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Ready for warmer weather and anxious to be back on two wheels, I headed to NOC’s Bike Shop for a glimpse of what’s new in 2011 for mountain and road bikers alike. I met with Bike Shop Manager and avid rider Nathan Brock for a preseason update. A long-time member of the NOC team, Nathan has plenty of expert advice and trail knowledge to offer for all experience levels. Whether riders are looking to hit the windy and fast roads of the Nantahala Gorge or the rugged off-road terrain of the WNC region, the Bike Shop crew is always excited to lead them in the right direction as a full service facility offering rentals, repairs and tune-ups. It’s always a good idea to ask questions and learn from the guys who live and breath the two-wheeled lifestyle, and the shop has plenty of resource materials, trail maps and guidebooks to share.
All New 2011 Demo Fleet
According to Nate, the NOC Bike Shop has beefed up the demo fleet with 40 new Specialized Mountain Bikes. The entire fleet now consists of 24-speed mountain bikes ranging from 13”-23” including 12 new full-suspension bikes. All models boast the latest in braking technology with disc brakes, lighter frames and powerful suspension components to make your trail ride the most fun you’ll have all season.
The 2011 Specialized Hardrock Disc is the core of the new fleet this season. This model is suitable for everyone and every experience level. The larger tires, solid braking and durability will prove to enhance the trail experience for first-time riders and experts alike. A smooth ride and solid reliability make the Hardrock Disc the most versatile and fun on and off the trail.
The more experienced and adventuresome mountain biker will enjoy the all-new full suspension addition to NOC’s demo fleet. NOC’s Bike Shop has focused on the Specialized Camber Expert and the Elite 29er, boasting 6 of each model, plenty for a whole group of riders. Specialized has made these lighter and tougher than their predecessors, and they’re now two of the most hard-core and technical off-road bikes offered. The Camber Expert boasts the latest in suspension design and a focus on superior handling capabilities and trial performance. With the FSR M4 alloy frame and RockShox Reba fork, the Expert offers lightweight performance ready to stand up to the most rugged trails. The Elite 29er is the more “plush” design according to Specialized, with RockShox Ario rear shocks and the Recon Gold TK air-sprung fork. This is the Cadillac of technical mountain biking. Utilizing the same frame as the Expert, this super lightweight model can handle the challenging terrain with unwavering capabilities.
The Best Trails of the Appalachians
The surrounding area offers some of the best off-road mountain biking trails. NOC’s Flint Ridge Trail and Tsali Recreation Area are two of the most popular mountain biking trails in the area.
The Flint Ridge Trail is the latest addition to the off-road scene in the Nantahala Forest. Located on NOC’s 500+ acre preserve, the Flint Ridge Trail now covers over 4.7 miles of terrain along the Nantahala Gorge. This trail is open daily to the public year round. Flint Ridge offers some of the most amazing views of the Nantahala River and Gorge. Flint Ridge Riders can also take a break and a short walk down to Townhouse Waterfalls. These magnificent falls are only accessible by foot and rarely seen by the public, so don’t forget the camera. Inquire at the Bike Shop about the Flint Ridge Afternoon Special where you’ll receive a three-hour bike rental at half price.
The new Flint Ridge Trail system is yet to be completed. While there are already over 4 miles of excellent trail ready to ride, NOC is planning an additional 8+ miles of single track on rugged and easily accessible terrain. While the anticipated completion of the entire Flint Ridge Trail system is 2013, NOC is making the current section of trail even better with new signage, a more convenient trail head and extra parking to start off the season. Also, the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Trail Assessment Crew will be visiting next month to officially map out the existing Flint Ridge Trail and aid in the development and planning of the projected addition. IMBA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “create, enhance and preserve great trail experiences for mountain bikers worldwide.” To expedite the additional trails NOC is planning a handful of Flint Ridge Trail Days this season. At these events the whole family can learn more about trail maintenance, planning and development and meet fellow mountain bike riders and experts.
The famous Tsali Recreation Area is claimed by some to be the best trail system on the East coast. This nearby system is a great family-friendly and advanced option offering four main loops that span over 40 miles. These trails were well designed and very popular, especially on summer weekends. While riding deep in the Nantahala Forest at Tsali expect to see a variety of terrain through pine forests and thick mountain laurel. The trail ventures out to open vistas with magnificent views across Fontana Lake to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Look for the occasional wildlife spotting too. Most common are the white-tailed deer, though bald eagles are sometimes a special treat. Tsali Recreation Area is open daily, year round and has ample parking at the trail head. Don’t forget the $2 park entry fee.
Whether you are looking for area ride info, simply wanting advice or in need of a tune-up or repair, NOC’s Bike Shop is the place to be. If you’re considering an upgrade this year, or have some friends in the area, come out and demo the new fleet on some of the best trail systems around. The bike shop is also offering an extended rental special: rent the same bike for 3 consecutive days and receive a 15% discount. This offers plenty of time to familiarize yourself with local mountain biking and still have plenty of time to kick back and relax on your visit.