I rode a big phat, carbon-fiber S-Works this past weekend at the Specialized demo day, and it was really, really fun riding out at Alexander Park.
Ski Country Sports and Liberty Bicycles have secured the money and blisters required over the past ten years to breathe life back into the trails there. I have to admit that I kept trying to smell the landfill. The good thing is that I could not. The trail climbs all the way up to the top where you could look down at it, but really none of the trails climb for very long. It’s less Pisgah National Forest and more like Tsali, just a bit shorter.
There are two really fun loops that roll, twist and dip up and down the mountain. The right (red) loop is a little more exposed, so it’s probably better earlier in the day, but it’s really pretty with rolling fields as well as dense and tight twisties. It’s fairly longer than the yellow, on the left, and it’s worth it to do both of them.
My 6-year-old was able to do the red loop. It took him two hours, but he did it. There’s never anything technical on the trail—few rocks and roots. It’s just got the potential to be really fast (especially if you can score a ride on a 22-pound bike that responds to every shudder and twitch).
The full-suspension was fun when coming out of tight dips, especially the way it sprung me off the crest of the hill, catapulting a giggling me into the bushes. The folks on 29ers seemed to do well too, as the turns were never quite hairpin, but arching nice enough to accommodate the larger wheel.
It’s nice having a park in town with fun trails that are very well marked. Plus, the parking is really easy, and when you’re done you can throw a hook or a boat into the French Broad River. The trails are really well-maintained, mainly by Craig Friedrich at Ski Country, and there are great maps available.
Alexander Park is a joint effort by local bike shops, but it should be known that Mike and Claudia Nix at Liberty won the Clay Mankin Award at a recent tradeshow. The award is given by Quality Bicycle Products in their effort to recognize bike retailers who make significant contributions to advance the bike industry.
Directions: From Asheville, take US 19-23 North to the Marshall/Hot Springs exit. Take this exit (US 25-70) and drive to the second light. Turn left onto Monticello road and follow this until it ends at River Road. Turn right; it is several miles to the signed parking area. The parking area is on either side of River Road.