When it comes to mountain biking, it really doesn’t get much better than the trails around Western North Carolina.
“A lot of us travel to mountain bike different places in the United States,” said Matthew Leach. “And when you start talking about quality trails around the country—from Moab, Utah, to Arkansas—no matter where you go, you always want to come back to our trails here.”
Director of membership for the Pisgah Area SORBA (Southern Off-Road Bike Association), Leach is proudly part of an organization at the heart of preserving and perpetuating mountain biking in our region, which includes the legendary trails in Pisgah National Forest, Bent Creek Experimental Forest, and DuPont State Forest.
“We maintain trails to keep them open, accessible, and sustainable for all user groups who use these trails, not just mountain bikers,” Leach said. “The trails around here are incredible gnarly. And we fight to keep it gnarly, so it always keeps its natural look and feel. We also have so many opportunities for youth riders and beginners—endless options for all skill levels.”
With over 400 miles of single-track trails in the Pisgah Area SORBA jurisdiction, Leach estimated the organization maintains about 150 miles of that.
“We work closely with DuPont State Forest and the North Carolina Forestry Department. Our trail efforts are tied directly to their priorities,” Leach said. “The Forestry Department will tell us what trails have issues or are overused. We look at fixing it to keep it sustainable, so that they are not negativity affecting nearby waters and trails are open for all user groups.”
“And with the amount of rainfall in our region, it takes an incredible amount of volunteers and volunteer hours to maintain these trails so they do keep their quality,” noted Sonya Tomes, a member of the board of directors for the Pisgah Area SORBA.
A passionate mountain biker, Tomes and her husband purposely left Missouri a couple of years ago for Western North Carolina just so they could ride the trails here.
“I loved the trails out west, but there’s just something about the trails here, especially when you can ride them year round,” Tomes said. “And by joining this organization, I learned the importance of volunteerism. If you don’t go to the meetings, you just kind of take the trails for granted. Everyone needs to get involved.”
With hundreds of volunteer hours given each year to maintain the trails, Pisgah Area SORBA also partners with several local and national companies. Some provide meals for trail volunteers, while others provide monetary or equipment donations.
“We recently did an event with Oskar Blues Brewery in Brevard. It was called ‘Take a Kid Mountain Biking,’” said Leach. “Oskar Blues lent us their REEB Ranch mountain bike facility and donated dozens of bikes for the kids. And we also brought them to DuPont, taking them kayaking and hiking, teaching them forestry, birdwatching, and holding classes about stream conservation.”
Both Tomes and Leach look at all their efforts—the blood, sweat, and tears—as justification for being able to do what they deeply love and care about, right in their own backyard.
“I love the adrenaline rush, love the challenge,” Tomes said. “You might ride the same trail 10 different times, but it’s always changing—the weather’s always changing. It’s where I find my physical and emotional balance in life.”
“With mountain biking, you can just take the time to stop and appreciate the natural beauty of where we live. It brings me to the current moment, while I’m in nature, while I’m getting fit,” Leach added. “And because it’s technical, it doesn’t allow you to let your mind wander. It disconnects you from the world. You’re only one ride away from a perfect day.”