Riding popularity grows amid challenging terrain

Riding popularity grows amid challenging terrain

March 27th, 2011 by Jim Tanner in Chattanooganow2011

A cyclist speeds through a scenic route on top of Signal Mountain. Staff File Photo by Allison Carter

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The bicycling community in the Chattanooga area has grown significantly in recent years with many organized rides for road and mountain bike riders of all ability levels.

The Tour de Georgia pro bicycle race, which featured many of the top racers in the world, made several stops in Chattanooga and north Georgia during its existence before the race was suspended following the 2008 race.

Area cyclists took advantage of the interest and excitement generated by the Tour de Georgia and other events and have worked to make the city one of the most bicycle-friendly towns in the Southeast.

Among the top annual events for cyclists in the area is the 3-State, 3-Mountain Challenge, a 100-mile ride that starts and ends in downtown Chattanooga and takes riders over three mountain climbs.

For mountain bike enthusiasts, the local chapter of the Southeast Off-Road Bicycle Organization works to build trails and promote riding and competitive racing throughout the area.

MOUNTAIN BIKING TRAILS

Booker T. Washington State Park: This park in Hamilton County features a 5.56-mile singletrack trail that is a challenging ride for intermediate level mountain bikers. Cyclists attempting the trail should have the skills to safely negotiate steep climbs, roots, and rocks.

* Directions: Take I-24 or I-75 to Highway 153. From Highway 153 go to Highway 58. Follow Highway 58 north to Champion Road on the left and follow the signs.

Edward's Point: A combination of single track, double track and badly rutted jeep road on top of Signal Mountain.

* Directions: Take Corridor J (U.S. 27) north to the Signal Mountain exit and continue up the mountain. Take a sharp left turn at the top of the mountain just before the traffic light. Follow this road until you come to a five-way intersection near a golf course. Turn left on Timberlinks. Continue on Timberlinks over a new bridge. At the top of the hill past the new bridge look for some power lines. The main trail head is on the left just before the power lines.

Enterprise South Nature Park: The park features 25 miles of hiking, mountain biking and ADA accessible trails, both paved and unpaved.

* Directions: Take I-75 north to Exit 9, Volkswagen Drive. Then go right at the roundabout to the visitors center and park entrance on the right.

Harrison Bay: Harrison Bay State Park offers 4.3 miles of trail riding. It is a wonderful beginner site but also good for the experienced rider. The loop can be ridden multiple times. Most of the trail follows along the back of Chickamauga Lake. There are no long climbs but a few short steep ones.

* Directions: From Highway 153 go east on Highway 58. Continue past the turn to Booker T. Washington State Park. Take a left at the sign to Harrison Bay State Park. Go to parking area around to the left past the marina. The trail starts at the right side of this lot.

Lookout Mountain Guild-Hardy Trail: This is a walking and biking trail on the side of Lookout Mountain. The trail was built on the historic route of the C&LM Broad Gauge Railroad and follows its path up the mountain.

* Directions: From downtown Chattanooga, take Broad Street to Lookout Mountain by following Cummings Highway to a left onto Scenic Highway. The Ruby Falls, Cravens House and Scenic Highway trailheads are accessible from Scenic Highway.

Lula Lake Land Trust: The Lula Lake Land Trust, established by the will of Robert M. Davenport in January of 1994, is a 4,000-acre preserve on Lookout Mountain, off Lula Lake Road. Every first and last Saturday of the month, the Trust opens its lands to the public, allowing hiking, mountain biking and picnicking from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* Directions: Allow 25 minutes driving time. Take Highway 58 South from St. Elmo up Lookout Mountain to a T-intersection with Lula Lake Road; turn left and go 4.5 miles to the gravel drive entrance marked on the left. Follow the gravel drive to an area marked for parking.

Raccoon Mountain: This trail system is being developed by the Chattanooga Chapter of SORBA in partnership with TVA, supported by Outdoor Chattanooga and with technical assistance from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program.

* Directions: Take I-24 west to exit 175. Go right on Brown's Ferry Road 1 mile left to Elder Mountain Road, 2 miles left just past TVA signs; bear left at stop sign, through automatic gate 1.5 miles to top of mountain.

ROAD BIKING

Chickamauga Battlefield: A 13-mile ride through the national military park just south of Fort Oglethorpe. On this bike ride you can see many historic and scenic sites.

* Directions: The main park's visitor center is 1 mile south from the intersection of Highway 2 (Battlefield Parkway) and Highway 27 in Fort Oglethorpe. The Lookout Mountain Battlefield visitor center is on East Brow Road atop Lookout Mountain in Tennessee.

Montlake-Suck Creek Mountain Loop: This 62.5-mile ride takes you over two tough climbs of Walden's Ridge, a twisty 3-miler out of Soddy-Daisy and a tough 4.5-mile ascent from Powell's Crossroads in the Sequatchie Valley. You're rewarded by two great descents and a rolling, scenic ride down the beautiful Sequatchie Valley.

* Directions: The ride starts at the Mountain Creek Kmart at the corner of Signal Mountain and Mountain Creek roads. Contact Outdoor Chattanooga or the Chattanooga Bike Club for details on this challenging ride.

CYCLING CLUBS AND ORGANIZATIONS

Bike Chattanooga: An advocacy group working on improving cycling access and education in the area. The Bicycle Task Force and Bike2Work initiative are among this group's activities. Learn more at www.bikechattanooga.org

Chattanooga Bicycle Club: This is an organization for those interested in both mountain and road cycling, trail construction and maintenance. This group puts on the annual 3-State, 3-Mountain Challenge ride and the Sequatchie Valley Century. Learn more at www.chattbike.com.

Chattanooga Bike Polo: This group promotes the play of bicycle polo. Weekly games are held at the First Tennessee Pavilion. Learn more at chattanoogabikepolo.blogspot.com.

n Scenic City Velo: This is a citywide, competition-oriented cycling club geared more toward those who want to be involved in bike racing, both road and mountain biking. The club helps riders with training, development and promoting sanctioned races. Several club teams are organized under this organization. Learn more at www.sceniccityvelo.com.

SORBA Chattanooga Chapter: This is an organization that helps keep mountain biking trails open and maintained. The group works with land managers and policy makers to develop fair and responsible policies governing the use of public and private lands and constructs and maintains mountain biking trails throughout the region. Learn more at www.sorbachattanooga.org.

Velo Vixens Cycling Club: This is a local organization devoted to the development of women cyclists and multisport athletes. Club members mentor female athletes as they train for competition. Learn more at www.velovixens.net.