The Stoke is an occasional opinion series highlighting the things that get us stoked about mountain biking. 🤘 👍 👏 🙏
“I was surprised to find they actually have good mountain bike trails there.”
Singletracks has likely written something to this effect many times over the years, and those who travel have probably said the same thing following a visit to the Midwest, or Florida, or Bentonville before it was Bentonville. After covering the best mountain bike destinations for more than two decades I think it’s safe to say this phrase has become cliché. Of course they have great trails here; there are great trails everywhere!
It wasn’t always this way. Twenty years ago, few purpose-built bike trails existed, and having good trails was mostly a matter of luck. IMBA really gave things a jump in 2004 when the Trail Solutions Guide to Building Sweet Singletrack was published. This served as a guide that communities and trail builders could use to implement best practices, and create more trails that people wanted to ride. Around the same time trail builders were also starting to use the internet to see what others were doing and to share what they learned, allowing sweet singletrack to spread like wildflowers.
Alongside the ability to share knowledge came an explosion in professional trail building services. Outfits like Rock Solid and Gravity Logic gained experience building trails across the U.S. and Canada, bringing a world-class level of quality design to any community willing to invest in trails.
In some ways the idea that certain places have good trails while others don’t is elitist. Okay, maybe that’s too harsh; it’s just a close-minded perspective. Personally I love big climbs and big descents. But to assume that fun mountain bike rides are limited to just that type of riding is really missing out. It turns out that there are so many great MTB rides that don’t involve much, if any, elevation. Anyone who has ridden a pump track knows this; just imagine a ribbon of singletrack that does the same thing, a veritable pump track across the plains. Those types of trails can and do exist, everywhere from the coasts to the heartland.
Ditto for needing massive tracts of wide open land. Don’t get me wrong, I love riding in wild, remote places and immersing myself in nature. But that doesn’t mean I won’t also have a blast riding close to town in Knoxville, or Bentonville, or Bellingham. By now, riders and trail builders have adapted the mountain bike experience to fit every environment imaginable, much like the strange and beautiful sea creatures that have evolved to live thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean. They may look a little unusual, but man are they cool!
Of course trails don’t build themselves and truly excellent trails take extra effort and investment to build and maintain. Fortunately many communities around the world have committed themselves to creating great bike trails, and not only to attract tourism dollars. Today it’s just as common to see local governments, non-profits, and even businesses funding quality trail projects to benefit local residents from young professionals and families to scholastic mountain bike athletes. With proper funding it’s really just a matter of phoning up a professional trail builder, Domino’s pizza style, and having them build fun trails wherever you like. Luckily for us, places all over the world have been doing just that for a while now.
So don’t be surprised if you find great mountain bike trails wherever you are. Today the stoke is everywhere.