Utilizing Knoxville’s Greenways and Urban Wilderness
It seems like every year more research is released stating the importance of physical activity and exercise to maintain a long and healthy lifestyle. There is a litany of ways to approach exercise. Some choose to go to the gym and do their own solo workout, some prefer group classes, personal trainers, rock climbing, yoga, etc. There are limitless ways one can maintain a healthy exercise routine. In this issue of Cityview, we wanted to explore a specific physical activity that seems to be gathering more attention in the Knoxville area: cycling. With the establishment of the Urban Wilderness and a bike share service in town, cycling has seen a surge of popularity in the Knoxville area.
Ryan Indelicato is a Knoxville resident who commutes to work by bike as much as he can. Taking in his favorite parts of Knoxville is one of the best parts about cycling through the city according to Indelicato. “I love riding from my house up to Sutherland and hopping on the Third Creek Greenway. It’s a beautiful ride and a fun way to get to a few of my favorite places.” But biking wasn’t always Indelicato’s first choice when it comes to his commute. “I have always tried to limit my carbon emissions, but over the last few years have been pretty lazy about it. After driving around my part of Knoxville I realized how accessible the area was by bike and decided to start bike commuting as much as possible,” says Indelicato.
For a city as spread out as Knoxville, one may not think that it would be simple to commute anywhere by bike. Yet Knoxville is almost completely connected by bike-friendly greenways, and more neighborhoods and popular areas are gradually creating designated bike lanes. Indelicato has found it to be a positive experience, even going as far to say that it makes going to work every day more fun! The City of Knoxville’s website has a comprehensive map of greenways and trails in the area that make it easy, and fun, to navigate a commute by cycling. Not to mention the bike share service, Pace, typically has a docking station at every popular bike-friendly spot in the city. You can rent a Pace bike through the free Pace Bike Share app on your iPhone or Android. Rides are $1.00 for every half hour.
There are also plenty of designated bike trails in the Knoxville area to explore. Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness is a 1,000-acre area in South Knoxville that has been preserved through the city’s efforts. Part of this area includes historical locations, such as Fort Dickerson Park, and nature preserves, such as Ijams Nature Center. But it also includes various trails that are meant for mountain biking and cyclists! While the condition of these trails being uphill and downhill make for a more extreme experience than a greenway in suburban Knoxville, it’s proving to be a popular option.
One of these trails is the William Hastie Natural Area. This trail is over six miles long and ranges in difficulty. Baker Creek Preserve is another location incorporated into Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, but this one has mountain-bike specific trails. The area makes up over seven miles of natural terrain trails with varying difficulty. There’s even an area meant for kids at the beginning, with some beginner mountain-bike activities and structures available to help kids learn about mountain biking as a sport. Ultimately, Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness has cycling options for everyone in the family.
Another wonderful way to enjoy cycling in the area is through road cycling. Some favorite scenic spots for this in the Knoxville area are Sequoyah Park, Admiral Farragut Park, Foothills Parkway, Ijams Nature Center, Old Walland Highway in Townsend, and many other similar locations. It’s a beautiful way to experience the scenic, rolling hills and twisting rivers of our area. But as many of the locations above note, you don’t have to stay within the city limits of Knoxville to find some of the best spots. In fact, one of the most beautiful places to road cycle is the Cades Cove Loop in the Great Smoky Mountains. The loop itself is 11-miles, but it’s a breathtaking experience being surrounded by nature and our rich East Tennessee history.
If you’re one that prefers the indoors, you can still enjoy cycling. Indoor cycling studios have become increasingly popular across the nation, and Knoxville a locally-owned option. TurboSpin Cycling Studio has been in business since 2015. Owner Brittany Reed says spin classes aren’t just for those experienced with other types of cycling. “Indoor cycling classes help you shed fat, improve your heart health, and boost your muscle endurance… However, at TurboSpin, we combine indoor cycling with a weighted workout for your arms, which makes it more of a full-body workout.” If that sounds too extreme, don’t fret! “Classes are 50 minutes long and are modifiable for all fitness levels,” according to Reed. “Everyone is welcome at TurboSpin!”
Whether you choose to pursue cycling outdoors or indoors, there are plenty of health benefits to keep in mind. Dr. Rebecca Jackson, a physician in the Knoxville area and a cyclist, shared with us just a little bit about how cycling can benefit your mind and body. “With the aerobic component, the blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar will come down. There is also the added benefit of some weight loss and stress reduction. Stress reduction can be mental and physical… One of the things I enjoy most is the social aspect of riding.” When asked if there was any difference between cycling outdoors or opting for a spin class, Jackson says the health benefits are very similar. “Indoor spin classes can compact aerobic exercise into a shorter period of time. Furthermore, overheating and cycling accidents don’t happen indoors. But if you’re indoors, you’ll miss the beautiful landscape that Knoxville and the surrounding communities offer.”
Jackson also says that it is important to keep health and safety in mind. If you have any health conditions that might be affected by cycling, it’s important to consult your physician first. In addition, “be sure your bicycle is a good fit. A poor bike fit can commonly result in knee or neck pain. Your local bike shop can help with this… Always wear a bicycle helmet and try to cycle on roads that are safe with good visibility. When riding in heat, fill your water bottle with an electrolyte solution,” says Jackson
There are many places to find everything you need to start cycling. Knoxville has plenty of local bike shops that sell all of the gear you need from a bike itself, to helmets and apparel.
Harpers – Harpers has been active in the Knoxville community for over 55 years. They have a legacy of commitment to serving their customers in the East Tennessee area and have an excellent selection of bikes and supplies.
Tennessee Valley Bicycles – This shop specializes in selling and maintaining mountain, touring and road bikes, along with all of the accessories that accompany them. They also offer the option to rent bikes. Rates are listed for this on their website.
DreamBikes – While this shop isn’t a Knoxville native, it does give back to our community. DreamBikes is a 501(c)3 organization that hires teens from low-to-moderate income neighborhoods in the area by working with local youth organizations. They also carry everything you would need to start cycling, and organize events for all ages and levels of experience in the community.
Bike Zoo – This shop in the heart of Bearden has a large selection of bikes and cycling supplies. Its location is convenient to various greenways, the University of Tennessee’s campus, and Downtown Knoxville.
Cedar Bluff Cycles – This West Knoxville bike shop has been serving the cycling community in town since the 90s. It’s owned and operated by Knoxville natives and always aims to provide any cycling services needed to the cycling community.
Knoxville is not just becoming a bike-friendly city, it’s becoming a cycling hotspot. The USA Cycling National Championships have been held in Knoxville the past two summers. Those in charge of development in our city have made it a priority to make bike-friendly trails, greenways, and roads through bike-lanes. There is a plethora of reliable, local bike shops that sell everything needed to get started in cycling, and we have the gorgeous East Tennessee mountains, hills, country roads and rivers as a backdrop for outdoor cyclists. Whether you choose to go the outdoor route, or you opt to try an indoor spin class, cycling has proven to be an excellent option to stay active and fit in our Scruffy City.
For more information on cycling in Knoxville, you can visit visitknoxville.com/things-to-do/outdoors/cycling/ and outdoorknoxville.com/play/bicycling.