Mountain biking offers the opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the scenery while getting a workout.
There are numerous opportunities to ride trails in Columbia County and throughout the Augusta area.
The go-to organization locally is the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association-CSRA. It has roughly 150 local members.
The organization is dedicated to maintaining trails already in place and advocating the creation of new trails through work with land managers.
According to its Web site, www.sorbacsra.org, the non-profit organization promotes "mountain biking through trail advocacy, trail maintenance, education, special events, and group rides."
Including a group of trails frequented by locals in Edgefield County known as FATS -- Forks Area Trail System -- there are upwards of 85 miles of trails to ride in the area.
Before getting started, riders should know the severity of rocks, dips, drop-offs and other potential hazards, said Paul Farrow, the organization's president. Only experienced riders should take on trails marked "advanced," he stressed.
"If you're an advanced rider, you should be able to go out on any trail and ride it and feel comfortable," Farrow said. "Even advanced riders will take it slow and easy to learn (a new course) the first time. After that, they will do it with more speed."
Most sporting goods stores sell mountain bikes and some additional equipment.
For those interested in specialty gear or a more elite selection of bikes, contact Phil Cohen at Chain Reaction in Martinez. The shop is located at 3920 Roberts Road, just off of the intersection between Columbia and Washington roads.
There are 37.5 miles of trails in Columbia County and an additional 8 miles in Richmond County.
There is a trailhead -- a term for the start of a trail -- and a parking area at West Dam Recreational Area at Clarks Hill Lake.
The Bartram Trail starts there and goes to Lake Springs Road. Then, the trail goes from Lake Springs Road to Petersburg Campground. From there, the trail extends into Wildwood Park to Washington Road.
Across from Washington Road there is a new trail called Keg Creek. Unlike the Bartram and Wildwood trails, which are dubbed in-and-out trails, Keg Creek is a loop that will take you back to where it starts.
On the way from West Dam, there is another trail to take along the route -- the Lake Springs loop trail. On the original route, there is a sign designating the start of the Lake Springs loop.
Some portions of those trails are just for advanced riders.
For less of a mountain bike trek and more of a steady ride, there's a paved biking path starting on Evans to Locks Road in Evans. To get there, start at Lakeside High School and go toward Evans to Locks Road. Take a right at the light, go half a mile and the path starts there.
That path extends to Savannah Rapids Pavilion, and riders can go from there onto the Augusta Canal tow path. Riding down the tow path, the Richmond County Waterworks building is visible. Behind it is the Augusta Canal Mountain Bike Trail.
Sumter National Forest in Edgefield County is home to FATS. It has become a famous set of trails.
In May, the International Mountain Biking Association's summit was held in Augusta. The presence of FATS was one of the main reasons this area was chosen, said Farrow, adding that people will occasionally travel from out of town just to ride the trails.
To access FATS, take Interstate 20 east, then get off on Exit 1 (SC 230). Head north on SC 230 for about 5 miles. Turn left on Woodlawn Road. Then, go approximately 4 miles. The trailhead parking area will be on the left.
FATS encompasses 36 miles of trails, ranging from beginner to advanced. The trailhead features signs pointing out the start of each trail, and the park has a map of the trails designated for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.
Farrow says most people mistakenly believe that governmental agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, do most of the work maintaining mountain bike trails.
"They don't have the manpower," Farrow said.
Instead, the onus is on volunteers to put in the hours, Farrow said. The Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association-CSRA holds monthly work parties, as well as spur-of-the-moment work sessions when trails are affected unexpectedly.
"We always tell people to give back to the trail," Farrow said. "That is, go out and volunteer and help maintain them."
Avoid riding trails when they are too wet because it can cause erosion and possibly damage the trail.
Ride in the middle of the trail and learn to pedal over obstacles such as fallen trees, roots and rocks.
Riding around the obstacle will widen the trail and contribute to erosion. Walk your bike over obstacles you cannot ride.
Do not create additional trails without the express permission of the land manager.
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