Bike Through History: 10 rides that helped shape the present-day biking scene

These 10 rides helped shape the present-day biking scene.


Assault on Mount Mitchell

  What is it? A 102.7-mile road ride, not race, from Spartanburg, S.C., to the summit of Mount Mitchell in North Carolina.

  Why ride it? Established in 1975, this route showcases the best of the Carolinas and maintains the spirit of adventure fundamental to the bicycle’s continued success.

Pedal Through Petals

  What is it? A six-mile road tour through the gardens of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va.

  Why ride it? Lewis Ginter founded the Lakeside Wheel Club in 1895 at the site of the present-day Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. The club is no longer in existence, but it marked the beginnings of Richmond’s vibrant cycling scene and in 2015, the garden served as the starting point for the UCI Road World Championships.

Bicycle Ride Across Georgia

  What is it? A one-week road tour from Athens to Brunswick, Ga.

  Why ride it? This non-competitive tour has been taking place every year since 1980 and is the second oldest across-state bicycle tour in the world. Experience some of the same terrain Tour de Georgia’s elite cyclists competed on during the early 2000s.

Virginia Creeper Trail

  What is it? A 34.4-mile recreational rail-to-trail connecting Whitetop, Damascus, and Abingdon, Virginia.

  Why ride it? Created in the early 1980s, this rail grade gravel bike path was revolutionary for its time. Once an active rail line, the Forest Service saw an opportunity to make the defunct pathway into a recreational resource. Many abandoned train tracks have since been removed for this same purpose (for example, the Swamp Rabbit Trail in South Carolina and Great Allegheny Passage in Pennsylvania), spurring an entire sector of accessible bike riding for novice cyclists, families, and commuters.


Canaan Mountain Bike Festival

  What is it? A four-day mountain bike festival in Davis, W.Va.

  Why ride it? Approaching its 10-year anniversary, this multiday mountain bike festival pays homage to the Canaan Mountain Series with throwback events like the Run What Ya Brung Trials while helping to inspire a new generation of mountain bikers through Sue Haywood’s Ladies Lunch and Skills Tour and kids’ rides. You can get a taste of the old school mountain biking vibe here through the Saturday group rides and the Sunday bike hash, a do-not-miss part of the event.

Massanutten HOO-HA!

  What is it? An enduro and cross-country mountain bike race on Massanutten Resort’s western slope trails.

  Why ride it? One of Virginia’s first mountain bike races, this event has been a staple in the scene since 1989. Massanutten’s other signature event, the YEE-HA!, began the following year. Massanutten hosted the UCI Downhill World Cup in 1997 and continues to be a leading venue for downhill and cross-country races alike. The resort’s partnership with the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition was ahead of its time. Formally cemented in 1999, the private-public collaboration is a model for the future of cycling. The rad trails are just the icing on the cake.

Knoxville Urban Wilderness

  What is it? A connected system of parks and private land that totals over 1,000 acres and 50 miles of trails just 10 minutes from downtown Knoxville, Tenn.

  Why ride it? An impressive example of the synergy between city officials and passionate locals, this expansive trail system came to be through no shortage of volunteer hours and painstaking negotiations. Officially opened in 2012, Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness has since paved the way for other bike projects such as a new bike park in 2016.

Carvins Cove Natural Reserve

  What is it? The second largest municipal park in the country, with over 12,000 acres and 60 miles of trails just 15 minutes from downtown Roanoke, Va.

  Why ride it? When Roanoke area riders finally secured access to this chunk of mountainous land in 1999, the central Virginia mountain biking culture exploded. This was a pivotal moment in Roanoke’s history, and the subsequent attention the city received from the mountain biking community undoubtedly led to Roanoke becoming one of the region’s top cycling destinations.

Enterprise South Nature Park

  What is it? A 1,300-acre ammunition plant-turned-county-park just 15 minutes outside of downtown Chattanooga, Tenn.

  Why ride it? Formerly owned and operated by a private corporation, Hamilton County’s purchase of the property in 2000 was a landmark achievement in increasing recreational trails opportunities for Chattanooga residents. SORBA Chattanooga and Hamilton County cooperation has led to the construction of over 20 miles of mountain biking trails, and the city itself has transformed from the “Dirtiest City in America” to an adventure basecamp.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

  What is it? A 125,000-acre tract of national park land across the Cumberland Plateau with over 300 miles of singletrack open to mountain bikers.

  Why ride it? In 2012, the Big South Fork was the first park in the nation to receive the International Mountain Bike Association’s (IMBA) elite Epic Ride designation. Its early acceptance of mountain bikers has been a model for other national park units looking to incorporate bikers into their user plans in the future.

—Jess Daddio

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