Note from Cyclin' Missy: Today I welcome guest blogger, Melissa Hathaway, with an article about the Forks Area Trail System (FATS) not too far from Atlanta, GA. I've spent some time in Atlanta for work, and as you all know, I love to explore trails in the places that I travel around the country. So knowing where to find a fun trail to escape to near Atlanta is awesome! I'll have to check out FATS next time I'm in this great southern city! I hope you enjoy! And thanks, Melissa! Forks Area Trail System: A Great Place to Start the Season
It’s that time of year where spring bounds from coast to coast with the first buds in full bloom, where fresh leaves are scattering sunlight on the pine-trodden trails, leaving the air just that little bit sweeter, and cycling enthusiasts across the country are hauling out their Treks and Raleighs in anticipation of another great cycling season.
For many, there is never a better time to take to the trails. Temperatures are pleasant and for those who had to hang up their tires for winter, nothing beats that first liberating ride into the world, leaving delightful muscle aches the next day. Especially for those in northern climes – save for the true hardcore who refuses to give way to ice and snow – a spring ride can feel like the first time on a bike all over again. And in a geographically diverse country like the States, there is definitely a treasure trove of places to explore.
Getting in Gear
Of course, before emerging into the great outdoors it’s crucial to check that your beloved set of wheels is up to par. Finding a quality new or used model is fairly straightforward these days, with many large franchises offering great deals on bicycles as well as people looking to sell or exchange their older models online. For owners, good bicycle maintenance is crucial throughout the year but the spring tune-up is undoubtedly the most involving operation, thankfully made easier by the increasing number of bicycle repair centers throughout the nation’s towns and cities and also the wealth of Do-It-Yourself information that is accessible online. Most tune-ups can be done at home to cut the cost by a considerable amount, and for serious repairs hardcore cyclists can always make sure they are covered under a good plan , which is advisable when racking up a decent mileage. Once these factors are taken care of, you’ll be ready to tackle some of the most magnificent panoramas that America has to offer.
Ancient Land, New Adventure
There are so many stunning, breathtaking, gut-wrenching, and adrenaline-pumping trails in this country that it would be impossible to cover them all and do them justice in one go. Each path that networks the thousands of miles of sand, stone, tree and water has its own legacy that is forged in the historical, social, and natural world that encompasses it. And each year, new trails are being carved out into the landscape for all kinds of levels, so that beginners and experts can get a rejuvenated taste of some of the most striking wilderness for which this country is so renowned.
One in particular delves into some of the oldest rocks in the world, and is entrenched in both Indian and Colonial history. It’s just a three-hour drive east of Atlanta in the deep South, it hosted the IMBA World Mountain Bike Summit in 2010, and featured in BIKE and Blue Ridge Outdoors. It took a full seven years to build the first 25 miles. It’s the Forks Area Trail System (FATS) .
A Little Southern Hospitality
With 37 miles of lush, beautiful terrain that will enthrall both amateurs and pros, FATS is a multi-loop track relatively friendlier than the rugged trails of the Great Smoky Mountains. Located in the Long Cane Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest, its eclectic combination of flow and pump track and high speed styles with six exciting loops make it a challenging but welcoming endeavor. Its smooth path means that it is easily scaled by first-time cyclists but its versatility can push more experienced adventurers to higher levels.
Adventure with a Twist… and Several Turns
Its six defining loops – Brown Wave, Skinny, Great Wall, Deep Step, Big Rock, and Tower are easily accessed by the South Trailhead and North Trailhead parking lots, and are regularly maintained. Crafted especially for bike lovers, each loop has its own defining characteristic, from the surf-like feel of Brown Wave (5.8mi) to the muscle-grinding, teeth-gritting climbs and descents of Deep Step (5mi), taking is name from a fishing hole in the Savanna River.
More defiant in terrain, Big Rock (4mi) and Tower (4mi) require a little more vigilance on the track, but are highly rewarding. Big Rock’s cedar bridge (adorned with beautiful carvings) and rocky outcroppings give it plenty of variation while Tower offers some wind-breaking hill descents.
For the cyclist who wants to taste a bit of everything, the Great Wall (7.5mi) – named for its long concrete section – showcases some terrific hill climbs, descents, and whoop-de-doos that are embellished by lots of twists and turns. It’s an ideal track to progress to after Skinny (6mi), the beginner’s track.
And That’s Not All, Folks…
Because of its prime location, cyclists who have traveled near and far to take on one of Georgia’s latest gems have a variety of other incredible places at their fingertips, like the Augusta Canal Singletrack, Bartram, Keg Creek and Mistletoe State Park. There is also the Palmetto Parkway Bike Path, North Augusta Greenway, and the Riverview Pump Track. Whichever the route, each track has a wealth of mesmerizing views and interesting challenges to captivate the cyclist, not to mention some of the most revealing wildlife spots along the way. And with a culturally rich network of towns and cities like Atlanta, Augusta, and Savanna within reach, cyclists looking for something a little more cosmopolitan or traditional can get the best of both worlds. And it’s not just a terrific ride to enjoy in spring, either – all year round, Georgia and particularly FATS has a lot of wonder to share – so grab that helmet and hit the dirt!