Early this spring, far too early to ride bikes in the Northeast, I got the itch to ride somewhere great. Usually, the cure for this is to pack up my bike, fly to Moab and shred with my homies in the land of the watered-down beer. This year was a little different with the arrival of my son William in January. It’s hard to leave him for a day of work, much less an occupation of Moab. I needed to find a spot within driving distance from New York that had awesome trails and nice early season weather.
I had heard great things about Brevard, North Carolina from more than a few well-traveled riders. Last year on a trip with Jeff Lenosky, he said that he thought Brevard was the best place to ride in the United States. I called Jeff to see what he thought of an early season trip to Brevard and he loved the idea. I was pumped that Jeff wanted to come along because he always motivates me to push my limits.
Jeff is one of the rare freestyle/trials guys who slays the woods as well as the street. He is always looking for a small rock or root to turn into a huge gap or boost. Climbs that most folks have trouble walking up, Jeff turns into an observed trials course that he pedal-kicks and side-hops up.
Lenosky recommended that we stay with Daniel and Tracie Trusler who run the Red House Inn. “They are a great couple who love to ride and Daniel makes a fantastic Southern breakfast,” Jeff explained. I gave Daniel a call and he set us up in one of their rental homes in downtown Brevard.
When we arrived in Brevard, my legs were a bit wobbly from the eleven-hour drive, but I had to get a ride in before dinner. Daniel suggested a ten-mile ride on Black Mountain in Pisgah National Forest for our first spin. When I suggested a longer ride, Daniel gave us some advice that I would thank him for later. “Brevard is known for taking a bit more out of you than your average trail,” Daniel said. “If you want to do more we can always climb up and do another lap."
As we began the grind up Thrift Cove I began to understand what Daniel was talking about. Coming from a place without much elevation, I definitely felt it pedaling up a few thousand feet.
Daniel explained how the history of Brevard helped shaped the trails that are considered some of the toughest around. “Most of the climbing trails in Pisgah are on old logging roads, so the grade never gets too steep,” Daniel said as we pedaled up Thrift Cove. “The downhill trails were created by the old growth trees being pulled straight down the fall-line of the mountain.”
Jeff, who has ridden Brevard many times, was on a six-inch enduro bike. “The sweet part of riding in Pisgah is that the climbs are long, but never too steep. You can easily push a bigger bike up the hill and have a lot of fun ripping the downhill.”
I was on a short travel bike and was definitely wishing for a bit more bike on some sections of the downhill. Big chunky rocks littered the trail with some rowdy transfer lines that Jeff was blasting. Sweet root gaps were everywhere and I did my best to follow Daniel and Jeff’s lines.
The following morning we got up and had an awesome Southern breakfast prepared by Daniel. He piled mouth-watering heaps of eggs, fresh fruit and grits on our plates to prepare us for the big day of riding ahead. “I won’t be able to ride with you guys today, but give a call to bike guide Cashion Smith from the Bike Farm to take you out.”
I had heard of Cashion through his work he did with Oskar Blues Brewery developing their Red Bull Dream Line course. I was excited to meet him and check out his newest project, the Bike Farm. We gave Cashion a ring and he was happy to add us to a big group that he was taking out to the Pisgah Fish Hatchery area. Cashion explained that we would climb for a bit until we reached one of his favorite trails, Daniel Ridge.
Cashion was a great guide, stopping to let us know what’s up with the upcoming sections of trail. Jeff took most of Cashion’s advice as a personal challenge. When Cashion mentioned there was a dilapidated log bridge next to the proper trail, Jeff made sure to turn the sketchy wet log into a trial’s obstacle.
The downhill sections on Daniel Ridge were some of the best I’ve ever ridden. There were huge granite formations to launch, as well as super technical old school East Coast lines to navigate. It was fun to rally with such a big crew and not have to stop to look at a map once. Cashion did an awesome job of picking the best trails in Pisgah and wove them together masterfully.
We ran into a couple on the trail from Pittsburgh who were having a rough afternoon. They explained to Cashion that the connector trail they had taken looked short and flat on the map, but turned out to be a nightmare of technical features. “It always pays to ask a local about the riding around here,” Cashion explained. “Trails can become extremely technical very quickly and they may take much longer to ride than it looks like on the map.”
After finishing up on the trails near the fish hatchery we hopped in Cashion’s Sprinter Van and headed to the Bike Farm. Cashion explained his vision for the project. “We want to create a basecamp for folks who want to access the endless trails of Pisgah,” Cashion said as we drove up the dirt road to the Bike Farm. “We offer guiding, can set people up with bikes and offer a terrific location to launch your Pisgah adventure from.”
The following day Jeff was scheduled to lead a group ride out of the Hub Bike Shop. The group had folks with all different skill levels, so Jeff decided to take the group to the DuPont State Forest. “DuPont is more mellow than the trails in Pisgah, but they are a lot of fun,” Jeff said as we made the 15-minute drive to the Lake Imaging trailhead.
The trails in DuPont are super buff and obscenely fun. The whole zone is like a big pump track. We did a mellow climb up the Jim Branch Trail and had a blast riding down the Ridgeline Trail. “Some of the Hunger Games movies were filmed here,” Jeff said as we pedaled past a series of picturesque waterfalls.
We rode from the northern point of the park down to the Corn Mill Shoals area in the southwest corner. When we reached the top of the Cedar Rock trail, we had an amazing view of the lush, green mountains of the Pisgah Forest.
After the ride we got back to the Hub just before closing time. The shop mechanics were finishing up their maintenance on the rental fleet and were eager to go for a shred. Because we didn’t have a ton of daylight, Kris Lathrop from the Hub suggested we take a rip on Black Mountain.
Kris along with Hub mechanics Daniel Sapp, Jon Angermeier and Tim Koerber joined us on our twilight ride. It was cool to go back to a zone that we already had ridden once, to push it a little harder than we did the first time. It was also awesome to ride it with such a talented, fun group of riders.
One trail that we had missed the first time we rode Black Mountain was the Lower Black Trail. “Lower Black is hands-down my favorite trail in Pisgah,” Jon said as we dropped our seats for the downhill. “If you don’t have fun on this trail then you should probably find another sport.”
Jon was dead-on with his succinct endorsement of Lower Black. The trail oozed flow with just the perfect mix of jumps, gaps and drops. It felt like the Whistler Bike Park’s trail Dirt Merchant, but scaled down for trail bikes.
High fives were in abundance at the end of the short but sweet ride. After an obligatory dip in the French Broad River to cool down, we suited back up and pedaled over to Oskar Blues Brewery for some post-ride awards. I’ve been a huge fan of Oskar Blues craft canned beer for years and was super stoked to check out their East Coast operation.
Going with the theme of the ride down Lower Black, I indulged in the Pinner throwback IPA on our visit to Oskar Blues. Sophia and Johnny from Oskar Blues gave a tour of the massive brewery. It was rad to see how the very tasty beverages were made and how the culture of the company is built around mountain biking.
“The owner Dale had his foreign made bike stolen four years ago, so he started making REEB bikes as a double bird to overseas manufacturing and bike thieves,” Johnny explained as he showed us his custom REEB bike. His American-made REEBdikyelous 29’er looked like a singletrack assassin with a super clean Gates Carbon Drive. “After two years of working at Oskar Blues, Dale gives you a REEB as a thank you gift for your service.”
After a fascinating tour of Oskar Blues, we grabbed some food from the world famous CHUBurger food truck. We sat on the massive patio of Oskar Blues and enjoyed the last sunset of a great trip. My legs were still burning from the three-day hammerfest, but I was already planning my next trip to Brevard.
It’s true what they say about the warmth of Southern hospitality. Thanks to everyone who made this trip a great one including Sam, Kris, Daniel, Tim and Jon from thehubpisgah.com
. Thanks to Daniel and Tracie for the great accommodations at brevardbedandbreakfast.com
. If you need a great place to camp or guiding in Brevard, check in with Cashion at bikefarmpisgah.com
. Thanks to Aaron, Sophia and Johnny for making our trip to oskarblues.com
a great one.
Thanks also to Hans Heim and Scot Nichol at Ibis Cycles, Scott Boyd at the Hayes Group, Joel Richardson at FSA, Elayna Caldwell at SRAM, Brett Hahn at Continental Tires, Jeff Wilbur at Cateye Bobby Dranberg at Thomson, Ronan at Moove Components, Jon Hadfield at OneUp Components, Liam Walsh and Bob Maas at Lake Shoes and Jeremiah Stich at Bert’s Bikes and Fitness.