GUIDES, SKILLS COACHING, CAMPING, GLAMPING
Imagine if you will, miles and miles and miles of single track mountainbiking. Love the view of a pristine southern mountain environment? How about camping? If you said YES, The Bike Farm and Glamping will blow your mind!
A Cold and Rainy Visit to the bike farm
Cold, snowy, sloppy conditions didn't dapen the palpapel enthusiasm eminating from all in attendance for what we expected to be a mundane interview. Stepping out of the car onto the slushy snow covering the ground in patches, we were warmly greeted and walked from the car into headquarters of the bike farm to sit down with Cashion Smith, half of the ownership team of Cashion and his wife Eva Surls. and Josh. Prior to the visit I did a cursory bit of research into the bike farm and came across this spot on nugget: "If Cashion Smith was Henry David Thoreau, The Bike Farm would be his Walden."- Phil Morgan, WNC Magazine.
What exactly is the bike farm you ask?
A top-shelf team running bike tours into Pisgah National Forest & Dupont State Forest.
A comprehensive guide service that provides uber top end Santa Cruz bikes (should you need them).
An eco-resort offering opportunities ranging from car camping up to full on Glamping.
A base camp for all levels of cyclists from beginners to well established professionals.
STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE
GraciousRoots: Cashion, how deep do your roots run in cycling?
Cashion: I have been riding bikes most of my 39 years and the majority of those years were on a mountain bike. I did my first race in Pisgah somewhere towards the latter part of the 80's. I have been fortunate to get to ride mountain bikes most all of my life all over the country with some of the best riders in the world. We are uniquely positioned to guide professional and expert level riders. Simply put, this is not something we do, it is who we are. While it is fun to show our trails off to the visiting professional, what we do much more of, and what is easily more rewarding is getting someone new comfortable on the bike and excited about the sport.
Gracious Roots: What was the catalyst that spawned the bike farm?
Cashion: Eva and I were sitting at the kitchen counter in 2011 when we hatched a plan to leave our "secure careers" and combine our passion and vocation in the hopes that by doing so we might be able to live a life of fulfillment, and leave the earth a little better than we found it. We (literally) drew a vision of what this life might look like and called it The Mountain Bike Farm, later expanded to The Bike Farm to be more inclusive. We sold most of our belongings, bought a Sprinter van and set out to tour the West, Northwest, and Canada. With some great industry connections through friends at Santa Cruz Bicycles we were able to visit with different bicycle tourism outfits and learn what they had done right, what they had done wrong, and what they would do if they could do it all again.
We believed that my home state of NC was ripe for our concept that had developed on the road and on that drawing, and Eva had fallen in love with Pisgah on our visits from CO. Then the 2011 Bike Magazine Bible of Bike Tests came out proclaiming Transylvania County "America's best kept secret." We took it as a sign, and knew that the time was right. Our tour culminated in Brevard, NC right in time for leaf season in 2012. We set about to reverse engineer our dreams.
We started with a mission, to connect individuals to themselves and the natural world via the bicycle. Pretty simple, but we figured in the age of distraction and disconnect, if we were successful we could fulfill our life's goals. We set out to expose as many people from as many walks of life to what we called "the bike life."
We started out by volunteering for our local middle and high school bike club. We rode every Thursday, and with some free time in the early stages of the business, we were able to help multiply exponentially the funds for the program. We enjoyed seeing it grow from ten or so kids a week to more like fifty.
We were fortunate to receive some wonderful publicity early on from Bike Magazine and had the opportunity to partner with Oskar Blues Brewery and Red Bull in our first couple years of existence. This set us up well and it was not long before we had a thriving business as a turn key provider of mountain bike adventures in WNC.
Last year The Bike Farm's Pisgah location did 230 guided rides with group sizes of 1-40 and did another 30 skills coaching clinics. We welcomed thousands of campers and glampers to our 440 acre campground for outdoors people by outdoors people. We have our own private trails and are adjacent to the National Forest. We built a pump track and a dedicated skills zone for coaching. Santa Cruz Bicycles provides us with a fleet of bikes for our customers. We gathered industry folks from around the country at our second annual Pisgah Mountain Bike Festival that Eva and I put on.
But it was not until we did our first program with Peace of Adventure (www.peaceofadventure.org) that Eva and I realized our mission in earnest. Peace of Adventure's mission it to empower veterans to serve civilians with disabilities through outdoor recreation and adventure. We provided the venue, the guide services, and stoked the campfire each night, but at the end of the week we felt like we were the ones who had gotten the most. You could say our live's took a pivot at that moment. There is a cool video (if you are able to play it up there) on their website from one of our Pisgah programs with POA.
We started cooking something we call Recovery Rides, which can be recovery from all sorts of life's challenges; PTSD, TBI, physical disability, addiction, alcoholism, or even just the daily stress of life. We have now provided three of our Recovery Rides programs for Peace of Adventure and have become their premier program provider. We are slated for two Pisgah programs and two Colorado programs in 2018. At this point, The Bike Farm is paying its bills with glamping, camping, guiding, and coaching, but it is fueled by our work with Peace of Adventure.
While we have had a blast, that is not enough for us. We want our children (hopefully someday soon) to have the same choices, chances, and opportunities that we had. We figure the way to do that is to continue to grow the Pisgah location to reach its full potential, but also to replicate. Life circumstances have dictated that we spend more of our year in CO near Eva's family (not a bad place to call home). As such we have enlisted the help of a wonderful team back in NC to execute day to day operations there. We have been keeping our eyes and ears open for the path to seeing The Bike Farm grow its vision to CO and beyond. If we can do so, we can continue on our mission and our life's works with a broader reach.