Mention Tennessee and it’s likely to invoke images of raucous country music, the flaming ‘T’ of the Titans or grass fields once host to Civil War confrontations. What it’s not likely to conjure are portraits of skinny lines in the dirt and a thriving mountain bike culture. That is, unless you are from Chattanooga. Because Chattanooga has more than one or two trails worth riding. There are over 120 miles of purpose-built singletrack.

Dan Ennis, Burke Saunders and Tedd Clevenger prep to ride Raccoon Mountain—a staple of Chattanooga riding.

Chattanooga wasn’t always a rider’s dream town. In 1969, the Federal Government declared it had the dirtiest air in the United States. In the 1980s, job-layoffs, racial tension and deteriorating infrastructure led to the city losing 10 percent of its population. It served as a wake-up call for residents and businesses in the area. In the late ’80s, private and public money revitalized the city. Infrastructure was restored, the city was cleaned up and two decades after losing 10 percent of its population, the city had made that back and more. At the start of the 21st century, Chattanooga was a reinvented city. And around the same time, mountain biking was beginning to grow exponentially around the country. A group of riders saw Chattanooga as a blank canvas, and so they banded together, forming the Singletrack Mind Initiative.

Ennis, Saunders and Clevenger ride Raccoon Mountain, with the Tennessee River below.

The Singeltrack Mind Initiative had one goal in mind: Turn the surrounding landscape—host to 7 miles of singeltrack in 2004—into 100 miles of trail. That goal has since been achieved, and with the growth of trails, the mountain-biking community has grown as well. Fast forward to today and on average, the SORBA (Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association) Chattanooga branch sees 1,500 hours of volunteer work a year and has seven different trail networks for riders to explore, with terrain catering to beginners and experts alike.

Chattanooga might be a mountain-bike utopia of the South, but it still retains some of its industrial roots. Ennis scopes out the transformers at Raccoon Mountain.

Ennis pedals.

Chattanooga has made a name for itself with good mountain bike trail. Good, not smooth. Saunders finds that out first hand.

Raccoon Mountain is not for the faint of heart.

A time for reflections on the Chattanooga trails.

The mountains surrounding Chattanooga were once the cause of the city’s pollution problem, trapping stagnant air in the valley. They have also been a boon for the city’s revitalization, allowing it to focus on recreational tourism.

Wildlife still has a home in the city of almost 180,000 people.

Security!

Right turns toward the parking lot.

Strong German beer and food at the Brewhaus by the Walnut Street Bridge. The bridge was one of the first cornerstone projects in reinventing Chattanooga.

 

This story was brought to you through paid partnership with REI.