KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — There is a whole cycling community here in East Tennessee and several different types of competitions these athletes compete in. 

There are multiple categories of bicycle racing including road racing, cyclo-cross, mountain bike racing, and track cycling. 

Travis Jolly said he prefers to go the distance, “Ultra-distance cycling is any bike race, road, mountain, or gravel that is [I] would say maybe over 100 miles in length.” 

Before he started training for ultra-distance competitions, Jolly actually used to compete on foot.  

“I used to run cross country in high school and college and ever since I quit running in the middle of school my father and I would go on really long bike rides,” Jolly explained. 

Jolly is originally from Houston, Texas, and moved to Knoxville in 2019.  

“It was very flat and there, [there] was a lot of urban sprawls, and I mainly commuted by bike,” he said.

He said the terrain is very different in East Tennessee but that makes him love the sport even more.

“I still bike to work every day and now I have the opportunity to ride from my doorstep to the Great Smoky Mountains and all the gravel roads out there.” 

It was our Tennessee hills and gravel roads that made Travis want to turn his leisure activity into something more.  

“So, the first ultra-distance that I did was to bike across the state of New Mexico,” Jolly said.  

Since moving to Tennessee he’s competed in a checkpoint-style race in Brevard, North Carolina. He and his partner won 1st place in the single-speed division. He’s also won 2nd place at a race in Georgia called the Snake Creek ITT. He said his focus isn’t on medals or trophies but on his time results. 

“I don’t really have any crazy goals,” Jolly said. “I just really enjoy riding my bike long distances.” 

He adds that he loves the company that comes with it, “Generally, it’s a pretty tight-knit community.” 

Jolly said it’s the friends he’s made along the way that has made going the distance worth the ride.  

Jolly explained that many of the cyclists he competes with use a multi-gear bike. He, however, rides a single-speed bike which can make riding harder on some of the trails because you can’t switch gears to match the terrain. 

When Jolly isn’t competing, you can find him at Two Bikes where he works to serve others in the community. Two Bikes is dedicated to expanding access to bicycles in Knoxville by pledging to give away half of their bikes for free.