It’s the end of my second week on the job as the marketing manager for Palmetto Bluff, and I’m careening down a dirt path, white knuckles gripping the handlebars of a felt off-road bike…. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. The biking paths at Palmetto Bluff are very easy to ride. Just bear with me for the sake of the story.
It all started innocently enough. I was brainstorming ideas for articles for The Bluff with my new boss, the incomparable Courtney Hampson. We were at a bit of a loss for an article to finish out this issue. “Have you ever been mountain biking?” she asks. Was there a hint of a smirk in her question? I wonder. “They just put in a new off-road biking trail in Moreland. Why don’t you go out there and write about it?” Try it, she says. It’ll be fun, she says.
Is this some kind of test? Never one to shy away from an adventure or a challenge, I took the bait. And so I find myself sweating in the Lowcountry heat on a June day, digging into the turns, flying over jumps and bumps in the trail, and fighting off an all-out attack by a swarm of beefed-up kamikaze mosquito top guns.
I can’t say I wasn’t warned. I had asked vice president of development, Dallas Wood, who is responsible for all of the roads and trails that crisscross the property, for some guidance prior to heading out. Bring water and bug spray was his only missive. Sound advice, but bug spray has nothing on these monsters.
The only solution at this point? Go faster.
I start pedaling like my life and my poor skin depend on it. . . . Okay, okay, all of that is a bit of an exaggeration, too. It was a casual ride where my tires never left the ground and I lazily swatted away some bugs, but that doesn’t make for a great story, does it? This is my first assignment, and I’m taking some poetic license here.
Leading me is Philip Balvocius from Outside Palmetto Bluff, manager of the new bike shop in Moreland Village. Philip has been a bike geek since age 12 when he started racing road bikes every weekend. As an adult, he became more interested in off-road biking, and he is happy to help everyone, from beginners to advanced riders, get out on the trails. “All levels can enjoy the trails at Palmetto Bluff,” he says. “They are flat and wide—easy riding—but more experienced off-road bikers have a place to escape for a 5-, 10-, even 20-mile adventure.”
Exaggerations aside, the off-road biking trails are very enjoyable. Most of the trails are under the tree canopy, making them a cool and shady alternative to the paved paths. The Maritime Loop is an easy 1-mile track where riders can get their feet wet and stretch their legs a bit before tackling the longer River Road or Long Leaf Pine trails. The Maritime Loop crosses a small creek and skirts the inland waterway. The River Road Trail connects both Moreland Village and Wilson Village. It runs for a little more than 5 miles along Cauley’s Creek and the May River. It’s wide enough for a car to drive through, but there are narrower side trails and spurs that are woodsier and make for endless exploring. The side trails give riders an opportunity for close-up views of the waterways and potentially a glimpse of the local American alligators. The Long Leaf Pine Trail is also wide and flat. It is freshly cut and ready for riders to enjoy.
Philip and I are both riding the bike shop’s off-road rental bikes made by Felt. The Felt bikes feature an aluminum frame and responsive shocks. They also have a weight-saving single front gear and offer a wider range of back gears than most bikes. The stars of the show in the bike shop, though, are the Pedego Electric Bikes. The shop has a wide range of styles from the Interceptor, a basic cruiser, to the Range Rider, an off-road bike. The Boomerang model, another cruiser, has a low step-through frame and a shorter wheel base, making it easy to get on even for people with limited mobility. They also have a tandem bike, a stretch bike with a seat on the back, trikes, and even a foldable bike on offer in the shop.
Set the pedal assist on the Pedego to a three or four, and don’t be surprised when it takes off from under you—these things have some juice. Pedal assist helps riders pick up speed when they are stopped at an intersection and need to accelerate quickly to cross, for example, or just for the thrill of it. The bikes also have a throttle that allows riders to power the bike without pedaling at all, reaching speeds of up to 15 miles per hour. (The shop uses governors to cap their top speeds for safety, though the bikes can reach up to 25 mph.) “The biggest benefit of the added speed is that it allows riders to see more of Palmetto Bluff in a shorter time with less effort,” Philip says.
The shop opened this past July and offers a full menu of biking excursions, a fully equipped repair shop, and bikes for sale and rent. The shop techs will fit both the Pedego bikes and the Felt off-road bikes to the rider and fine-tune them for rentals lasting longer than a day. It features a fit station with a stationary trainer to make adjustments, and the staff can dial the bike in quickly to get riders on the road in just a few minutes. In keeping with Palmetto Bluff’s focus on conservation, the shop uses mineral oil instead of brake fluid in the braking systems of their bikes, making them more environmentally friendly out on the trails. All bikes feature rear racks and handlebar-mounted phone holders with an optional wireless speaker. And all rentals come with a take-home water bottle.
Hyperbole might define this story, but it’s no exaggeration to say that the bikes and trails at Palmetto Bluff are just plain old fun. “Who doesn’t like to ride a bike?” Philip asks. “You don’t even have to pedal some of them. Just sit down and hold on.” After surviving my first assignment, I couldn’t agree more.
Written By: Molly Clancy
Photography By: Jade + Matthew Take Pictures and Aman Shakya