Editors note: This story originally appeared in issue #206. If you like what you see here help keep print media alive by becoming a subscriber!
By Stephen Haynes
What makes a place special? Is it something intrinsic or experiential? Does a special place need lots of, or very few, things to do? Perhaps it’s the people (or lack thereof) that qualifies significance. Finding the right mix of things to keep you busy and lack of things to distract you is, in itself, a special combination.
For mountain bikers, the promise of good trails seems to trump every other consideration. Most would choose five-star trails over ancillary benefits like great food, microbrews, and amazing accommodations. We’re somewhat sick that way.
Yet what if you didn’t have to choose trails over everything else? What if everything else was just as good as the trails, and the trails themselves were top shelf? Impossible? Hardly.
Since 2013, The Bike Farm, near Brevard, North Carolina, has been sowing the seeds of awesomeness and cultivating good times with their unique mix of quiet, superbly well-maintained facilities; friendly, knowledgeable staff; and all of Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest in their backyard.
Spread over 50-odd acres that border Pisgah National Forest, The Bike Farm makes what is very difficult look very easy. Like svelte Scandinavian architecture, The Bike Farm’s minimalist infrastructure is there for all to see, yet is so clean and well-maintained as to be taken for granted, blending in with the background while providing numerous resources for mountain bike enthusiasts.
The Bike Farm offers a number of camping options, from car camping to glamping and a few other options in between. There are nearly a dozen car-camping sites, which offer you a flat spot to pitch a tent (or not) and set up a fire bowl. For those who want a bit more privacy, there are deck-camping sites, which are, as advertised, wooden platforms erected in the woods that are big enough for a tent and other camping accouterment. If being somewhat elevated makes you somewhat squeamish, you can take advantage of one of The Bike Farm’s forest-camping dwellings and immerse yourself in the North Carolina foliage.
If you want to be out in the wilderness, but also desire some semblance of permanent structure, you can spring for one of The Bike Farm’s glamping sites. I speak from experience in saying that the military-spec glamping tents are top notch. Myself and three other staff members were fortunate enough to occupy one over the course of a week in early June and all of us found the beds comfy, the space copious and the deck chairs outside inviting after a long day in the saddle.
A quick cautionary statement: Just because you’re housed inside a robust tent, that does not mean nature won’t sneak in. Spiders, moths and the occasional mosquito were a common occurrence, but no more so than if we were in our own tents. Just remember, it’s comfy, but you’re still outside.
All the accommodations range in price from $23 a night for car camping to $105 a night for some of the glamping tents. The Bike Farm will also rent the appropriate camping gear to you should you forget something; from tents to sleeping bags to linens for the beds in the glamping tents, they can provide. All of the camping options also come with access to hot showers and the other on-site benefits I’ll talk about momentarily.
All the other stuff
Aside from the fine camping opportunities, The Bike Farm has an on-site pump track, a few sweet little singletrack loops and a skills area. The skills area features graduated drop lines, skinnies, log rolls and waterbar steps to help you conquer the best of Pisgah.
There’s also the road gap. Sign the waiver, take the ride. I’m not speaking from experience here, but I’ve watched others do it. If you’ve got the skills, they’ve got the setting. As with all of the extra features you may run into at the Farm, there is a work-around (which I unabashedly took), so don’t feel like you need to be a hero to have a good time.
In addition to all of the above, The Bike Farm offers Santa Cruz and Juliana bike rentals, guide and shuttle services and on-site skills classes taught by their approachable and competent staff. Prices for the bike rentals as of this writing are $75 a day. Guide services will run you between $150 and $275 for half a day and $250 to $375 for a full day, depending on the size of your group. Rates for lessons go from $50 to $75 an hour and have a two-hour minimum.
If all of that weren’t enough, they have an on-site pond for post-ride dipping.
We had the pleasure of being guided by Bike Farm owner Cashion Smith and his jack-of-all-trades employees Josh Moore and Devin O’Leary. Each one of them is knowledgeable, friendly and quick with a smile or snappy come-back.
The greater community of folks in and around Pisgah and Brevard are equally as smart and welcoming, exuding Southern hospitality. Sam Salman, co-owner of The Hub (see below), and Dave, the local Santa Cruz representative, took guiding duties on one of our rides, and though I felt a certain sadism on their part, it all ended in smiles and good stories.
Much has been written in the last decade about Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Forest, and with good reason. Between the two, they offer some of the widest variety of terrain and skill level on the East Coast.
The majority of the riding we did, or the flashes of it I remember, fluctuated between long, severe climbs and seat-of-your-pants-while-riding-a-jackhammer descents that elicited a mixture of terror and absurd giggling. And not a little bit of obscenities.
Or perhaps that’s just my soft, desk-jockey midsection talking. To be sure, the riding is challenging, but fun, and make no mistake, the boys and girls who call those places home are carved out of wood.
Also, be sure not to skip the post-ride cool-off in one of the many streams littering the forests. It’s a shock to the system, but well worth it.
Brevard is a small and unassuming town with a liberal-arts college. It has a bit of hippie stink on it (hardly a criticism) and is dotted with treasures that not only help make your stay enjoyable, but also will have you pining once you’ve gone.
Of the food bounty available, I can vouch for the following: Braken Mountain Bakery makes exquisite pastries that got us up and going every morning of our stay. I highly recommend the chocolate croissant. Magpie Meat & Three is a crash course in Southern food. Exactly as advertised, the menu consists of main meat dishes with your choice of three sides. Enjoy the (dark meat only) pan-fried chicken with fried okra, mac and cheese and collard greens. Amazing. Also, do yourself a favor and get a serving of cornbread fritters to start; think hush puppies, but better. Oskar Blues Brewery is an obvious choice for those who grow thirsty on a long ride. While we never ventured out to the brewery, we’re all familiar with their liquid offerings and the obvious benefits of getting said beverages from the source.
Equally as bountiful are bike-shop options. The obvious choice is The Hub; located near the entrance of Pisgah National Forest, it’s part bike shop, part bar, and seems to be a meeting place for most heading out or coming back from adventures. They have a rotating cast of food trucks that grace their parking lot and a nice outdoor seating area to wind down in. Squatch Bikes & Brews, next door to Magpie, also looks like a cool place, though we passed by when they were closed. They get a mention for having a pretty awesome name.
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of the sport with a travel itinerary full of mountain biking hot spots or a casual fan and lover of the outdoors, The Bike Farm has a site for you. They’ve taken great pains to make a clean, well-run and easily navigable destination for those who want the solitude of the forest within easy access of modern comforts. I’m already looking at the calendar to find time to get back down there; I suggest you do the same. thebikefarm.com