Summer adventures: Cleveland situated in mountain biker’s paradise
by By SARALYN NORKUS Banner Sports Writer
Jul 21, 2013 | 1043 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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PARTICIPANTS IN THE 2012 Black Bear Rampage 40 mile race get ready at the starting line of the event at the Ocoee Whitewater Center. Photo courtesy of Scott’s Bikes.
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This summer we have taken the time to explore the numerous activities that are available in the areas surrounding Cleveland. Today we will close out this series by taking the high road, or perhaps the off-road trails of which mountain bikers in the area are able to take advantage.

According to Trailhead Bicycle Co. owner Charles Nelson, there are around 12-18 different genres of bikes. Out of those different genres, mountain bikes and road bikes represent the two main categories.

Due to Cleveland’s geographic location and easily accessible trails, mountain biking is by far the more popular type of biking that is done in the area. Locals and visitors alike are able to utilize the numerous trails with a quick drive.

“We have great resources in our area, because there are so many trail locations ranging from beginner to expert,” Nelson said. “With the trails we have out on the Ocoee, there’s room for progression for everybody.”

Now it might seem that mountain biking is an expensive sport to take up, but for the most part, that is not the case.

“I think people get into mountain biking because it’s an inexpensive sport to get into,” Gaston said. “You can get into it for under $500, and that’s a one-time cost for the first two-year period.”

Before getting out on the trails though, there are a few steps that need to be taken first.

“The first step is getting sized for the right bike and then see what’s within your price range. From there we’ll pick out the style of bike and wheel size. Then we’ll see if the person needs gloves, shorts, and specific riding apparel,” Scott’s Bikes associate and 15 year mountain biking veteran Zack Gaston explained.

For those looking to get into the sport, there are miles and miles of versatile trails in the nearby area.

“We have multiple miles of trails that are very beginner friendly. The amount of trails we have in such a small location — within an hour radius — we have probably about 150 miles of single track,” Gaston said. “You can switch, if you’re using a mountain bike and don’t want to do all off road, you can easily use it on the greenways, paths, and street.”

Both Nelson and Gaston stated that a good place for beginners to start out is the Enterprise South Nature Park, by the Volkswagen plant. The nature park has 10 miles of single track, and according to Gaston, bikers can start out as small as three miles.

Harrison Bay State Park’s 4.5 mile trail has almost no changes in elevations, which makes it another good starting place for inexperienced riders.

There are numerous positive aspects to mountain biking, such as fitness, stress relief, and the camaraderie.

The mental aspect of mountain biking is Gaston’s favorite part of the sport.

“I prefer to climb, so if you’re going and doing long climbs you get into that rhythm and leave your thoughts and worries behind,” Gaston said.

To Nelson, being able to hang out with friends is one of the bigger perks of mountain biking besides the fitness aspect.

This is a sport that many different age groups can participate in.

“We have people as early as the age of 6, then guys and girls out of the shop in their 30s, then older men and women in their 60s who are riding. It all depends on how comfortable they are,” Gaston commented.

Often times, the most difficult aspect of mountain biking is simply convincing someone to give it a go.

“I think the hardest thing is just talking someone into trying it. It’s not as labor intensive as your would think. The first few rides will be hard because we’re creating a new muscle, but after a month, it’s unreal how far you can progress,“ Gaston said.

Mountain biking, as well as biking in general, does have its fair share of risks, but serious injuries mainly fall few and far between on the trail.

“I think the only risk is being weary of staying in control and learning your limits. You’re going to have normal falls that typically result in bumps and bruises, but we don’t usually see very many broken bones,” Gaston explained.

“Typically most injuries we see are people on the greenway who don’t have good control and are cut off by a dog or a runner and they fall off the curb. On the trail, the trees don’t move, the rocks don’t move, so you memorize where those hard spots are.”

Mountain biking is an activity that can be done in all kinds of weather and throughout the varying seasons.

Both Trailhead Bicycle Co. and Scott’s Bikes organize various events throughout the year. Trailhead has the Cohutta 100 and the Big Frog 65 in the spring, while Scott’s Bikes has the Black Bear Rampage in the fall. These events are all based out of the Ocoee Whitewater Center, which is the starting point for the Tanasi Trail System.

The Tanasi Trail System is no stranger to organized events, as it hosted the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Epic Ride in November of 2004.

On Tuesday evenings Scott’s Bikes has a group mountain bike outing and on Thursday evening’s road rides take place. These outings are for all different experience levels, ranging from novice to advance.

I have it on good authority that the age-old adage is true, once you’ve learned how to ride a bike you truly never forget how to.

More information on the various mountain biking events can be found at or