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Riders hit the roads, trails
by Jim Tanner
Sunday, March 31, 2013    |   
Jose Madriz, left, and Niel Holberg ride down the Megawatt Trail on Raccoon Mountain.
Jose Madriz, left, and Niel Holberg ride down the Megawatt Trail on Raccoon Mountain.
Photo by Staff File Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Bicycling in and around Chattanooga has continued to grow in recent years with more options for riders of any ability to get on area roads and trails for fun and exercise. In the downtown area, cycling is becoming a more accepted method of daily transportation.

In 2012, Outdoor Chattanooga and CARTA, the city’s transit authority, launched a bike-share program called Bike Chattanooga.

The purchase of a yearly or daily membership allows riders to check out bikes from one of 30 stations downtown, on the North Shore and on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. A bike can be picked up at one station and dropped off at another, providing an economical way for students, residents and tourists to get around downtown conveniently.

The Chattanooga Bike Club and the Chattanooga chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association are two of the main cycling clubs and advocacy groups. Both organizations conduct rides for new and experienced cyclists and organize events such as the 3-State, 3-Mountain Challenge ride in early May, and they organize bike trail development and maintenance along the hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails in the region.

A new event for 2013 will be a charity ride in connection with the USA Cycling Pro Championships over Memorial Day weekend. The ride will be held near the Volkswagen Chattanooga plant and will benefit Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.

Contact staff writer Jim Tanner at jtanner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6478.

Mountain biking trails

BOOKER T. WASHINGTON STATE PARK: This park in Hamilton County features a 5.56-mile single-track 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 Amnicola Highway or Interstate 75 to Highway 153. From 153, go north on Highway 58 to Champion Road on the left and follow the signs.

EDWARDS 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 trailhead 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 bank of Chickamauga Lake. There are no long climbs but a few short steep ones.

• Directions: From Highway 153, go north on Highway 58 past Central High School. Take a left at the sign to Harrison Bay State Park. Go to the 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 the mountain. The trail was built on the historic route of the C&LM Broad Gauge Railroad and follows its path up Lookout.

• 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: Established by the will of Robert M. Davenport in January 1994, this 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. Follow 2 miles just past TVA signs; bear left at the stop sign, through the 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 of the intersection of Highway 2 (Battlefield Parkway) and Highway 27 in Fort Oglethorpe.

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 old 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. 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. www.chattbike.com.

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

• 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. www.sceniccityvelo.com.

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

• Velo Vixens Cycling Club: Devoted to the development of women cyclists and multisport athletes, club members mentor female athletes as they train for competition. www.velovixens.net.