ROANOKE, Va. – You've heard the slogan "Virginia is for mountain lovers.” Well, that includes mountain bikers.
The trails along Virginia's Blue Ridge are becoming a hot spot for tourists looking for a good scenic ride. While bikers are always looking to come to the region for a new adventure, it’s now a new bathroom that could be key to putting the region's trails on the map, making the region the newest mountain biking destination.
The trails along Carvins Cove are busy on a good-weather day. Friday was no exception.
A group of bikers drove all the way from Williamsburg; one even came from Switzerland just to ride the trails.
"The trails are phenomenal," the bikers said.
It’s a tourist destination that could translate to dollar signs.
The Roanoke chapter of the International Mountain Biking Association, which has 80,000 members and supporters worldwide, is working to make our region recognized as a designated ride center.
Wes Best, one of the founders of RIMBA and president of the bike business EastCoasters in Roanoke, said the industry is booming.
"Mountain bike tourism is big in a lot of places," Best said.
He said he knows how big it is here, but also how big it could be.
"What we are doing and working on is called the RIMBA ride center designation. What that does is certifies that you have certain things happening in your community. It tries to make sure that you have opportunities for all different kinds of trail riders,” Best said.
In his shop, you’ll notice metal cups for sale with outhouses pictured on them. That is all to raise money for the bathroom that was recently installed at Carvins Cove in Roanoke. The bathroom is the newest amenity they've added to the trail. Not only does it make the mountain biking experience more convenient for users, but it could be the key to making this a national designation bringing thousands of tourists here each year.
Fix-it bike stations are another checkmark off the list to reaching the silver ride center designation.
If our region gets that designation, it would mean we would be the one of the few on this side of the Mississippi.
Landon Howard, president of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge, says the tourism-focused group is helping RIMBA achieve the status for the region.
"That particular status would be huge not only for us, but for the mountain bikers worldwide. When they hear that we have something that special here, I think that they would immediately say, hey let's go experience that,” Howard said.
According to data from IMBA, the mountain bike community makes above-average income and would be willing to spend several days vacationing in our area if it received that designation.