Back in September, I read The Big Ride in Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine. The story was about an epic new adventure for mountain bikers in Virginia – the 480-mile Virginia Mountain Bike Trial (VMBT), which they said is “poised to be the South’s sweetest stretch of singletrack.” Immediately I knew this was something special and I wanted to find out more, so I contacted Chris Scott of Shenandoah Mountain Touring, the man behind this initiative, to get the scoop. Here’s what I learned.
Dreams Turned Reality
For more than a decade the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail was a dream of Chris Scott’s. With encouragement from International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) club leaders along the East Coast, the dream turned reality in the fall of 2011 when Scott and fellow cyclists conquered the trail’s inaugural ride. Spanning the length of Virginia’s Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains from Strasburg to Damascus, the VMBT links eight major trail systems in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, consists of primarily singletrack trails, covers 480 miles, and climbs 65,000 feet. Now hard-core mountain bikers can be among the first to tackle this new Virginia trail that rivals long-distance trails out west like the Colorado Trail and the Arizona Trail.
Check out this sweet video on the trail from the Blue Ridge Outdoors article.
According to Scott, the singletrack route is comprised of challenging remote trails that the average mountain biker would classify as extremely difficult. The trail takes an estimated 14-21 days to complete, depending on skill level. So what if you’re not very skilled? Not to fear. Scott said there are plans to create an easier dirt road route that parallels the challenging singletrack route. But that’s not all. The long-term vision for the VMBT is to have a hut-to-hut system and eventually connect the trail to other states on the East Coast, kind of like an Appalachian Trail for mountain bikers.
To make all this happen, it takes a village
The biggest challenge is keeping a trail winding through some of Virginia’s most remote backcountry maintained. Over half the route is attended to by volunteer organizations supporting the Forest Service efforts, but Chris Scott says there are more sections that are in dire need of being adopted. The Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club, Roanoke/IMBA, Mid Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts, and more have all contributed to maintaining the trails along the route as does the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. The key to the upkeep of the trail depends on the continued support of these volunteer groups and biking communities.
Chris Scott and crew are planning to officially announce the route at the biking community at the Virginia Mountain Bike Trail Festival over Memorial Day weekend near Harrisonburg. They are also working to create a GPS route with turn-by-turn cue sheets for the trail, with hopes to have them available to the public by fall of 2013, pending approval from the Forest Service. A supported/guided trip on portions of the trail is also being planned for the fall.
Can’t wait until fall to ride the VMBT?
Shenandoah Mountain Touring can sell you a map set of six National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps with the VMBT singletrack route marked in its entirety for about $100. A website dedicated to the trail is in development. Stay tuned for more info to come: www.virginiamountainbiketrail.com.