Flying into Asheville is a treat, watching the land rise, flow and meander softly in deep shades of green. The riding here is also that way – when I’m in shape. The depths of the forest trails whip through the forest floor with steady climbs and swift descents, spattered with the occasional spankings. There are details – sharp rocks, boulder gardens, and roots, gnarled against the weather. Those features can fill a ride with teeth-chattering descents and exhausting climbs, but with the right mindset, it rolls, jumps and punishes more like a strict mother.

The Western range is more like the stormy and wild little brother. It peaks and staggers in a provoking manner, leaving one breathless, joyful, surprised, and a little pissed off at times. The climbing is astonishing and the descents are inconceivable. The flow wraps around and around the jagged peaks, but you’ve still got to get up to it and then back down again.

Is any of that better or worse? No. It’s all delightful. In the West you need an oxygen tank and the East you need gills. In the West you have flat hair, in the East you have curly. In the West you wash out in gravel and sand, catapulting off of the mountain. In the East you traverse rock gardens that send you catapulting off of the mountain.

It’s generally the same amount of bloodshed, just a different weapon; the same amount of beauty, just a different palette.