East Bound and Down: Harrisonburg, Virginia

Oct 12, 2017
by Brice Shirbach  




Views: 5,319    Faves: 17    Comments: 0


There is an ever evolving narrative in mountain biking that has me excited: communities looking to our sport and community as an economic and social asset. It's a dynamic that we as mountain bikers should be proud of, as it's often a reflection of the countless hours spent trail building, advocating, and meeting with land managers that have really given our community of mountain cyclists so much leverage throughout the country. It's a theme I have written about and witnessed for many years now, and places such as East Burke, Vermont; Roanoke, Virginia; and Davis, West Virginia are but a few of the growing list of towns on the east coast alone that look to their riders and trails for inspiration and economic growth. It's a trend that I hope to see continue, as I love writing about these places and the critical thinkers who make them what they are today, and really enjoy the idea of a town "buying" in on mountain biking. Harrisonburg, Virginia, for the record, is not one of these places. The riding community that has been developed here isn't the result of, or the stimulus behind the city's growth. The town itself is doing just fine with or without bikes. No, Harrisonburg's brilliant, and dynamic cycling opportunities are homegrown, and it's one of my favorite things about this place.

When I am in planning mode for this series of stories, I like to break potential locations down into three categories: "under the radar", "up and coming", and "no brainer". Harrisonburg has been a categorically "no brainer" location for East Bound & Down from the start. In fact, it's one of those places where my confidence is so high in it's ability to deliver the goods, I've made a concerted effort to seek out as many other locales as possible, instead of heading straight for the proverbial low hanging fruit. However, I'm on Interstate 81 virtually every time I head south to ride, and more often than not, I drive right past the many Harrisonburg exits that occupy that long, straight, and dull highway. Massanutten stands as a jutting beacon of glory to the east. The vast backcountry peaks of the George Washington National Forest catch the eye to the west. It's often difficult to justify the hours spent on that highway when I could just stop and play here. I fought. I resisted. I've had some incredible experiences well south of "The Valley". In the end, though, I had to give in. This place is just unbeatable.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
Harrisonburg's population is just a touch over 53,000 strong, and is Travel and Leisure Magazine's 6th favorite town in America.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
The Friday night six-pack series runs from September through November, and celebrates some of the region's best descents, in the company of some of its best people.

"The Burg" is located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, flanked to the east by Shenandoah National Park, and to the west by the absolutely massive George Washington National Forest. The city is home roughly 53,000 people, of which 20,000 are students at James Madison University. It's a place I've long held near and dear to my heart, as much of my family comes from this part of the country. In fact, I was named after a nearby mountain resort about 40 miles to the north of town, which coincidentally, is now a bike park.

The mountain bike scene here is one of the oldest in the country, and has a long list of talented riders who call, or have called, this place home over the last few decades. When you get out on any of the hundreds of miles of trail here, the how's and why's of the technical proficiency, as well as the power and fitness of the local contingency, become immediately apparent. Outside of the Massanutten and Bryce bike parks, both of which are relatively new additions to the region, the thousands of feet of technical, picturesque, and legendary descending must first be climbed. Shuttling isn't necessarily frowned upon, it is simply just not a part of the local lexicon. In recent years, trail systems have sprouted up in downtown at the Hillendale trail system, as well as on the western slopes of Massanutten, both of which provide quick access to riding that suits a wider range of mountain bikers. But Harrisonburg's reputation was built by locals, for locals, and while its scene continues to grow and evolve, its origins remain intact and relevant even today.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Sandwiched between two massive ridgeline mountain ranges, the Shenandoah Valley has an abundance of fertile farmland, which helps explain why Harrisonburg and the rest of Rockingham County is the top agriculture-producing county in the state..

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Shuttles aren't the most common occurrence in these here parts, but I was grateful to not have to haul 30lbs of camera gear up Reddish, as our 10-mile descent alone took the better part of four hours.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
West Virginia, along with some sort of secret government spy base, a.k.a. Sugar Grove Naval Base, loom in the distance. Some of the very best trails you'll ever drop in on loom directly ahead.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
This is just the start of an 11+ mile long descent. Not an inch of it is anything less than amazing.

"You don’t really know what you’re doing early on when it comes to the development of a mountain bike culture." Chris Scott tells me from a swimming hole near the Stokesville Lodge and Campground. "There’s no end-game focus. Those of us who were a part of the community early on just wanted to figure out how we could get more folks out to ride. We came up with a “Dollar Downhill” idea, where we’d go around campus (James Madison), and place flyers on any somewhat nice looking bike we saw. We invited folks out to ride downhill with us. Everyone pitches in a dollar, and the winner takes all. It was awesome, and people really loved it. We added some trail work to the equation, and things along those lines, and it really helped us shape the community and bring people together."

Chris is the owner of the aforementioned Stokesville Lodge, which in addition to being perhaps the most appropriately named mountain bike business...ever, is located just outside of Harrisonburg in, you guessed it, Stokesville, Virginia. Chris has long been one of the most influential figures in mountain biking on the east coast, and is responsible for more shenanigans and stories then we have room for on the internet, as well as some of the world's most challenging endurance events including the Shenandoah Mountain 100, the Wilderness 101, and the Stoopid 50. He's in his 20th year of running Shenandoah Mountain Touring, and his relatively new venture, the Stokesville operation, sits on the edge of the George Washington National Forest. Just outside of his door lies hundreds of miles of big mountain, backcountry adventure waiting for you. Chris came to Harrisonburg in the early nineties to be a part of what was then an emerging scene. While he's had plenty of opportunities to travel around the world, racing and riding his bike all over Europe and North America, Harrisonburg and the surrounding area are too much a part of his DNA for him to consider calling anywhere else home.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Stokesville's dreamy nature is the result of a lot of hard work from this man.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Chris Scott might call Harrisonburg home, but the respect for what he's done for mountain biking is known around the world.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Sharing the forest isn't an issue in this part of the country.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Shuttle or no, bring your climbing legs. There's a reason Harrisonburg is or has been home to so many elite riders.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Kyle Lawrence wears many hats: father, husband, SVBC President, and commuter advocate are just a few. Oh yes, he's also a pinner.

"The bike riding, the mountains, and the emergence of a scene brought me to Harrisonburg many years ago." he says from the shores of the North River, which snakes its way through his property and the surrounding valley. "People like Mike Carpenter and Thomas Jenkins really shaped what has become a hotspot for riding on the east coast."

We're discussing the "early days" of the community here, and there's a grin that comes with any story or recollection Chris shares with me during this discussion.

"I loved the feeling that would come with following a dotted line on a map, and going out in search of that specific trailhead. There’s nothing like surfing down a mountain for the very first time. You never really knew what was in store for you, there were no pictures of it, no blogs about the trail; you were kind of adventuring. We began to find trails that weren’t even on the map. I loved that sense of adventure."

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Harlan Price enjoys skipping stones.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
This place rocks.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Reddish will leave you hankering for a sammy, and a cold one. Or two.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Near the top of Massanutten you'll find this hang glider platform, which looks west over Harrisonburg, and Shenandoah Mountain. Rumors abound of flights reaching close to Philadelphia from this platform.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
The western slopes of Massanutten offer a picturesque glimpse into the modestly stunning Appalachian countryside.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
Scott Wootten is beloved by locals and visitors to the region alike. The Massanutten Bike Park lead supervisor and his pooch, Fflur, take a break from the lifts on the other side of the ridge and let 'er rip down the "2,000 Hours" trail.

Chris isn't alone in that sentiment. Thomas Jenkins has been living in Harrisonburg since the early 90’s. He's the co-owner of the Shenandoah Bicycle Company, which opened its doors in 2000. He's played several roles in his community, which includes co-founding the mountain bike club, which would eventually become the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, a step he was an integral component to. He also sat on the Harrisonburg City Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, as well as the JMU Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. During my time in town, Thomas' was typically the first name that would come up whenever the conversation went in the direction of people responsible for making Harrisonburg what it is today.

"It sends chills down my spine when I think back to this place in the early nineties." Thomas tells me. We were talking at his shop before the doors opened for the day's business. "Even the late eighties, when I first came to Harrisonburg to ride bikes. There weren’t many mountain bike scenes back in the late eighties, but I had a roommate who brought me up here to ride, and it opened my eyes to real mountain riding. I hadn’t seen it before. Bike riding was why I decided to move here in 1992. The people are really what caused me to stay.

It's clear that Thomas and the rest of this community value the opportunities that have come from building a trusting and meaningful relationship with local land managers, including the National Forest Service. It might have been a nebulous and fuzzy arrangement early on, but this crew was quick to recognize the gold mine they were sitting on, and weren't about to take that for granted.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
Thomas' roots go deep in these here parts. Some say that enduro even got its start here. The truth is somewhere in those notes.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Massanutten's bike park offers up close to 1,100 vertical feet of classic, Virginia tech.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
"All or Nutten" is the newest experts only trail from the top of the mountain, and has a decidedly raw and rowdy feel to it.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
20 years ago, this pile of rocks made up the start for Massanutten World Cup downhill course.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
If there was any roost to toss, Harlan Price would be throwing a few grenades into this corner.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
A bit of flow towards the mid-mountain helps to break up the otherwise jackhammer tech that makes up most of the advanced riding here.

"In the early 90’s, it was all about exploring and building relationships." Thomas notes. "Now, there’s certainly a lot more information available, but that wasn't always the case. You used to have to pick people’s brains, or open up a poor quality map and go looking for trails. It was really huge to come across a trail with some friends, and we’d always say “Don’t tell anyone!”. You go to a party later, and someone is saying “Yeah, I heard about the new trail you guys found!”. Of course you couldn’t contain your excitement. Now, it’s now something we want to keep to ourselves. We love sharing it. We also love to share the community. We’re as much about the riding as we are about hanging out together. I want to see that continue to develop.

"Our riding opportunities have increased due to strong partnerships. Partnering with the city, and taking what was considered scrubbed woods and turning it into a really cool, in-town trail system. Our relationship with Massanutten has helped us develop the Western Slope trails from what was in the early nineties essentially off limits, to now this completely awesome trail system. The nearby resorts have seen our growth, and in turn have taken the opportunity to grow their own systems for some lift access riding. There’s still a very real backcountry experience here, and where I think most of the growth has occurred has been on what might be considered the front range. We want to create cyclists; people with a passion for riding bikes. I think one of the magical things about a bike is that you can connect with people that you might now have otherwise connected with.

"I don’t think that I was a part of the 'first layer' of our mountain bike community here. There were people here before me discovering and exploring the trails on mountain bikes. We touched base with them. My generation of folks, myself, Chris Scott, Tim Richardson, Mike Carpenter, those are the people who were not just motivated to ride, but motivated to get stuff done. Now, Kyle is here and he’s a great leader for the community. I think the challenge now is trying to figure out how to build on what we’ve done up until this point."

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Lower on the mountain you'll find plenty of fun, flowy options for those not looking to push their bikes and bodies to the limit.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Hopping on the lifts in the fall means sharing them with the leaf peepers here to take in some of the most beautiful foliage anywhere in the country.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
There are three shops in the heart of downtown, and all of them work together to cultivate and build a strong cycling community, and often collaborate on projects and initiatives.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
While the downtown area doesn't have much in terms of lodging currently, the Stonewall Jackson B&B is within walking distance to loads of restaurants and attractions, has plenty of room for you and your bikes, with fast wi-fi, and of course, some mouth watering breakfasts to fuel your days of adventure.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
The Shenandoah Valley boasts upwards of 300 miles of "Scenic Byway" roads, and some of them will take you directly into the heart of one of the east coast's most fabled treasures, the George Washington National Forest.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
These deep woods offer some incredible and challenging singletrack, and can take your breath away, literally and figuratively.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Jeremiah Bishop has put many long hours into training to become one of the most accomplished endurance racers on the planet, and credits his home of Harrisonburg for much of his success.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
Elizabeth Annie moved here for moments like this on Bird Knob.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
When riding in the Valley, remember that what goes up...

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
...Must come down. Always, always remember that.

Harrisonburg has been a cornerstone of Kyle Lawrence's life for the better part of 15 years. Kyle attended JMU, where he met his wife. Like many riders in the area, Kyle fell in love with what Harrisonburg and the rest of the Valley offered, and he stayed put upon graduation. Kyle and his wife, Whitney, are now parents to a very charming baby boy, and are both incredibly active in the cycling community here. In fact, Kyle is the president of the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, an organization that a few years back saw the convergence of both the local mountain bike association and the local road riding club. In a town with world class trail and road riding, it makes sense for the two disciplines to work together in order to more effectively weave cycling into the fabric of the community.

"The Coalition really is a special organization," Kyle says. "because it’s more than just a bike club. It represents everything biking for Harrisonburg and the rest of the Shenandoah Valley. While mountain biking has always been a big emphasis from the coalition, we’re also focused on getting more kids on bikes, and people in general on them. Greenways around town, and better road riding opportunities are also big points of emphasis for us. This approach allows us to really cross pollinate different types of riding. Mountain biking happens to be one of the better gateway drugs to cycling. We get people hooked on it, and then they’re willing to try other things. We’re really lucky to have a community where everyone coalesces under one umbrella, and that really adds some legitimacy to our organization, and that’s the key to our success."

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
I could barely believe it when I found myself on flow in the GW National Forest. Short lived flow to be sure.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
The truth is, flow comes in many forms, and sometimes you just need a bit of body english to find it.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Thomas Jenkins has been at it for longer than the average Pinkbike reader has been alive.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
It was a real pleasure getting to spend so much time on the trails with this collective.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Chris leads a select contingent of riders down the Tillman West trail with a decided sense of urgency.

I asked Kyle about the next step for the community, with such a storied history, and ever increasing opportunities for trail access, and a rapidly growing cycling infrastructure, his own role could easily become an overwhelming responsibility.

"We know that we’re at a crucial point where the Coalition has increased its reach exponentially over the past few years." he tells me with an unassuming confidence to his words. "We’re growing geographically, and have expanded into other counties. We’re leveraging our partnership with the national forest, and are now working with 1.2 million acres of forest. We’re involved with land use planning in the city and county, and we’re involved with national forest planning. We know that we’re going to need to increase our capacity. That’s going to come with paid staff. That staff will continue the work that we’re doing so that everyone is having fun, but also will take some of the load off of our volunteer base. There is a lot of behind the scenes work that isn’t always very fun, and we want to make sure that the volunteers don’t necessarily have to spend their after work hours dealing with those types of issues.

"Expanding our geographic reach is also a priority. More people under the umbrella of the Coalition means a stronger voice, and better resources. We also see a vision for the Shenandoah Valley to be a bike capital. Whether it’s for Virginia or the World, you have to dream big and we want to empower more people to be able to ride bikes. Whether it’s through our Bicycles for Refugees program, where recent refugees get bicycles, or whether it’s for a kid in school, or someone who picks up a mountain bike for the first time. We just want people to ride bikes more."

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
Kyle's own generosity and passion for Harrisonburg cycling is reciprocated by the very community he works so hard for.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Make no mistake, the George Washington National Forest certainly presents its fair share of challenging terrain, but this place is like Disneyland for willing riders.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
Harrisonburg is truly a cornerstone on the east coast for cyclists of any-and-all disciplines, and any-and-all ages.

It's always exciting to see opportunities arise because of mountain biking. I think it speaks to just how potent our sport is, and how empowering it can be for towns and cities, particularly as mountain bikes become more and more of a resource and commodity for a growing number of municipalities. I also think that it says something when a place like Harrisonburg can have a thriving mountain bike and cycling community, and it isn't seen as a tourism-based need. Instead, it is something that has been cultivated and developed to service and empower residents first, with visitation and tourism falling in line from there. A commodity can be many things to many people and places. For some, it's a resource that might be the primary economic driver for their respective region. For others such as Harrisonburg, it's very much a quality of life affair. Interestingly enough, it's this community-first approach that makes Harrisonburg such a profoundly brilliant place to visit and ride bikes. Kyle, who is now wrapping up his 7th straight year as the Coalition president, makes no bones about it.

"I think what is super cool about this place is that cycling and riding is a lifestyle here," he says. "It’s also a quality of life asset. Instead of tourism dollars per se, the Coalition here is focused on empowering people here with bikes. Whether it’s for fun, or work, or getting around town, it’s about providing a range of opportunities that for people in Harrisonburg. We’re intentional with what we do, and how we do it. We get to shape this community for ourselves; it’s not about a need for visitation. We still encourage people to come and check us out, and we love having people here, but we’re building this community for ourselves."

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
Trail building is a language we can all understand.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
The next generation is already preparing to take the torch.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg Virginia
East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
The SVBC has worked hard to demystify all forms of cycling, whether its done in the backcountry or in downtown.

East Bound amp Down Harrisonburg VA
Opportunities abound high and low in the Valley.




EB&D: Harrisonburg, VA Information

Please visit the Harrisonburg Tourism Website for additional travel and lodging information.

Here's some information on Stokesville Lodge and Campground, as well as Shenandoah Mountain Touring.

Harlan Price is a bike ninja! He runs Take Aim Cycling, and he can help make you a better rider!

There are three amazing bike shops right in town! Be sure to pay them a visit! The Shenandoah Bicycle Company, Bluestone Bike and Run, and Rocktown Bicycles have the gear, service, and beta you need for a great trip to town.

Special thanks to the good people at the Stonewall Jackson Inn for the hospitality, and the amazing breakfasts throughout my stay in Harrisonburg!




72 Comments

  • + 30
 The West get's all the attention but it's great to see another gem of the East coast highlighted. It's not half as crowded as trails out West so you can actually let that trailbike rip on the downhills without dozens of newbies pedaling up at you
  • + 53
 There's absolutely nothing to see here on the East Coast. Please load all your bikes up and go to the West. Absolutely nothing for you here.
  • + 3
 The West is the best -Jim Morrison
  • + 1
 @Elspecialized: personally I love the West for motorized toys. Spent a lot of time in Mojave area kicking up dust and jumping cactus. I can't really say I ever enjoyed riding my pedal bike out there. As for the four wheeler and dirt bike that's a completely different story. Nothing like a good desert party with the Moto militia.
  • + 1
 @properp: it's hard to take your irony seriously when you live in Florida. There is great riding on the east coast but it's not there
  • + 1
 @chrisclifford: I have this crazy thing called a van and it takes me all over the country. Just because I own a house on the beach doesn't mean I live here 365 days a year.
  • + 1
 @chrisclifford: I have Road in all 48 Continental states in the United States. Florida has some of phenomenal riding . If you've never rode Alafaya State Park or Santos / vortex I guess you really don't know what you're talking about.
  • + 28
 Always enjoy the contrast between @briceshirbach posts and the standard industry look-at-me edits. This doesn't just talk about trails but also brings the community to life while introducing history while also giving tributes to the one's who keep the trails going. Thanks for keeping the quality level high.
  • + 6
 This.
  • + 8
 Hey Brice another great piece, thanks for banging these out. You and I met at kingdom enduro 3-4 years ago, if you ever cross the border hit me up and come check out Rockwood park in Saint John New Brunswick, you’ll love it
  • + 2
 Always looking for future spots!
  • + 1
 @briceshirbach: cmon up. Great fall riding now. We’re just about to open a new trail that imba helped us design in the spring.
  • + 7
 I grew up in Richmond Va, a couple hours east of there. Harrisonburg was my first taste of true mountain biking. People from that area are cut from a different cloth than most humans, they are absolute beasts over there. What they consider average rides would shut down or destroy a lot of solid riders. I try to make it up there and test my resolve at least once year.
  • + 5
 Traveled to Harrisonburg from upstate New York last spring to get a jump on the season. Tillman west and Lookout Mountain were amazing. I will definitely be making it an annual pilgrimage. I have been to Pisgah and Dupont in previous years, but no sense driving that much further when Harrisonburg is so awesome!
  • + 5
 Harrissonburg area is just awesome. We start our mtb season there for 3 years now (I live on the south side of Montreal).

April weather is perfect. The trails are dry, trees are blooming and so on..

Hundred of miles of trails just at the door. From old school epic rides with long climbs and long descents to new school machine built trails and a mix of both.

Dont hesitate to give it a try. That worth it.
  • + 7
 If you choose any shop other than SBC, you're a cop.
  • + 4
 SBC: best bike shop in the galaxy.
  • + 5
 This made my day. So if they don't shop at SBC, I'd assume they know all of the Gatorade flavour names too?
  • + 3
 Thanks for this, Brice. I grew up in WV and have been out West for almost 10 years, but always get a tear in my eye when I see your photos/words from this series. I especially loved that piece on Davis - such a cool place, with some of the best people on earth! Keep 'em comin!
  • + 5
 Harlan Price IS a bike ninja. Sad he left Philly, Harrisonburg's lucky to have him.
  • + 2
 I planned to stay a week this Summer and left after a couple of days. I had been through the nice little town of Harrisonburg before and really had regretted not being able to ride there. Riding there this Summer had moments of pure bliss for sure. However, many of the trails were very overgrown and poorly maintained. I know that will tick off a lot of people and I am sorry. I was early season so maybe they get at it late. I got absolutely shredded by brush. I do not mind adventure rides and I did not feel the rides were overly difficult so this is not ability not pairing up well. Many of the rides involved big dirt road climbs. This article gives props for the rides being a short drive away but there are plenty of great places you do not need to get in the vehicle or do so far less. Camping, driving and parking can be pretty darn sketch too. I might be a bit jaded as was nearly killed by an oncoming truck sideways at high speed on a backroad. Considering the news lately, probably should not be surprised by the politics of the area with the amount of confederate flags everywhere there. This is not the first very positive article on the area that I have read raving about the scene. I very well may have had bad luck. Harrisonburg has some really nice services. People were friendly. I generally try not to post negatives on PB. I just feel, like any road trip, be prepared to have a different experience. Be ready to move on if it is not working for you.
  • + 4
 Appreciate the honest insight. I grew up an hour north. The deciduous forests grow so quickly on the east coast that it's incredibly hard to keep low-traffic trails in good condition (fun fact: the Pisgah/Smokeys area is actually a temperate rainforest). That's pretty much a given if you ride in the south eastern appalachians, as is very, very rocky and techy trails. The politics is for real though and it's an increasingly sore subject. Beautiful country, literally overgrowing with life and it is the definition of pastoral, but it's filled with a lot of people holding on to some seriously old and offensive ideas (the confederacy went kaput 150 years ago). You won't see as much of it in the cities and some of the finest people you will ever meet live in Virginia, but in the rural areas it's kind of insane. Don't want this to be a political post but people from other parts of the country/world who go on bike trips in the south are going to see a lot of that stuff.
  • + 4
 @ethanm Some trails certainly do get overgrown in the summer months, especially with a super wet spring. Mind sharing what you rode? It would help others and those of us who live here in Harrisonburg.
  • + 4
 I hear ya Ethanm. That's one reason we are starting a Trail Adoption Program here. So many trails that are hard to keep up with!
  • + 6
 "Shendore" or Shouldn't doer? That is the question.
  • + 2
 I credit Kyle and the many others in Harrisonburg for getting me on a bike. My first mountain bike ride was on Kyle Lawrence’s spare hardtail in 2004. We rode the Massanutten ridgeline. Rough day, but a few months later I was on the starting line at W101 and the Shenandoah 100. This community really is an awesome place.
  • + 2
 I've had some of the best mountain biking experiences of my life in Harrisonburg. Super fun (and hard!) trails, but above all extremely welcoming locals, who were nice enough to take me on a few group rides, and share some beers afterwards. Shenandoah Bicycle is also one of the friendliest shops around--literally from the moment I stepped inside, the staff had maps put, giving me the dirt on the local trails. How many shops do that!? I may be a PNW rider, but I'll always have a soft spot for Hburg.
  • + 2
 I love Harrisonburg and it's massive trail system! Nothing beats primitive camping and then climbing to the top of Lookout or Narrowback and then descending miles and miles of pure bliss. It's certainly challenging, but it's also some of, if not the most, rewarding riding you'll ever do. I grew up less than an hour north of Harrisonburg and wish I had started riding when I was younger so I could have experienced more of it.
  • + 2
 Wow, the day after this was published, I left Philly to camp & ride Harrisonburg for my bachelor party. We rode half of Narrow Back Mountain on Friday, shuttled Reddish Knob on Saturday, and rode the other half of Narrow Back on Sunday, and camped at Todd Lake. I've ridden this area before, but it's been a while. Man, the work the local crew has done on the lower trails is incredible! It made for three perfect days. Rough, natural ridge-running at the top of each trail, then perfect roller coasters at the bottom with high speed dip-n-dives and hand-built rock gardens to blast through. I've been re-living those rides in my head ever since I got back, stuck behind a computer at work. Kudos to the local crew. Hope to be back soon!
  • + 2
 this is where i grew up MTB racing... the XC races were 2hrs of this narrow rocky single track with no suspension and 4 finger useless brakes... if you were dead last your ass was kicked.. and if you won your ass was kicked... i would love to go back and ride there one day...
  • + 1
 One of the best parts of living where I do is being 2.5 hours from Harrisonburg! I am in awe of the community they've got going down there and take every chance I get to be a part of it. Keep up the awesome work dudes, maybe I'll make it official one of these days and move on down!
  • + 2
 Awesome article! The riding in Harrisonburg is amazing. 4 years at JMU didn’t give me enough riding haha. Going to try to squeeze a ride in while I’m down there this weekend.
  • + 5
 That's Scott Wootten btw. These East Bound articles are great. Thanks.
  • + 2
 Wootten. Two t's. Count them. One. Two. Boom you're a journalist.
  • + 2
 Lived in Aspen , Ashville,NC ,Shepherdstown WV & The Burg has the BEST MTN BIKING . Thanks in a Big Part to Shenandoah Bicycle Company, Bryce Resort, Massanutten Resort and The Wild Men & Women of Stokesville ,Va
  • + 3
 @BriceShirbach Another banger EBD! Thanks to you and Pinkbike we have seen folks as far away as Canada make it to the dying coal and lumber town of Davis, WV.! Cheers
  • + 1
 I ridden here a couple times, always had a blast. Want to make it to the DH race one of these years. Is the log cabin BBQ near the main resort entrance still open? Had some great meals there too!
  • + 3
 Chris Scott of Stokesville Lodge has done alot too . Great place to ride a variety of terrian.
  • + 1
 Cool story. I usually just tube down the river on memorial day with a cooler; last year I brought my bike though. I have to get deeper!

Also, you mentioned the bit about being "the first layer" twice.
  • + 3
 Proud to call Harrisonburg home, thanks for sharing some of our story, Brice!
  • + 3
 Looks like you're Trails Rock. Next time I visit Snowshoe I will try to stop in and give them a shred. Looking forward to it.
  • + 2
 @briceshirbach The landscape photo with the cow in the field is absolutely beautiful!
  • + 1
 Thanks, man! The whole place is very easy on the eyes!
  • + 1
 Such a great place , even little Hillendale park has a super fun pumptrack. Thanks for a great right up on a seriously awesome place.
  • + 2
 I didn't hear much about the town. Is the town cool? Food? Cool bars? Music? Good people?
  • + 2
 If you want to gamble on catching venereal diseases there are a lot of college bars around JMU. Outside the college area there are a lot of good restaurants and awesome breweries. All the locals I've interacted with are good people.
  • + 3
 Great question. We have all that as well. Just too much bike stuff to talk about in the piece. The combination of cool small town with everything that Brice highlights is really a big part of the appeal. Check out: downtownharrisonburg.org for more info on downtown Harrisonburg
  • + 2
 Food options are endless. Ethiopian (Blue Nile, sadly closed), German (Black Forest), Indian (Taj of India or Indian American Cafe), Thai (Taste of Thai), Mexican (There a few El Charos) , Indonesian (Boboko @Ice House) as well some standard burger and fry options. I really like Food Bar Food. The best IMO is the Little Grill Collective which is worker owned. I believe they close Mondays and run as a soup kitchen. You can also wash down all of that riding with a deep fried Oreo and beer (100+ craft options) at Jack Browns. Harrisonburg is such a great community. They even have a food bank. Crazy for a town under 100k population.
  • + 1
 @Kyle-Lawrence: SBC was sold out on SVBC socks last time Keri and I were down. Willing to ship?
  • + 1
 @herbie-glick: No more socks these days. But we do have trucker hats for sale...
  • + 1
 Harrisonburg is amazing. Great food, bars, and local beer. Even a good music scene.
  • + 1
 Was at Bryce this summer with my 10 yr old(drove from near philly). Hoping to come back and check out massanutten and some of the local trails.
  • - 3
 Don't bother with Massanutten Bike Park. Stick with Bryce or the west side of Massanutten Mtn. or head west to GWNF.
  • + 2
 I misread the caption on Chris Wootten, couldn’t see the dog and assumed they were naming that tash Fflur lol
  • + 3
 Excellent longer-form reporting. Well done, sir.
  • + 2
 ahh...not a single mention of e*bikes, err, motorcycles.

awesome article.
  • + 2
 Beats the crap outta denver
  • + 3
 Home State Reppin!
  • + 1
 All I got to ride when I was over there was Wakefield, Fountain Head, and the Lake Fairfax trail system. So sad.
  • + 1
 At least looking at Trailforks it appears most of these trails are driving distance from town?
  • + 1
 Yup. Most of them are under an hour from town. All depends on whether or not you get stuck behind a horse and buggy or a tractor.
  • + 3
 It's not unheard of to ride to the trails from town for a truly epic day
  • + 1
 yea you have to go west and south just a bit. a lot of this is between Staunton and Harrisonburg (west of 81).
  • + 4
 The Massanutten Western Slope Trails are 7 miles from downtown. The Wolf Trail parking lot (bottom of Reddish Knob and Narrowback) is a 30-minute drive. Stokesville (Lookout Mountain and many other trails) is a 35-minute drive from town. Bird Knob ride is a 30-minute drive from town. Even the bike park at Massanutten is only a 30-minute drive from downtown. Every trail that Brice rode was closer to 30 minutes from downtown.
  • + 1
 Thanks folks. I'm always searching for potential future residencies where I can ride to work and trail from my back door while living downtown. Looks like Harrisonburg might not meet that criteria.
  • + 2
 @PHeller: Western Slope riding on Massanutten is definitely within riding distance from town. Beautiful roads that lead there too.
  • + 2
 Was looking into going next year. Thanks for the recon
  • + 1
 So much rock! Awesome. For the SW Ontarians, this isn't much further than Kingdom.
  • + 1
 8.5 hours door to door from Riverdale/Toronto.
  • + 1
 @herbie-glick: on the list for sure!
  • + 1
 Sammy and a cold one.... Yummies
  • + 1
 ..Dope!

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