Did you know Birmingham is home to world-class mountain bike trails? Whether you’re a pro, newbie, or are simply curious, ride along to learn how Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers (BUMP) and passionate mountain bike advocates have helped make it happen.
A little over 25 years ago, I still remember a co-worker telling me about a new group he joined that wanted to build mountain bike trails at Oak Mountain State Park. He told me they had just named the new organization the night before. It had the perfect acronym for mountain bike enthusiasts.
“We are the Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers … BUMP!” he exclaimed.
We chuckled. At the time mountain biking was pretty much a novelty. The name was brilliant though.
Now, a generation later, thanks to those creative and passionate mountain bike pioneers, the Birmingham region has world-class mountain bike trails and a sport that is experiencing explosive growth and popularity.
How did it happen? Want to learn more about mountain biking in our community? Read on.
Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers
It’s hard to imagine, but back in the early 1990s, mountain biking was not allowed on the trails at Oak Mountain State Park. According to Jeff Rozycki, the current President of BUMP, passionate mountain pedalers got together and started to advocate for access to the trails for mountain biking.
“Working with local park officials and community leaders, we were able to gain access to the trail system out there,” said Rozycki. “We signed letters of agreement that we would help build and maintain trails out at Oak Mountain in exchange for being able to use them”
Today, BUMP maintains about 30 miles of trails at Oak Mountain and is currently building a new trail. They have also gained access to the Trussville Sports Complex trail, where there is a 5-mile loop, and they’ve built and maintained about 15 miles of trail at Tannehill State Park.
BUMP is a nonprofit, with about 250 members. They are part of a nationwide network as a chapter for both the Southeast Off-Road Bicycling Association (SOBRA) and International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA).
For the past 27 years, BUMP has hosted a world-class annual race and fundraiser called the Bump and Grind. People from all over the country, and the world, travel to the Magic City so they can experience Oak Mountain’s nationally-recognized trail system.
“We have a little bit of everything,” added Rozycki. “We have some technical stuff (trails). There’s some faster direction, downhill gravity-type trails, and there’s some beginner-to-advanced-level trails. Participants have come from Brazil, Japan and Germany. There’s enough to keep everybody engaged and entertained throughout the park.”
A Family Affair
A sport that truly gained traction a little bit over 30 years ago is becoming a family affair.
“I will say Scott was the first mountain biker in our family,” Kathy Green said, describing her family’s love affair with mountain biking. “In fact, he got his first mountain bike back in the late ‘80s, when mountain biking was really being introduced in the United States.”
The Green’s son, Alex, loves athletics, but “ball sports” are not his thing. When he was in 6th grade there was an advertisement for a youth high school mountain bike league that was starting in the Birmingham area.
“I took Alex to that meeting to sign up for the following spring,” stated Kathy. “Suddenly our entire family got immersed in the sport. Alex, of course, fell in love with mountain biking. It is his passion. But then Scott was immediately buying a new bike and he was biking again and has not stopped since.”
A sport that welcomes participants to compete at all levels, the Alabama Interscholastic Cycling League was organized in 2015 by Executive Director Adam Crews. There are approximately two dozen teams statewide competing this spring.
For Kathy, high school mountain biking is more than a competition. “There is nothing more amazing than when I would go to practices to hear entire families out with their team, giggling and laughing and just having this beautiful, pure experience, outdoors riding on a bicycle. It is the sound of pure joy.”
Trails Two Hours Away in Every Direction
Oak Mountain State Park has been called the “birthplace of mountain biking” in Alabama. But what makes mountain biking in Alabama special is the abundance of trails. In almost every direction there are mountain bike trails within two hours of the Magic City.
Here is a master list:
Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
Coldwater Mountain (Forever Wild property near Anniston)
Black Creek Mountain Bike Bike Park (Hoover)
Black Creek Trail Mountain Bike Trail (Gadsden)
Cahaba River Park in Shelby County
Chewacla State Park (Auburn)
Space and Rocket Center Trails (Huntsville)
Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck back in March 2020, the popularity of mountain biking has increased dramatically.
“The sport is definitely expanding and growing, especially this last year with COVID,” explained BUMP’s Rozycki. “Bike shops are sold out of bikes. Trail usage is probably 10 times what it normally is right now.”
No matter what level of rider you are, there are people who are willing to jump in and help you.
“I feel like we have the best bike shops as far as supporting new riders goes,” said Kathy Green. “They’re really great at finding what you’re looking for and helping you get started.”
Birmingham is blessed with a number of local cycle shops and nonprofits that support cycling. Here are a few:
“Our Community always welcomes new riders and helps people succeed, because we want to see the sport grow and continue for generations to come,” concluded Rozycki.
While we were all hunkered down during the pandemic over the past year, outdoor sports like mountain biking became more and more popular.
Mountain biking is the first in a series of three outdoor sports we will be featuring. Next up?
Put on your running shoes. No 5k here. We will examine Ultra Trail Running.