Just over two years ago I wrote about Alex Clark’s new company, Knoxville Outdoor Tours. I recently caught up with him to get an update on the status of the company and learned it has done very well. While starting a business not so long before a global pandemic might not work so well for some, for an outdoor-based company, the timing was good.
When we sat down, Alex showed me a new t-shirt the company is selling. Designed by Rachel Elise, the shirt features her graphic design showing the Baker Creek Preserve and surrounding area. A fun detail for me: The shirt shows the first home I ever bought, at the corner of South Haven and Sevierville Pike! It also shows all the trails in Baker Creek and features a characteristic of each in graphic form.
Alex lives in south Knoxville and has enjoyed connecting with his south Knoxville neighbors. Of the company, he said, “We are really trying to be all things ‘mountain bike’ in Knoxville . . . For me, it has been important to get as involved in the community as I possibly could. I serve as Trail Coordinator for the AMBC.” His company has sponsored events and shuttles (in coordination with Knox Brew Hub).
The Shuttle Days involve Zack Roskop’s Brew Buses trucking willing bikers from downtown to Baker Creek Bottoms. Trailing behind them is a load of their bicycles ready from them to ride. They are taken to the top of Devil’s Racetrack via van and dropped off to ride to the bottom. It has served as a fundraiser for AMBC, money that is used for trail maintenance and building.
The business is built on three services. Training to learn mountain biking or to improve your skills up to an expert level are offered via private lessons or coaching classes. Will has attended classes to become a PTBI certified teacher. Alex loves introducing new riders to the sport. Classes are tailored to skill level and cost $100 per participant.
Second, they have opened to rentals ($100 per day), operating a small fleet of seven bikes that serves everyone, but particularly out-of-town riders. The rental bike portion has been the driver, with many people visiting Knoxville and searching for bike rentals. He said word has spread about the Urban Wilderness and many come here to take advantage of the outdoor resources offered and he said as much as 90% of their business comes from out-of-town. They deliver the bikes to the Baker Creek Trailhead and pick them up at the end of the ride.
They also continue the service that launched them: guiding people on rides tailored to their interests or skill levels. As an example of out-of-town business, he said the previous weekend they led a three-hour ride for visitors who had come to Knoxville for a geology conference. He expects the guided rides to grow as visitors realize the efficiency of following someone who knows the trails. He said they know cool “secret trails,” and can otherwise expedite riders’ exploration. Guided rides cost $100 for the first participant and $50 for each additional rider.
Alex employs one full-time person (Will) and another part-time person (Andrew). He takes the calls or makes arrangements online for reservations and his employees make sure the guided ride, coaching, or bike delivery is made as requested. He said they have both been great employees, everything is running well, and they are seeing growth in all three services offered.
One thing he appreciates is that his free time is devoted to the business, doing what he loves doing: riding and helping others learn to love it as well. He even enjoys building new trails during the winter months. “I want to be fully emersed in the Knoxville Mountain Bike scene and for people to know that we are a resource for them . . . We want Knoxville to be known as a ‘scene,’ know that when you come to Knoxville, it has a robust Mountain Biking scene.”