Adrenaline pumps though your body. You're riding fluid undulations, with your hands off the brakes, and your tires rising up the banked turn - You feel the flow of a trail designed to deliver this experience. Welcome to a new age in trail design.
It's no secret that mountain bikers get a bad rap when it comes to sharing multi-user trails. Additionally, the "poaching" of illegal trails has added to the conflict. Yet, as the sport grew, it became clear that a sustainable and cooperative solution needed to be found. Enter purpose-built trails.
Purpose-built mountain bike trails are materializing across the world as riders and land managers look for an answer to satisfy the need for more trails while protecting the environment.
"The success of a trail is highly dependent on both the environmental and social sustainability of the trail. A well-designed trail should cause minimal damage to the surrounding landscape and require minimal maintenance over time," states Trail Solutions, the trail design arm of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). The Lower Corral Trail project in Lake Tahoe is a good example of such cooperation.
These trails aren't your average single-track, they are designed with bikes in mind, incorporating features like rolling terrain, banked turns, jumps, boardwalks over soft/sensitive areas, and uniform surfaces. In other words: they are FUN!
My first exposure to mountain biking was on a purpose-built trail at a ski resort in Park City, Utah. A ski gondola, repurposed to haul bikes during the Summer, made the shuttle up the mountain super easy. With a helmet and pads from head-to-toe, I was still anxious about downhill biking. It took me a couple of runs to finally feel the flow of the trail and relax. It had lots of fun features, but no harsh or abrupt turns. Once I let the bike do what it was designed to do, the ride was epic. If you would like to experience a purpose-built trail, here are a few locations to explore:
PHOTO: Copper Harbor
Take in scenic views of Lake Superior while riding cedar-planked boardwalks and spectacular ridges bordered by old-growth forest.
With 25 miles of backcountry red-dirt trails, riders can choose from beginner gravity routes to high-energy technical runs. There's something for every level on this 4,000-acre playground.
PHOTO: Valmont Bike Park, Dave Write
Designed by the industry's leading engineers and trail-building professionals, Valmont includes killer features such as dirt jumps, skill-building parks, cross-country routes, and other technical features. If you're near Boulder, don't miss this park.
Earn your views on this 14-mile loop designed to excite and challenge cyclists while protecting the environment. Dig deep climbing 1,200 feet up 19 switchbacks to your reward--Paradise Ridge, an overlook high above the Pacific Ocean.
PHOTO: Top of Communication Breakdown, Sandy Ridge, Gabriel Amadeus
Get a full dose of beauty and flow on the perfectly designed trails of Sandy Ridge. Challenge the recently added Flow Motion Trail, which plunges 275 feet through lush terrain via 15 engineered-berms. That will get your pulse up. If a view is more your speed, head to the top of Communication Breakdown.
If you're looking to experience adrenaline-pumping, heart pounding fun on trails designed to show you a good time, locate a purpose-built trail to ride. They are popping up in more places across the United States. Planning an international vacation? Countries such as England, Mexico, Scotland and Australia have built beautiful trail systems as well.
Many ski resorts have invested heavily in mountain bike trail design to capture Summer visitors. To check out a few ski resorts that offer downhill biking during the Summer, read Top 5 Downhill Mountain Biking Resorts in America.
This post originally ran on the Liftopia blog.