To be worthy of hosting one of our eMTB shootouts, a destination needs to have a good variation of high-quality trails to ensure we can test the full spectrum of the test fleet’s handling. These trails also need to be well connected and not too far apart, as time is considered precious to ensure we get plentiful ride time to really get to know the bikes. Knoxville certainly provided us with a perfect test ground for the ‘22 eMTB Shootout, and the reasons that made it so ideal for our testing translate to being a good riding destination in a more casual setting. It goes without saying that the trails had to be eBike-friendly for the destination to work for us, and thankfully Knoxville and its trail centers are very accepting of both electric and regular mountain bikes equally.
Within the boundaries of the city of Knoxville are a number of official eMTB-friendly riding spots, with constant development and maintenance from the AMBC to keep them riding sweet and ensure the mountain bikers of Tennessee are kept entertained by fresh and varied tracks. One place you should absolutely visit is the Baker Creek Preserve, a free-to-ride trail center nestled in urban Knoxville which is awesome for all ages and abilities. It’s worth taking a hardtail or BMX if you have one in the garage, as the pumptrack and asphalt slopestyle line are excellent fun.
For eMTB activities, the trails in the forests beyond are the main attraction. These trails really cater to all abilities, from mellow winding flow trails, to some technical rocky descents and a plethora of jumps of all shapes and sizes.
For the most air-seeking riders, the nearby Devil’s Racetrack offers some serious hits to keep expert level riders entertained. Baker Creek links to neighboring areas of trails through part of the Knoxville Urban Wildness loop, with the William Hastie Natural Area and Year-Round Get Down areas giving some variety close by; the former offering some more natural enduro-style descents and the latter some purpose-built all-weather trails to offer locals and visitors alike with hardy trails to frequent on the wet days.
Bringing some further variety to the Knoxville trails is Sharp’s Ridge, sitting up in the north end of the city and offering a slightly different flavor of trail to those found at Baker Creek. The typical trails at Sharp’s carry a more natural feel to them, darting through the forest and following its contours, however there are some more built-up and bench cut flow trails through to black diamond freeride hits to give more experienced riders a run for their money. These trails are served by some fun and engaging climbs, which are perfectly ridable without assistance and make for an exciting time once up to the speeds you can achieve with eMTB’s. Of particular highlight was a trail that was freshly cut in not long before the shootout and had an exciting mix of built-up flow intertwined with some more natural sections that made for serious party-lapping fun.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for even more fun, there are two, day trips we highly recommend! First up is Windrock Bike Park and Windrock XC. If you are an aggressive rider that wants to push your bike and your body, these trails are absolutely worth a visit. Windrock Bike Park runs shuttles and there’s a high likelihood you’ll be sitting in a truck with the likes of Aaron Gwin, Dakotah Norton or a host of other World Cup Downhillers who use Windrock as their home testing trails. Though it’s a perfect downhill training ground, riders on less aggressive enduro mountain bikes and eMTB’s will still be well served by the trails.
Another worthwhile stop for a more remote, backcountry experience is the town of Townsend, TN. Head over there to check out an awesome new trail network right at the edge of the Great Smokies.
If you’re looking for the place to plan your next mountain bike or eMTB trip, we highly suggest putting Knoxville, Tennessee on your map. With an abundance of great trails, delicious food, and off-bike activities for you and the family, it’s safe to say that we’re counting down the days ‘til we can go back.