Mountain Bike Midwest  by Richard Ries & Dave Shepherd

Mountain Bike! Midwest Guide Book

by Richard Ries & Dave Shepherd (Menasha Ridge Press)
Mountain Bike Midwest  by Richard Ries & Dave Shepherd
With vast prairies, rolling forested hills, and tranquil lakes, the diversity of mountain biking terrain in the Midwest will surprise even the fat tire elite. We promise you'll discover more than single-track winding through endless cornfields. Home to some of the best family-oriented trails around, Midwest mountain biking also possesses great white-knuckle, teeth-rattling rides. You won't find dicey rides teetering on the brink of thousand-foot cliffs, but you will encounter trails as technically challenging as anywhere else in North America. Authors Richard Ries and Dave Shepherd live and ride in the Midwest, and they've uncovered trails to suit every mountain biker's ability and tastes. If it's good riding in Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois, it's in here. Each route profile features at-a-glance key information, a thorough ride description, a detailed trail map, helpful sources of information, proximity of important services, valuable commentary on elevation changes and possible hazards.

© Richard Ries and Dave Shepherd/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Mountain Bike! Midwest" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 97.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 97.

Located twelve miles north of Columbus from the Interstate 270 beltway. There's a two-mile loop designed for beginning riders and a five-mile connecting loop for intermediate riders. You'll like testing your skills on the winding trails. There are no serious switchbacks, but ruts, roots, stumps, ditches, and a stream crossing will challenge you without being too menacing. Among the highlights is a ridge that runs along a ravine overlooking a swampy area at the tip of a cove. On one part of the ridge, you'll take a fast curve down and, before you know it, you're on a bridge followed by a few ditches.
Columbus, OH - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 9
Located in Morgan, Muskingum, and Noble counties, 22 miles southeast of Zanesville and 28 miles northwest of Marietta. If you want to take a family vacation where you can camp, fish, and hike, and you also want to take the family out for some easy mountain biking, Ohio Power Recreation Land is the place for you. This area, covering 30,000 acres, is a reforested coal strip mine area. There are over 350 lakes and ponds stocked with fish, so bring along a fishing pole. The ride is a mix of gravel and paved roads, so your serious mountain biker won't find it too challenging. However, this 25-mile ride, including the distance along the main loop and the out-and-back spurs, does maximize the gravel roads, most of which head in and out of the various camping areas. This is ideal for the family that owns mountain bikes and has been searching for an easy place to ride them.
Zanesville, OH - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 25
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The ride starts and stops where Ryker's Ridge Baptist Church, Ryker's Ridge elementary school, and a small park are clustered on a corner about 5 miles northeast of downtown Madison. This ride's a mix of pavement and gravel roads. The gravel is the wild card. some days it's hard-packed and fast, other days it's loose and sketchy. There's no way to predict conditions, so just go out and take your chances. You're in the heart of southern Indiana's Amish country. No schmaltzy tourist ripoffs, no guided tours, no overpriced bed-and-breakfast shacks with Amish quilts from Honduras. This is the real deal. Humble people in dark clothes going about their business. Simple frame homes with white siding, and no electric lines. Their religion prevents them from being photo subjects- a bibilical prohibition against graven images. Please respect their wishes. You can have fun ripping this ride, but why? Slow down and smell the roses, or honeysuckle, or whatever. Pick up some fossils, shoot some pictures, pack a picnic.
Madison, IN - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 40
Located in Wayne National Forest, about 4.5 miles from the junction of OH 26 and OH 260, roughly 30 miles northeast of Marietta. This nine-and-a-half mile loop has much to offer those who like to cycle and explore. On the cycling side, the narrow dirt single-track passes through Irish Run and Jackson Run, affording you excellent views of the wooded hollows deep below. As you wind around the trail, you'll need bike handling skills to traverse deadfall, rocks, and similar obstacles. You'll see your share of rock outcroppings on a trail cut into the hillside. Most of this trail is rather steep. You'll even encounter a few stream crossings if the weather hasn't been too dry.
Marietta, OH - Hiking,Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 9.5
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Located about 20 miles southeast of Jasper near the Crawford County line. This is an 11-mile main loop with a spur that adds 6 or 7 miles, for a total of about 18 miles. It's a mix of single- and doubletrack with some gravel and dirt roads. Birdseye has it all. there are fast descents on county roads where the berms seemed to have been designed for catching air. There are miles of tight singletrack. Pine trees and hardwoods, streams and a lake, it's all here. The only downside is that at times it's tough to follow the trail. Getting on and off county roads, going into and out of the woods, the transitions make for some head-scratching moments. Then there are a few trail junctions where what's old and illegal isn't always distinct from what's new and legal.
Birdseye, IN - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 18
Starts and ends in Canaan, about 17 miles east of Madison on State Highway 62. Turn left off IN 62 onto Locust Street, which turns right onto Main Street. Go up a couple of blocks to the firehouse, which will be on your left. Park across the street. As you're facing the firehouse, you'll be leaving to your right. The paved beginning and end have low traffic and great scenery. The gravel road middle portion is as pretty and deserted as you're likely to find. while on that middle part, you're never far from Indian-Kentuck Creek, which runs all the way to the Ohio River. While much of the county is seeing new homes, many of the homes here have been in place for more than a century. some still hunker in the shadows of ancient barns, which have been tilted back by the prevailing southwesterly winds. Cattle occasionally graze, often with horses for companionship. More common animals are turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, and butterflies. During snowmelt, after heavy rains, or whenever flash flood warnings are posted, DO NOT ride this route. The stream crossings will be too fast and deep. One curious observation that has held true for years: this route, particularly the stretch on the lower part of Bloody Run and Barbersville roads, is a magnet for butterflies.
Canaan, IN - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 20
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Located northeast of Interstate 71, just outside of Harveysburg. This out-and-back is 6 miles one way (12 miles total), and you won't be disappointed. Most of the trail is wide dirt single-track with a few grassy sections. The trail is challenging--especially the ups and downs and gullies in the area between Harveysburg Road and Ward Road. The section north of Ward Road is a little flatter, but even it has some steep downhills. Because the climbs and descents aren't long, you can do some fast cranking on this curvy trail, but keep an eye out for roots and rocks. Red-tail hawks, box turtles, and red fox are among the animals you might see in these oak-hickory and beech maple woodlands.
Harveysburg, OH - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 12
Located about 20 minutes south of Harrisburg. Some people's idea of "multiple use" is that riders with different brands of bikes can share the trail. They're not crazy about dodging horses and hikers all day. For them, the Camp Cadiz trail is a good one. Unlike many of the other trails in the Shawnee, this one has few horseback riders, and hikers are fairly rare on most Shawnee trails.
Harrisburg, IL - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 7
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Located about 20 minutes south of Harrisburg. This is a 9-mile loop; mostly single- or doubletrack with some dirt road. The scenery on this route is nothing short of stunning. That would be true even without Cedar Falls. Because the falls are the highlight of this ride, it only makes sense the beauty is all the better when there's water flowing. Do this route a day or two after a moderate rain for maximum effect. Don't forget to bring your camera.
Glendale, IL - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 9
Located one mile west of Castalia, off OH 101, about six miles southeast of Sandusky. This trail circles the Castalia Quarry Reserve, a quarry site active from the late 1870s to the 1960s. In fact, you can extend your trip by riding directly inside the quarry bed. You won't need a lot of stamina for this ride, even though one spot on the trail is the point of highest elevation in Erie County. (Remember, this is northern Ohio.) From there, you'll be able to look out onto Lake Erie and catch a glimpse of South Bass Island. You may also see the granite column of Perry's Victory and International Peace on the island. The trail is wide, and while you wouldn't want to take a shortcut into the quarry bed from the rim, you're still pretty safe from the edge. It's not fenced off, though, and you'll want to know how to ride a bike, or at least know where you brakes are.
Castalia, OH - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 2
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Located Shawnee National Forest, 10 miles south of Murphysboro. You'll get a little workout riding the rolling hills on this trail. The 11-mile (total distance) out-and-back portion of this ride travels along the west side of Cedar Lake before making a four-mile loop around Little Cedar Lake. Your out-and-back- and loop trail total is therefore 15 miles). The fun on the loop portion begins right away with a series of moguls before the trail crosses over the rocky foundation separating the two lakes. Most of the trail is dirt single-track and easily passable, but there are some rocky stretches just north of Pomona Road requiring technical skills. You may need to get off and portage. Most of the trail won't require as many technical skills as this section, but you'll need energy for climbing the short hills.
Murphysboro, IL - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 15
Located in Wayne National Forest, about 22 miles northeast of Marietta on OH 26. Perhaps the most interesting attractions of this trail are not on the trail itself but at either end of it: covered bridges, one of which is still in use. Built over 100 years ago, these bridges over the Little Muskingum River take you back to a time when life was simpler. The trail itself is a five-mile, one-way (ten mile total), out-and-back, dirt single-track. Beginning with a couple of stream crossings, it makes its way out of the woods and into a field where the trail turns to grass flanked by beautiful wildflowers. Essentially, you're following a stream bed. Soon you'll enter the woods again, still following the creek. Enjoy the numerous stream crossings, but take care--some of them are rocky. After you cross over a pipeline, you'll start to climb. The last stretch of the ride puts you in a pine thicket. Then you travel downhill, eventually reaching the Hune Covered Bridge. This trail is among the easiest in the Marietta District, but good bike handling skills are still needed for the narrow trails, deadfall, and rocky stream crossings.
Marietta, OH - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 10
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Located just east of Bedford, and southeast of Bloomington. Because this trail was built for hiking, it presents some challenges for mountain bikers. Not all of it is rideable, though the hike-a-bike sections are few and short. The worst part is finding your way. Due to low usage, the trail is not always distinct. Compounding the problem are markers that are good at walking pace, but marginal at riding speed. When in doubt, back up, and approach the trail as a hiker. The map provided at the Natural Resources building was helpful. Most of the trail is typical eastern hardwoods forest. There are a few shallow ravines. These fill after a heavy rain, but drain within a half hour after the rain stops.
Avoca, IN - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 17
Located in Palatine, off Dundee Road. If you're north of Chicago, Deer Grove is where you should go to get some mountain bike action. While there is a paved bicycle trail in the forest preserve, the real excitement is on the cross-country ski trail. Even though this wide, 8.5-mile multiple-loop trail has paved sections, the majority of it is dirt. if you want even more exhilaration, you might explore the various dirt single-track spurs you'll find off the main trail. The single-track is narrower and hillier than the main trail. You ride goes through dense woods full of rocks and fallen trees. Even though the Chicago area is notoriously flat, you'll be surprised by the elevation of this area. It's not uncommon to ride down a steep ravine, come to a creek crossing at the bottom, and hit a steep climb on the way back up. You'll also get to test you technical abilities in areas where you'll find jumps across streams. (The best riding of this type is found along the creek).
Palatine, IL - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 8.5
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Located off state highway 22 in Lincolnshire. Running parallel to the Des Plaines River for most of the route, this trail will give you an easy ride along its crushed gravel surface. You'll pass through woods, fields, and marshes with many views of the lazy Des Plaines River, as well as through Macarthur Woods Forest Preserve, a dedicated preserve that can only be accessed via the trail. Take the family and enjoy a relaxing day of riding. Go fishing, ice skate in the winter, barbecue at the picnic shelters, and let the kids bird-watch-but above all, try this bike ride in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
Lincolnshire, IL - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 26
This ride starts and ends in downtown Madison. There's more pavement on this one, but the payoff is three wonderful downhills: fast, long freefalls off the side of the earth with sweeping turns and plenty of runout room at the bottom. Other attractions include pastoral scenery, a 150-year-old stone home where Comley Hill and Vernon Ridge Roads meet at the bridge, and a tranquil farmstead with a log home as its centerpiece about halfway up Manville Hill Road on the left. The climbs are mostly gradual and mostly paved, so this ride isn't particularly difficult. The challenge is to ride within your limits on the downhills. Speed of 40 to 50 miles per hour are possible, so make sure you and your equipment are ready.
Madison, IN - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 23
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Located about 20 minutes south of Harrisburg. For the most part, this ride stays on a ridge top. The result is some stunning views and, when the weather's right, the chance to actually ride above the clouds. Even without that effect, the sense of elevation is sharper here than any other place in the Shawnee. Eagle Mountain does not make a good springboard for further exploration. This trail is a thread of legal riding pulled through a patchwork of restrictions. This is a much less technical than other area trails, and is better for less experienced riders. You can also maintain a higher average speed.
Herod, IL - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 14
Located twenty-eight miles west of Chicago, near Winfield. While there are only about four miles of trails through this upland oak woods, three area presents a few more challenges than the Region Trail. Located at one of the few fens in DuPage County, this trail has steeper grades especially toward the river. Elsen's Hill consists of three mowed grass loops, and occasionally you'll find gravel sections. The orange loop takes you along the meandering west branch of the DuPage River. If ponds are more your speed, stick to the green loop. The trail is easy since the forest preserve district keeps it clear and the trail wide. If horse use is heavy, the trails tend to have severe indentations. Elson's Hill is a good place to ride if you are interested in mountain biking but haven't had a lot of experience.
Winfield, IL - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 4
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Located in East Peoria, ten minutes from Peoria. You can do two kinds of rides at Farmdale Recreation Area. For those of you looking for an easy ride, follow the dirt roads that cross through the low-lying areas. The roads make for good family riding. But for those of you looking for more adventure, turn onto any of the dirt trails you find branching off the roads. These trails will be narrower, more difficult to climb, and fraught with several challenging obstacles--not the least of which will be planning your own loops and out-and-backs from the maps available. There are simply too many trails for me to direct you to any one of them without confusion. Between the easy and more difficult riding in Farmdale, you'll have about ten miles of trails to ride. Even the easier sections aren't without their taunts, as you'll encounter three major creek crossings.
Peoria, IL - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 10
Located off OH 58, 2 miles south of Wellington. There are over ten miles of trails to explore at Findley State Park, which essentially forms a loop around Findley Lake. The dirt single-track trails are wide because they were originally used as logging roads when the area was a state forest. The section of the Buckeye Trail that runs through the park is narrower than the other trails and has more roots and rocks. It's also steeper, with a 35- to 45-degree downgrade. Most trails, though, will be easy enough for everyday cyclists. You'll even find a couple of stream crossings, and you'll ride along several ravines on the Hickory Grove Trail. The wooded area along this trail is the most natural; many of the other trails have more recent growth.
Wellington, OH - Mountain Biking - Trail Length: 10
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