The LBL 200 is one of the iconic American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) National Dual Sport events, based in the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area on the Tennessee-Kentucky state line. For two days, riders follow old-school enduro-style road books along hiking trails which are usually closed to motorized vehicles. These pristine single track trails remain open the rest of the year only to hikers and mountain bikers. The event is so popular that the 250 spots sell out in less than half an hour.
The origins of the LBL 200 date back to the 1970s and ‘80s. In those days, a group led by Jesse Thomas called KT Riders hosted a series of enduros, hare scrambles, and motocross events in the area. In the mid ‘80s, much of the land changed hands and came under the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). This change and subsequent budget cuts closed the riding and hiking trails in the area. It wasn’t long until Jesse received a call from Roger Ansel of the AMA, which prompted a new type of event and a new partnership with the land management agencies—the LBL 200.
Preparation and the U.S. Forest Service
Jesse and the KT Riders (now Thomas Brothers Productions) worked closely with TVA and eventually the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to keep the event alive each year since 1987. As part of the agreement, the trails in the area must be maintained. The Thomas family spends most of their weekends between June and September keeping the trails clear of brush and downed trees. The family can pay special attention to the environmental impacts of their efforts, thanks to help from the USFS. Even small details like the direction of travel and how many times riders can use certain trail sections are accounted for.
Collaborating with the USFS has not always been easy. However, the Thomas family has a long history of volunteer work under their belts and have proven time and time again that the work they do benefits all users of this land. Most of the trails through the area would’ve been closed years ago if not for the Thomas family. Although some trails are only open to motorcycles for two days each year, it’s a perfect reminder that motorsports enthusiasts can help other user groups keep public land accessible.
Thomas Brothers Productions now consists of three Thomas generations, including Jesse’s son Bobby and grandsons Chase and Dustin. The LBL 200 has been a family tradition for 35 years now. The most recent event was the first that a fourth generation pitched in, as Dustin’s daughter volunteered to help. With four young great-grandchildren in the mix, Jesse is positive the Thomas family will continue to pass down the LBL 200 torch.
The event is based out of the Piney Campground in the southernmost part of Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. To participate in the event, riders must be on registered street-legal dual sport machines. Lunch and dinner are provided with entry to the event, as well as a mid-ride fuel stop with high-octane ethanol-free fuel, two-stroke oil, and mixing cups.
The 2021 event was a fantastic success as the family celebrated LBL 200’s 35th anniversary. The weather was pleasant, with only some rain toward the end of day two, and the trails were in pristine condition. If you are looking for a unique riding experience, the LBL 200 is exactly that.
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
Funding for park and forest services is tight, leaving these agencies with difficult decisions regarding which areas of the parks or managed land remain open and which trails and roads can be maintained each year. More and more parks and public access land are being shut down or restricted simply because the resources to keep them operational are dwindling.
Motorcyclists are often among the first to complain when their favorite road or trail is barricaded. What we often don’t see is what happens behind the scenes to keep these areas open. Rather than sit around complaining about it, shouldn’t we take action to minimize the amount of closures these areas are seeing? We must do our part to ensure they remain open to all users, especially the future generations of riders.
So, how can riders support our natural areas?
Be A Responsible Rider
We all set the example to riders around us, so be sure to use our public trails in a responsible manner. Leave nothing behind, clean up other trash you find along your ride, stay on the designated trail, and be sure to follow any other rules in the area.
Join A Club and Volunteer
Local motorcycle and overlanding clubs can sponsor an area of a park, public land, or trail system either by raising money or putting boots on the ground. Clubs can set up trail work weekends where volunteers come together to pick up trash and clear brush. If you’re interested in clearing trees and doing trail maintenance, look into chainsaw certification for managed land.
Contact Local Land Management Agencies
Every region and land management agency is different. Contact them directly to see how you can help keep your trails open. Ask to speak directly to a volunteer coordinator or recreation manager. Volunteering your time and resources in ways your area needs most is a great way to get involved and make a difference.