nerd. @LESLIEKEHMEIER