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Trails abound for mountain bike enthusiasts

Debra McCown • Apr 15, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Do you like the idea of riding a bicycle up the side of a mountain on a narrow trail, over roots and rocks? Or is your last bicycle ride a hazy memory of the driveway in front of your childhood home?

Either way, mountain biking could be an opportunity for fun and fitness, says Anthony Duncan, president of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association.

SORBA Tri-Cities, formerly the Northeast Tennessee Mountain Bike Association, has been around for 15 years developing trails and promoting their sport, which has continued to grow in popularity.

"A lot of people understand that they need to get out and exercise, but running is really a routine, a lot of people don’t really like to run," Duncan said. "Mountain biking is an easy, fun way to get out and enjoy the outdoors, and it also kind of gives you the feeling that you’re a kid again."

In addition to building trails, SORBA Tri-Cities sponsors bike rides and events geared for getting more people on bikes - whether they are experienced mountain bikers or beginners who are getting on a bicycle for the first since they were kids. The group is affiliated with the International Mountain Biking Association.

Their big annual outreach event, Bike at Bays, is scheduled for May 11 this year and begins at 10 a.m. at Bays Mountain Park.

The event offers a series of bike rides for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders, as well as other events, including a chainless bike race and a tiny bike race, where adults race each other on very small kids’ bikes. Area bike shops turn out to talk about their products and let potential customers test out demo bikes on the surrounding trails. Food and prizes are given away.

"We’ll always do what we can to make it bigger," Duncan said of the event, which typically draws about 150 people. "It’s all about having fun and getting people out here."

SORBA Tri-Cities is a non-profit group whose focus is trail-building and advocacy for the sport of mountain biking. The group currently has trail projects in the works with Bays Mountain; Sugar Hollow Park in Bristol, Va.; Steele Creek Park in Bristol, Tenn.; and Doe Mountain in Johnson County.

The organization just signed a contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority to develop at least three miles of new multi-use trails that will connect with about 9 miles of existing trails at Warriors’ Path State Park.

"After we build that, they’ll have somewhere around 12 to 14 miles of trail at Warriors’ Path," said Duncan. "Now we’re just awaiting TDOT [Tennessee Department of Transportation] approval to be able to use a section of land that goes under the bridge to connect the two trail systems."

Duncan said volunteers put in hundreds of hours of work each year on planning and building trails, typically on the property of a single landowner and often on public land. He said the group has a good relationship with just about every municipality in the area that has a trail system - and gladly takes requests from anyone who would like to have a trail developed on their land.

"What we build is generally going to be what we call single-track, so we’ll build the trail at about 3 feet wide, and eventually over time, as folks hike it and riders ride it, it’s going to narrow down to about a foot wide, so really you’ve just basically got a small path through the woods," Duncan said. "It’s going to have a lot of turns, a lot of rocks, and a lot of roots, so it’s going to really give you a backcountry kind of experience."

In addition to providing a variety of mountain biking opportunities for club members, Duncan said, the trails also help attract tourists to the area - and make the sport more accessible to local area residents who are looking for places to ride where they can get a little exercise.

For more information, visit SORBA Tri-Cities online at www.sorba-tricities.org. Trail videos are available from the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association at www.netta.com.

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