“The cycling trend is continuing into 2021,” says Randy McDougald, owner of Carolina Triathlon. “Our sales are up 300% from pre-pandemic times. Cycling has a multigenerational influx of new participants.”
If you are new to the sport and want to take your mountain bike to some hard-packed trails (not asphalt), there are several new ones, and more are coming. Beginners, keep reading.
What are some new trails? The JFA trail is open to hikers and mountain bikers seven days a week. Located in Pleasant Ridge Park, it is a 20-mile drive from downtown Greenville. The trail is named for the late mountain biker Jorge Francisco Arango. The park has a trail for everyone: a beginner loop, a windy 6-mile intermediate loop and a short advanced climb.
Paris Mountain State Park is still a local favorite for mountain bikers, but it is not open to bikes on Saturday. Also, Croft State Park in Spartanburg has 10 miles of off-road trails (watch for equestrians in this great multi-use state park). And there are 16 miles of trails at Green River Gameland in Saluda, North Carolina.
What’s next for trails? The Lakeside Loops are the hot new trails under construction opening early summer 2021 at Lakeside Park, home of the 7th Inning Splash Waterpark. There are three trails all looped with a central hub, with 6 miles total. The trail sits next to a quiet residential neighborhood allowing a trail access for neighborhood children.
How does a trail get built? Like anything done well, it takes planning. Touring the three Lakeside loops with builder and designer Jay Koehn, one can appreciate the nuances of trail-building. Koehn spends time creating turns and edges to make it fun, fast and challenging. He also creates the trail with significant attention to stormwater so the trail does not become rutted and washed out. Koehn wants it easy enough to get more kids through the challenging parts. A good trail has enough “rollers” so you can be nimble enough to pedal uphill.
How do trails come to be? It takes a tremendous partnership to build great things. Newly formed UGATA, Upstate Trails and Greenways Alliance, is an organization putting together private and public partnerships like the Lakeside trails to build more trails. Director Sam Davis says the mission is simple: “UGATA wants to rapidly expand the network of greenways and trails in the Upstate to improve health, transit, community pride and the local economy.”
How much does a trail cost to build? New neighborhoods now promote trails as much as a playground, pool or tennis court amenity. An off-road trail costs approximately $10 per linear foot, which amounts to $55,000 per mile. (Compare this to the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail asphalt trail, which has historically averaged $1 million per mile, according to city and county budgets.)
Are you a new off-road mountain biker? Just pay attention to the signs, especially directions. On most single-track trails, hikers and bikers travel in opposite directions for safety reasons. (Keep your head up so you can see bikes coming.) It sounds obvious, but teach your children to go single-file and leave a safe distance in between bikes. JFA trails change direction monthly so you can have a new experience. There are plenty of online groups if you are new to the sport, including Upstate SORBA and Mountain Biking in the Upstate. For kids, NICA is a team for seventh-12th graders, and the season starts in July. There are always plenty of bike shops ready to dust off and re-tube your old bike, so drop them off — and let’s ride.
Amy Ryberg Doyle served for 12 years on Greenville City Council. She is married and has four children. An outdoors enthusiast, she likes to bike, swim and run, but not all in that order. She power-naps daily.