"What? Knoxville, Tn.
Seriously, why would I go there?"
Because it's actually pretty rad is the correct answer. Allie and I headed down there to check out a Foo Fighters show a few weeks ago. Knoxville is also blowing up in the mountain bike scene in the South, thanks to Knoxville Urban Wilderness. Both good enough reasons for us to have Olin stay with Grandpa for the night so we could check it out.
Here is a recap of how that 24 hours went, and why you should invest 24 hours there too, in case the video wasn't enough.
Arrive to our hotel and unpack our stuff.
Shout out to Kayak for a $45/night motel with a continental breakfast that consisted of Oatmeal and Nature Valley Bars.
Foo Fighters at Thompson-Boling Arena.
If you haven't seen the Foo Fighters in concert, do it. This was the third time I've seen them since I was 16 years old. Dave Grohl is like a fine wine that only gets better with age.
Late night chicken wings. Because nothing beats late night chicken wings.
After starting our day with our Nature Valley & Oatmeal medley we headed over to TVB to get some trail info and add 5 psi to my suspension thanks to the previous nights chicken wings.
Arrived at Badger Preserve at Knoxville Urban Wilderness.
Played in the outdoor playground.
Did 4 laps on the flow trail "Barn Burner" (In video)
Spent the day playing hooky from work.
Ate tacos & drank beer at SoKno Taco Catina.
Some of the most bitchin mexican food since I left Teton Valley, and probably the coolest mountain bike trail head I've ever seen, I mean look at their trail map.
Cruised down the river front and under the bike arches, only second to the Antler arches in Jackson.
Knoxville,TN, while it may not have the name, hills, or status of a lot of Western resorts is still a rad place to ride.
Great trails, bitchin Mexican food, and a cool atmosphere.
I'd highly recommend.
Cross posted in TGR
Tannery Knobs: A look into the future of Mountain Biking in Johnson City, TN
Mountain biking is on the rise in Tennessee mountain town, Johnson City. Yes, the town from Wagon Wheel that is in fact actually East from the Cumberland Gap. Surrounded by Knoxville, Boone, Pisgah, and within the Appalachian Mountains, JC is a stone’s throw away from world class riding in every direction. With Tannery Knobs, Johnson City is looking to add their name to the list of “Must Ride” areas in this region.
Sunday morning, I stood with Chad Wolfe, of the Tannery Knobs Task Force, on a flat section at the top of the knob where the pump track will soon be built. The beauty of the view overlooking Johnson City towered by Buffalo Mountain poised in front of the Appalachian range cannot be justifiably captured in any photo. Over 40 acres of land was donated by the Summers family of Johnson City for this project. What makes Tannery Knobs so unique is the site location. The trailhead sits less than a mile from Yee-Haw Brewery & White Duck Taco (as any mountain biker knows, beer & tacos are dietary staples). There will be parking and amenities at the trailhead, however, Tannery Knobs is aiming to be a “ride-to” destination from Downtown Johnson City.
“It's about the experience. I'm coming here, I don't care if it's right after work, with myself or with five of my friends we're going to get some hot laps and then obviously we're going to go downtown and shop, eat, & drink at the breweries. I mean it's an experience, a very European experience” -Chad Wolfe, Tannery Knobs Task Force.
While bike parks are no new concept, Tannery Knobs wants riders to view it as more of a playground than a trail network. Rather than on how many miles of trail riders have available to them, Tannery Knobs will put emphasis on how many ways a rider can choose to descent. This will offer a unique approach outside of other bike parks in the region such as Rocky Knob in Boone or Urban Wilderness in Knoxville. The trails will always intersect on an upward slope, so it acts as a natural speed check. This will help riders prevent collision by not being able to come into intersections at high speed.
The park is designed to progress riders’ skill levels by including different features such as rock rolls and natural gaps, purposefully integrated into the trail so beginner riders may not even notice as they ride past them. This will allow less experienced riders to focus on what is ahead of them, without mentally intimidating them, while more aggressive riders will be able to seek these side hits out. This concept is very easy to imagine when you start to picture it like a ski resort. Also, like a ski resort, all trails will be directional allowing bikers to ride downhill while trail runners run up hill.
“This is a bike park and the difference between this and a Ride Center is the playground aspect. We're building amenities along the trail systems in a specific places. There's not a rock up here that's not there on purpose, it does something. Everything is planned on top of that. It's very much a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ experience” -Chad Wolfe, Tannery Knobs Task Force.
The Tannery Knobs Task Force knew that this type of project couldn’t be built purely on volunteer work alone. So they brought in arguably the best in the industry, Trail Solutions by IMBA. The goal, to grow riders and provide a mountain bike park for riders of all abilities, can be seen already by walking the still being developed trails. With that in mind, the crews work to develop trails and features to keep riders progressing, while having fun. Near the pump track at the top will be a skills park that primarily uses rock features. Riders will be able to roll, ride, and drop rocks to help progress to the next level all before even leaving the parking lot area, which will also double as an observation zone. This area will serve as a spot parents can watch a NICA race, space vendors can use for events, or a staging area for group rides. At the same time, more advanced riders looking for true bike park type riding are going to feel right at home too.
“Perception of how aggressive trails are marketed does a terrible job of the whole thing because everything you see is a young male drinking an energy drink & skidding around turns. Which really does damage trails. By the way, nobody does that right? So stop pretending like we're all riding Red Bull rampage kind of stuff, these parks are an opportunity to just stop that stereotype.” Chad Wolfe, Tannery Knobs Task Force. “So that's what I think the story is here. Yes it's an amazing trail that is going to reset what most people expect mountain bike trails might be like, it's going to take people who want mountain looking things and now understand that we're surrounded by some of the country’s best mountain biking. But it also has the economic boost for the city by building a park like this which nobody else has. It's right in town and other parks, even though they may have an amazing facility, with a giant climb that gets you that beautiful fifteen minute descent on the other side, but that's very different than what we're doing here.”
Tannery Knobs is slated to open between Thanksgiving and Christmas with two complete trails to descend and another to get back to the top. Due to the unique climate Northeast Tennessee has to offer, Tannery Knobs has the potential to be rideable at least 10 months out of the year, depending on snowfall or if you ride a fat bike.
Follow Tannery Knobs to stay up to date on trail building, riding info, and all things #JCMTB
I heard some rumors, stirrings, and enough talk from the right people to really want to check it out all summer.
"Better than Pisgah."
"The best in Tennessee."
"Some super technical riding."
And more muttering that just continued to peak my interest...and curiosity.
After a summers worth of digging, asking the only person I knew that rode there to take me (scheduling never worked out), and a whole bunch of curiosity, I finally found the .gpx file for the Holy Grail of trails that lies on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina but never leaves the Volunteer State. Couldn't have been luckier to find it on a Friday! Instead of waiting for anticipation to build, I asked Allie if she wanted to do a real butt kicker of a ride on Sunday. We just got her bike about 2 weeks ago, but we've been riding about 3 times a week since then. I told her it was going to be bigger than anything she's ridden so far, and there were a few options we could choose from once we reached the top of the first 1200ft section of hike-a-bike. On Friday night I showed her the map along with the elevation changes.
"Let's do it" she said without any hesitation.
On Saturday night, I set our alarm for 7:30am the following morning and went to bed around 10pm. As I lay in bed, stoked about doing not only my first backcountry ride of the summer, but Allie's first backcountry ride ever, I started to second guess my decision to take her into a ride like this.
"Maybe everyone keeps it a secret for a reason."
"Maybe she's not ready."
"Maybe I'm making a bad judgement call."
I tossed & turned for a few hours while these thoughts went back in forth in my head until I finally drifted off.
The 7:30 alarm went off way too early so we snoozed it for about 15 minutes until I could finally drag myself out of bed. I headed down stairs to make a pot of coffee and load our gear while Allie got Olin ready to hang out with her Grandpa for the day. We were on the road by 9am, which if you have kids and dogs you know is an accomplishment within itself.
Around 10:30, we arrived at the 1300ft trailhead after stopping to get fuel. The trail head has an incredible location that parallels the French Broad River, great for an after ride swim. We began our ride without any delay and began down the Forest Service road that would bring us to an over grown two track and up the first climb. The two track eventually narrowed into familiar man made, old school, burly single track.
We continued on through this mixture of hike-a-bike and "pedal when you can" for about an hour and a half total.
At about 1 mile into the ride and 500 feet of climbing, we encountered a nice, big tree and a bunch of its' branches laying sideways across the trail. Allie was carrying her bike up and over behind me, before I even had my bike all the way across and could ask her if she needed a hand.
We pushed on after a few breaks, until we made it to 1200ft and the intersection with 3 different route options from the 2536ft summit.
The view was amazing. A dramatic, swooping view of the French Broad River with layers of mountains surrounding us in every direction. Absolutely spectacular.
Now was time to make a decision. One way led us to a 1000ft descent into another 1000ft climb and finish it with another 1200 ft descent. We could turn around and head back the way we came and make the ride an "out & back", or there was a third trail that I did not have on my GPS. Looking at where we were on the map and where the trail would intersect if we chose the route with the additional climb, we speculated that the third trail may meet up at that point. At that time we made the call to ride the third, unmarked trail to see where it went. About half a mile in, it looked like it was going to meet up exactly where we thought, right at the beginning of the 3 mile and 1200 ft descent back to the car.
Allie ate a quick snack and we began the downhill. This was going to be her longest and most technical descent yet. We were both stoked! One issue she had was getting too focused on the steep exposure next to the trail, instead of looking at the trail itself. After a bit of advice and a few tips, we took it a good pace, moved some fallen tree & down branch from the trail, and took a few breaks on the way down. On the way down I also helped her with proper positioning on the bike as well as how to get over small little drops and rocks.
She had the most priceless response when I told her that we had only a few more switchbacks until the road. "Already?" she asked jokingly.
By the time we got back to the car we were both smiling from ear to ear.
With a total time of 2 hours and 45 minutes to ride the trail, take photos, and breaks, I was very impressed.
Our plan is to go back in the next few weeks and do the slightly longer 12 mile loop that features 2300ft of climbing.
All in all it was a great ride. I'd have to say this is now in my Top 5 trails.
The icing on the cake is the ability to take a swim in the French Broad River to rinse off before the drive back home.
Our final numbers for the day were just shy of 7 miles, 1400ft of climbing, and on the road home at 1:20pm. Not Bad.
Dogs & Diapers