With its ideal mix of terrain, elevation, and untouched beauty begging to be discovered, West Virginia is an ideal destination for mountain biking, according to one of its chief proponents.
Tracy Toler, co-owner of Adventure Trail Systems, says that while there are great mountain biking opportunities out West, it’s one of the fastest-growing sports in West Virginia.
“The hills in the Appalachians are really perfect,” Toler says.
“When people think of mountain biking, they think of the roots and the rocks and the hills of terrain like West Virginia. I’m hoping we really get rolling on the infrastructure to embrace visitors for a full trail state of tourism.”
Tourists and residents alike can partake in the sport here year-round, with fat biking in the winter and mountain bike series each summer, he says. West Virginia’s soil also has a great amount of diversity, with sand, clay, rocks, and roots adding to the attraction.
“We really have anything you could offer someone as far as mountain biking; we’re about as good as it could get,” Toler says. “We just need to take a lot more investments for even more trails, and we’re seeing more than ever before.”
Adventure Trail Systems was recently hired to build some of the state’s newest trails at Huntington’s Heritage Farm Museum. These trails, which opened Memorial Day weekend, are a family-friendly, downhill mountain bike system part of the farm's new adventure park. Toler will continue to build on to the park—a one-of-a-kind trail system he created, designed, and built from scratch—throughout the summer.
Mountain State youth are also becoming more involved in the sport through the West Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League, a branch of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, or "NICA." Toler, an association coach, has been involved with the organization since its inception in the state. He built one of its first bike racing courses at Twin Falls Resort State Park in Wyoming County, and that's one of the projects he’s most proud of.
“As a trail builder, you have to take extra pride when you get to build in a really nice state park,” he says. “It’s unique because a lot of times you’re out in an area of the forest that maybe nobody’s ever even walked through or been in 20 years.”
The International Mountain Bicycling Association encourages more trails closer to home, and with more trails being built across the state, including at Nitro’s Ridenour Park and Hurricane’s Meeks Mountain Trail System, this benefits bikers and communities in many ways.
“We are lucky to have trails in pretty much every area of the state, and a lot of the new little pocket trails are really where it’s at,” he says.
“Every little community needs to have trails that you can get to within 15 minutes; that’s what really encourages families to get into a sport like mountain biking.”
From a tourism perspective, building trails closer to home lets officials see how much use they’re getting, he says. A direct correlation to the trail’s success, in Hurricane alone, several small businesses, including a bike shop, have opened next to Meeks Mountain Trail System.
“In Hurricane, there’s places to eat and different things that are right there,” he says. “You come off the trails, you have a place to spend your money immediately. That’s a huge benefit when you’re trying to push more trails. It’s nice to have trails that are accessible and enclosed.”
The mountain biking boom is happening all across the nation partly thanks to people getting outside more during the pandemic—something the state needs to continue to take advantage of, Toler says.
“With our loss of coal and everything else, I think the state’s finally turning around,” he says. “I’ve never seen such trail development. I’ve never seen state government redo all of our major state parks; the lodges and everything else has been one after another getting completely overhauled, which was much needed.”
Toler says one way to build up trails and the mountain biking community is to advocate for change, and he encourages others to reach out to their city councils and city government. When he started building trails in Nitro, people reached out asking how he was getting his city’s help.
“If you ask, you might get exactly what you want, because those people are there to try to help their city and make decisions for what their people want,” Toler says.
“Whenever kids come out and help me with trail work, or we’re trying to teach some kids how to do trail work, I really try to explain the whole process that it’s simple, especially in West Virginia where everything’s really pretty small,” he says. “It’s especially important to let young people know because they’re going to lead this up later, that you can totally get involved.”
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