It’s impossible to miss the spandex and drop bars popping up regularly in Greenville.
On fair weather days, scores of cyclists pedal furiously up the Saluda grade and coast down Paris Mountain. They ride on neighborhood roads, looping around Furman University or SCTAC, weave through Travelers Rest and pop onto the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
Greenvlle isn’t exactly new to the cycling scene — it held the USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships from 2006 to 2012 as well as the National Criterium Championships in 2015 and 2016 — but its fame among cyclists has grown tremendously in recent years, helped in part by American cycling icon George Hincapie, who has long touted Greenville’s training potential. Retired pros Bobby Julich, Christian Vande Velde and many others have also relocated to the area.
“It’s definitely a mecca, and it’s becoming more well known to people throughout the U.S.,” retired pro cyclist Nicole Johnson says of Greenville.
Johnson and her husband, Boyd, moved to Greenville from Charlotte in 2006 after hearing the hype.
“We had lots of people tell us that this was one of the best places for training and riding because you have the mountains, but you also have the rolling farmland and the wide-open flats,” Johnson says.
Greenville as a whole is also committed to cycling, Johnson says, which is a big sell for cyclists as tourists and potential residents.
The city has made a deliberate effort to improve its cycling infrastructure by expanding the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail and adding bike lanes and bike racks through its “Bikeville” initiative.
The Greenville B-Cycle bike sharing network, launched in 2013, has resulted in docking stations throughout downtown, including Heritage Green, Main Street, University Ridge and Cleveland Park.
The list goes on. Greenville has twice been named a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. It constructed South Carolina’s first on-street protected bike lane downtown running along Broad Street between Main and Spring streets. And its Bicycle Master Plan, adopted in 2011, aims for Greenville to have nearly 140 total miles of bike lanes, bike routes and shared lane markings.
The city is in the process of adding green paint striped bike lanes at the corner of North Main Street and Stone Avenue. According to City Councilman John DeWorken, the paint treatment will drastically improve safety and visibility for cyclists.
“If you talk to different business leaders — even the mayor and people at City Hall — they are totally into cycling and growing that here in Greenville,” Johnson says. “It’s part of the DNA of what Greenville’s all about.”
An ecosystem for bikes
At one point recently, Johnson says she counted some 17 bike shops in Greenville. Among them is Piney Mountain Bike Lounge, a full-service bike shop and craft beer taproom opened by Greenville natives Chip and Jackie Batson.
Both Chip and Jackie have extensive mountain biking history. Chip, who started mountain biking in 1988 with his father, has ventured to West Virginia and several other states to shred rubber across new trails. And Jackie, who started mountain biking as a student at the University of Georgia, spends weekends racing across trails as a member of several mountain biking teams.
The married couple wanted Piney Mountain Bike Lounge to be the community hub for Upstate mountain bikers.
“We really have a great community that we belong to that focuses on riding, and it’s a part of what they do on a daily basis,” – Nicole Johnson, retired pro cyclist, co-owner, Boyd Cycling
“We’ve created a space where people can hang out, buy a beer, plan weekend rides, share stories and meet new people from the community,” Chip Batson said in an interview with the Greenville Journal in 2017.
Johnson and her husband also own Boyd Cycling, which manufactures specialty bicycle wheels.
“We hand-build everything right here at our facility in Greenville, and we ship wheels all over the world,” Johnson says.
In addition to bike shops, Greenville has a host of bicycle advocacy groups from Bike Walk Greenville to the Greenville Spinners, which supports safe cycling initiatives and hosts group rides for their members, and Upstate SORBA, which is dedicated to maintaining and adding new mountain biking trails to the area.
Upstate SORBA recently completed work on a 2.2-mile loop trail at Paris Mountain State Park, with help from the Paris Mountain Friends group.
“We really have a great community that we belong to that focuses on riding, and it’s a part of what they do on a daily basis,” Johnson says.
Notable Upstate cycling events
Jason Griffin Racing Criterium Series
This series of eight races will host competition for five levels of riders, including a youth series. Races are held at the Greenville Pickens Speedway in Easley.
Assault on Mt. Mitchell
A 102.7-mile self-paced ride from Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in downtown Spartanburg along the Blue Ridge Parkway to the summit at Mt. Mitchell State Park in North Carolina. The ride has a total vertical ascent of more than 10,000 feet.
A Ride to Remember
A statewide bike tour from Greenville to Charleston that raises money for Alzheimer’s disease research, caretakers and their families.
Gran Fondo Hincapie
Riders join George Hincapie and former and current professional cyclists on a challenging course through the Blue Ridge Mountains, on routes Hincapie traveled while training for the Tour de France.