By Rubin E. Grant
Nathan Matteo was thrilled when he found out a new downhill mountain biking park would be opening virtually in his backyard.
Matteo has been an avid mountain biker for five years, and the 14-year-old youngster who lives in Vestavia Hills has ridden trails in Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina and has raced on courses at Oak Mountain and Tannehill state parks.
So, when RideBHM, Alabama’s first downhill mountain biking park, was being constructed in partnership with Red Mountain Park, Matteo was eager to grab his bike and go there to ride.
“I thought this place would be awesome,” Matteo said. “I was excited for the Birmingham community and the Birmingham mountain bike community. It has been really growing the last few years.”
RideBHM is to the west of Red Mountain Park on land owned by Red Mountain Park.
“We’re kind of like a ski resort on dirt,” said Hobie King, one of the founders of RideBHM. “There are only four others like this in the Southeast, so it’s pretty unique and it’s cool it’s in Birmingham.”
The pay-to-ride course opened in November, just eight months after construction began, with more than 400 mountain bike enthusiasts from 11 states, including as far away as New Jersey, coming to ride.
“I really like the convenience, only 15 or 20 minutes away from my house,” Matteo said. “It’s supereasy to check in.”
RideBHM was the brainchild of King and his partner Emile Hughes, the CEO. Both grew up in Birmingham and are graduates of the Altamont School. They formed Ride Resorts to get the project off the ground.
“Me and the other founder always wanted to do something cool and interesting after we got into mountain biking, something next level that was not available in Birmingham,” King said. “We saw it in Colorado and also in North Carolina at the Kanuga Bike Park and wanted to have something like that here.”
King and Hughes began searching for a location and reached out to T.C. McLemore, executive director of Red Mountain Park. The park owned 200 acres just outside the park’s official boundaries and agreed to let RideBHM build its mountain bike part there.
In August, King and Hughes won $25,000 through Alabama Launchpad, a statewide startup competition for grants, during the Cycle 2 2022 Finale.
RideBHM was modeled after Kanuga park, with some Kanuga employees coming down to help build some of the RideBHM trails. Dialed Dirt, a trail building company, also helped build some of the trails.
RideBHM features 10 downhill mountain biking trails of varying skill levels. It also includes adaptive trails that can be ridden by persons with disabilities.
One of Alabama’s first benefit corporations, RideBHM also has a mission to increase the access that underprivileged youths have to mountain biking and nature.
The park currently is open to riders seven days a week, from sunrise to sunset.
As of the first week of January, RideBHM had 149 people with memberships, which cost $600 for an adult (18 years and older) and $500 for youth (under 18). They also had sold more than 2,000 day passes, which cost $29 for an adult and $19 for a youth.
Spectators can check out the park for free.
Matteo, who competes for the Vestavia Hills Mountain Bike team, already has ridden the course five times, including New Year’s Day, when he participated in a downhill race.
“This is the most challenging place in Birmingham because of its size and stature,” Matteo said. “Oak Mountain is still challenging, but it doesn’t have as many jumps. RideBHM has some big jumping trails, such as Big Bertha and their signature trail, Berm-ingham.
“I think it’s a park more for intermediate to advanced riders, but they do have some family-friendly courses, such as Sweet Pea and Tootsie Roll.”
Sunday Driver has very mellow beginner trails.
“There are a range of trails at RideBHM from beginner to expert,” King said. “Regardless of your ability level, we have trails that are suitable for you as long as you can ride a bike.”
For more information about RideBHM visit ridebhm.com.