…In the Midwest. Rings a bell, right? It’s that strip of fertile land between Colorado and Pennsylvania (bear with me, you geography studs, for the purposes of this blog post). If the United States were a finish line and you were the first to cross it, your belly button would break the ribbon right over some of the best riding in the country. Regardless of whether you happen to find yourself within driving distance of a hefty mountain range, there is great riding everywhere, much closer to home than you’d think.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve worked in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and most recently Ohio. Before we travel to each of those places, we are on the receiving end of furled eyebrows and bewilderment. As if to avoid the potential for insult but still convey that we might very well be stupid for taking our bikes off the car among the corn and beans, the person on the other end of the conversation asks whether there is riding “there.” Of course, silly! Haven’t you been listening?
Columbus, Ohio, ironically was both on the giving and receiving end of this scenario. Prior to our Columbus visit, we got the eyebrow and the question. While we were in Columbus and in anticipation of our St. Louis visit, gentile Columbites (out on a limb…) gave us that very eyebrow about St. Louis! While I can’t vouch for St. Louis just yet (stay tuned), I can safely attest for the quality of riding in Columbus (check out Alum Creek in Westerville, OH), and assure that more is to come for the Buckeye State, thanks to our hardworking trail advocates with the Central Ohio Mountain Biking Organization (COMBO).
Last year we wrote about the consternation that we get about the places we visit in the Midwest, along with some of our favorite trails out there. Can you tell that preaching the Midwest mountain bike trail gospel is our favorite pastime?
What makes these trails great is that the clubs take advantage of opportunities and poo-poo limitations. The Midwest has river valleys, reservoir contours and hills galore! I’ve huffed and puffed on these trails just the same as I did climbing Deadman’s in Crested Butte (not recommended, by the way). And you know what the Midwest doesn’t have, that you’re likely to encounter elsewhere? A little thing called ego. They love their trails, but as if they’re guarding a secret, won’t gloat (maybe no one will listen, who knows). It is true that Midwestern trails don’t boast the same system-based mileage that you’d find in the Rockies or elsewhere, but there are pods of ten or so miles sprinkled all around towns and cities, always each close to someone’s home and each supporting a bike shop in that neighborhood.
This blog post is not intended to force you and your family to drive 25 hours from Sacramento to discover the joys of riding in Omaha. It’s intended to tell you that there is good riding absolutely everywhere (we’ve even come close to wrestling feral hogs and alligators in Savannah to find it). If you want to build new trail in an area and someone tells you no, never quit. Look to the underdogs for success stories, visualize all your opportunities and dream big.
THANK YOU to COMBO for a marvelously successful weekend building the capacity needed to get the Chestnut Ridge trail off the ground. Another great place on our list to ride in a year’s time!