In March, Vermont’s IdeRide trail crew created a trail that would attract a small group of gravity-seeking riders to Knoxville’s Sharp’s Ridge Park. The ridge is home to various mountain bike trails and pierces the northern horizon only four miles from downtown. In July, working for IdeRide, we pointed south to expand Knoxville’s exploding mountain bike scene, and do some testing of our own. Our goal was adding another gravity trail to a new area on the trail system. Located just south of Knoxville, with a bottomless pit of red clay, we began construction on the Wood Property. The property, with support from the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club (AMBC) and Knoxville’s Legacy Parks, is beginning to take shape as a gravity fed trail destination.
Brian Hann, along with Matt Kellogg—another bike enthusiast whose day job revolved around working construction for local developer Dewhirst Properties, and Randy Connor a local with the urge to build trail, are the ringleaders behind the expansive plans to increase mountain bike accessibility in Knoxville. Their efforts, paired with the local IMBA chapter, AMBC, are grooming the way to increase local access. With miles of trail already linking together vine laden green space in the city, AMBC’s goal is changing the idea of what mountain biking should offer within 10 miles of a major city.
“More than once our shit was stolen by a couple of hillbillies,” Brian recalled, explaining some of the setbacks that happened during the first building projects. “For a while we had to fight,” he continued. As a new type of two-wheeled junkie emerged, the city began providing more support to the club. The backing helped them win multiple grants for trail projects. With the completion of the Sharps Ridge trails, AMBC launched the Downtown Downhill campaign that turned heads putting Knoxville on the board for urban access to mountain biking. After much anticipation they won the Bell Built grant that would provide $100,000 towards a new trail at the planned Wood Property.
What’s different about the riding in Knoxville to other places in the nation is the productivity coming from a group of people familiar with the construction business. Although there are many people invested in AMBC, Kellog, Hann and Connor pair construction based knowledge with revere for mountain bikes. This fusion of skill set and love creates trail design that is planned and executed with the diligence of a construction job. With the support of Dewhirst Properties, equipment is constantly on hand to increase efficiency and safety. This approach ensures a network that hasn’t been cut short from material or builders.
From cross-country style paths pouring upon themselves like twisted soft serve ice cream, to the set of rhythm jumps on Sharp’s Ridge, it was obvious the riding was inspired by the diverse group of bicycle inspired individuals that make up AMBC. Wednesday nights people of all abilities congregate at Sharp’s Ridge to ride xc, push DH rigs and even session the jump line on bmx bikes. AMBC is invested in creating a system that links various plots of urban wilderness to strengthen the health of the area by providing accessibility to stress free natural environments.
Late one evening at Sharp’s Ridge before heading back to Vermont, we bumped into Hann and Kellogg. They were finishing their trail and urban-laced adventure with a quick stop at the Public House—a local favorite for cyclists. They encouraged us to join before riding away with a string of other Knoxville riders. Like the variables involved with running a construction job, AMBC has been able to manage their network and building projects similarly. In doing so, the cycling community continues expanding and supporting many of the areas drive to weave the natural areas into an urban atmosphere.AMBCHarper’s Bike ShopTennessee Valley Bikes.