Rocky Knob Fest Saturday
Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park invites cyclists to hit the trails – and the ladders, logs, boulders, jumps and other wheel-worthy challenges – for the annual Rocky Knob Fest Saturday, April 28.
As the High Country’s only park solely devoted to mountain biking, Rocky Knob currently features three miles of trails, with another two to be unveiled Saturday.
“One of the park’s promises was we’d have a place where nearly everybody could enjoy riding a mountain bike,” Rocky Knob trail boss and Boone Area Cyclists member Kristian Jackson said. “We’ve already hit that a little bit with the trails currently out there. They’re appealing to quite a range of folks, but these new trails will allow people to develop and increase their skills in a very controlled and predictable way.
“There aren’t many places nearby where someone can really learn to get more advanced bike handling skills in such a controlled manner.”
Saturday’s Rocky Knob Fest is a prime example. The festival’s concept is simple: Ride and have fun. It starts at 1 p.m. with an hour of open riding, with Magic Cycles and Boone Bike hosting demos for their brand new fleet of bikes.
“There’ll be dozens of bikes to try for free,” Jackson said. “Grab a full-suspension mountain bike or a new 29-inch and explore the trails, get a sense of what new bikes and new trails are like together.
Both shops in town are being really supportive of the festival and the park.”
Guided tours and skill clinics begin at 2 p.m., including sessions on technical skills, jumping, women’s cycling and the park itself, namely the new features, like log rides, in which mountain bikers traverse the flat surface of a split log. “We’ll have clinics where we introduce people to riding these features,” Jackson said.
At 4 p.m., after visitors have built up a sufficient appetite, barbecue and other treats will be served for a $5 donation. The festival wraps up at 5 p.m.
“The vision was to celebrate the opening of a whole new set of trails,” Jackson said. “We were able to get those built and ready just in time for the festival, so it’s all working out nicely to kind of kick off the summer season at the park.”
Jackson said the park is ideal for almost all skill levels, starting at advanced beginner.
“By its very nature, the park is rocky,” he said. “We’re trying to work the first trail we built to make it even easier, so we can rate it more for beginners and brand new riders. But, with that being said, we do have 6- and 7-year-old riders who go out and enjoy themselves, all a manner of degree.”
Jackson described the new trails as skill areas. One, aptly titled “Pump, Berm and Jump,” is a jump trail, using the park’s rolling terrain to accelerate the bike by pumping, followed by berms used to change the bike’s direction and then, obviously, the jumps.
“They were constructed in a way that everybody who rides at Rocky Knob will be able to roll over them,” he said. “As people gain confidence, they can jump them, do tricks, get that experience of flying through the air on a bike – it’s a pretty incredible feeling.”
The skill areas are progression based, he added, with the first featuring small pumps, berms and jumps, while the next kicks it up a notch with a couple larger jumps and a log ride that’s more than 80 feet long (but no more than a foot off the ground).
“It’s enough that it’s intimidating and challenging to ride, but reasonably safe,” Jackson said.
Other “wooden features,” he said, include various ladder bridges – basically wooden, slightly curved ladders fastened on the ground.
The third area is where it gets tricky.
“We call it the Pepper Patch,” Jackson said, referring to Rocky Knob’s trail rating system, which uses chili peppers to gauge difficulty – more peppers mean tougher terrain. “Things are kind of spicy, and the third area is really spicy.”
And reasonably so. It features a ladder bridge onto a boulder, one off the boulder, and then a skinny log ride to another boulder. From there, riders roll down a sizable wooden ramp, sending them into a loop of various challenges, from rock gardens to log rides to drops.
“These new areas are very modern, very progressive, and they look different than your typical mountain bike trail,” Jackson said. “They’re definitely causing some excitement and buzz in the local cycling community, because there aren’t many opportunities to ride the kinds of trails we’re getting ready to open up.”
However, he noted that visitors to the area are reluctant to try the trails.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people from out of town who are hesitant to because we have ‘only’ three miles of trail open,” he said. “But the response from those who have made the trip is the three miles that are open are some of the best around. Generally, once somebody does the three miles, they immediately want to do it again because it’s so fun. I think the mileage thing is something a lot of riders are focused on, but once you get past that, it’s a completely different experience.”
That experience involves an almost unheard of level of socialization in the park. Many times, Jackson said, mountain biking involves one or two people following a linear trail, not really interacting with each other. Rocky Knob, however, is the opposite.
“It puts people in a small place, and they end up socializing, meeting other people, trying new things and learning from each other,” Jackson said. “It’s a different take on what traditional mountain biking is.”
Rocky Knob Fest takes place from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 28. For more information, visit http://rockyknob.wordpress.com. The park is located just east of Boone city limits on U.S. 421.