Emile Hughes and Hobie King share two major passions. They love the city of Birmingham and they love mountain biking. These shared interests between two friends have resulted in RideBHM, a mountain bike park that features dozens of trail riding options for Magic City residents and biking enthusiasts around the Southeast. The impressive flow-focused wonderland came with the help of Red Mountain Park and opened in November to over 400 people from 11 states. The park is currently hosting free beginner classes, offers bike rentals, and will be hosting youth camps - including scholarships for Birmingham-area students who wouldn’t typically have this experience - in the spring/summer. Day and ride pass specials can also often be found on the park’s social media pages. They’ve even been the film site for a recent Shaheed and DJ Supreme video. It’s safe to say exciting things are taking place at RideBHM.

I started the interview at RideBHM’s nifty storage unit turned bike shop, complete with Muchachos and a firepit for the colder weather. It’s midday on a Tuesday, and a dozen or so people are enjoying the trails. Although the shop is usually closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Hobie is attending the store. Some of the mountain bikers rented electric bikes and King was taking the time to show them how to use tow ropes to carry their friends with regular mountain bikes up the mountain with ease. After the instructions were given and the ropes were tied, I walked with Hobie past a beginner training loop to see the variety of trails of increasing skill levels (Green, Blue, Black, Double Black) coming down the mountain towards us from Peak 1. It’s a lot to take in - in the best of ways. The perfect viewpoint to learn how such a miraculous achievement came to be. 

Hobie and Emile both left Birmingham for pretty extended periods of time. “I lived in Columbus, Ohio for 8 years and he lived kind of all over. He did a little bit of Nicaragua then lived in Aspen, Colorado for a little bit. We both moved back around 2017/2018 and got into mountain biking,” King recalls, “Then when COVID hit we really got into mountain biking and realized how cool of a sport it was. It’s kind of like skiing but on dirt and truth be told I like it more than skiing because you can do it anywhere. You don’t have to have a big mountain.”

The duo started to envision what a flow-based mountain bike park would look like in Birmingham. There are two main types of mountain biking trails: flow and tech. Tech trails, like the fun paths at Oak Mountain State Park, are more naturally made and only contain a few hand-made adjustments to the path. Flow trails are designed for jumping, berms (sharp raised turns), and other fun adventures. They include tabletop jumps, wooden ramps, sharp berms, and paths that are cleared of rocks and designed to enjoy speed. While RideBHM ended up having both kinds of trails, the two inspired mountain bikers knew they wanted more of the latter.

There are some crazy jumps to be found at RideBHM for those who want to ride them, but the park is fun for all ages and skill levels. All images provided by RideBHM

It was a trip to Kanuga Bike Park in North Carolina that first set Hughes and King on the right path. Kanuga was the first petal pike they’d seen - as in the park didn’t have lifts like the ones normally found at mountain bike and ski slopes. E-bikes were used instead which made for a convenient alternative for both park operators and those who visit. The pair returned to Birmingham inspired, and eventually met with the Director of Red Mountain who shared that the park had recently received some land and wanted to see if the RideBHM fellows would see if it was a good spot for a mountain bike park. King and Hughes spent about a year figuring out legal hurdles and bringing out trail builders to look at the park, before signing a concession agreement in February of 2022. Construction began in March and went through October before the victorious November Grand Opening. 

“This was all built using heavy machinery. I quickly realized it’s damn scary being on an excavator on land that’s not flat. We brought in a trail company called Dial Dirt. They build all over the country but the guy that runs it is from South Carolina. He and his team built almost everything here. The bike park Kanuga sent out a team to build a trail. It’s big, forgiving jumps,” Hobie shares. The park is truly beautiful to walk and ride through, and King explained that a ton of shrubbery and invasive plants were removed to make for the city park in the forest experience.

“If you can ride a bike comfortably then you can probably ride some of the trails here,” Hobie states. He recalls how his 70-year-old father-in-law went down the trails and had a good time - and would later prove it by taking this writer (who hadn’t ridden a bike in quite a while) up the mountain to ride some of the more friendly green slopes. We rode down one peak to get momentum up to the other and I haven’t felt such an exhilarating experience in quite some time. “Stand up a bit and don’t hit the brakes” is what King told me a couple of seconds before I was zooming through the woods having the time of my life. 


When you’re done with the trails, the friendly bike shop is waiting to help you cool down. “It’s not just the mountain biking, it’s giving people a welcoming experience. One thing that adds is a very friendly, welcoming, and fun base camp. People ride, then they hang out by the bike shop.” Food trucks can often be found at the park on the weekends, and live music has been discussed for the summer. 

A mountain bike park of this caliber is not a common site, and people have been consistently traveling from Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and beyond to take in the enthralling jumps and berms found on these new trails. The park’s masterminds see it as their role in showcasing the beauty that is the Magic City. “I think Birmingham’s an awesome city and people just need to give us a chance,” King explains, “This was the best way that I could think of to get people to come to Birmingham and enjoy it. Try to get people to go downtown to the breweries, the fine dining, the Civil Rights exhibits.” 

RideBHM has been a hit, and the park’s founders have big visions for continued mountain bike culture growth across the Southeast. But they are certainly happy to cherish these moments happening in Birmingham that were nonexistent less than a year ago. So am I, and I will definitely be back out to work on my berms.