My Local Trails, Season 2: The Return

I took you on a tour of my local trails last season, sharing why I think these trails are so special: close to home, pedal-in convenience, that particular knowledge of the fast spots, feedback on your fitness and technical abilities, and the unique opportunity to smoke your out-of-town buddies when they come to visit. Allow me to take you along again, and share some of my observations after a year of really getting to know these paths while watching them change and building my skills along the way.

In the 19 months I have lived and worked in Wisconsin I have ridden more trail mileage than I ever have before. That’s simply one of the benefits of working for an employer that has the foresight to build a test track for their product development right down the road. Throw in a locker room and shower facility, a bike leaning against your desk, and an hour to escape every day at lunch and you’ve got the fixins for a delicious gnar stew.

Here’s my daily scenario: 11:45 rolls around and one of my coworkers gives me the nod: “You riding?” “Oh yeah” I reply. He’s got a hardtail and a full suspension bike leaning against his file cabinet; the choice comes down to how his back is feeling that day. But I can never tell when he is off his game, he’s one of the smoothest riders I know. Very seldom does he take the big features–there’s a conservative style to his riding that can lull me into thinking it’s going to be an uneventful ride. I often think he’s playing possum: taking the climbs slow, building speed gradually, and when we hit the flow sections he simply vanishes into the distance. The experience of watching a guy with 8 years on you railing a berm with aplomb is pretty damn cool. And I’ve always believed that you learn a ton just by following a better rider and studying the lines they take, the spots they apply a little brake, and the sections they step on the gas.

Another riding scenario afforded by these convenient trails is this: to take the photos for this article I packed my gear, camera and tripod included, and rolled to the woods after work. The trails are quiet, there’s no rush to get back to the office for urgent emails, frantic wrenching on the latest proto, or the dreaded afternoon full of meetings. I’ve got hours of quality sunlight left and I take the opportunity to line up shots, repeat that tricky section until I’ve got the perfect line, and really enjoy the ‘country club’ mountain biking we’ve got here.

Wisconsin wildlife in its natural habitat

In my second season riding these trails there have been some amazing changes. Two completely new trails cut with flow that most only dream about. Some wooden features were removed and new ones added with all manner of teeter totters, step-ups, banks, jumps, and various other ways to massive trauma if you’re off your game. But when you hit the line just right the feeling of satisfaction at getting everything dialed in is second to none. If you’re anything like me you can fall into the trap of hitting the same trails and the same lines in your local spot. It is such a joy to get to the point of knowing every trail and 20 different ways to weave them together for an hour-long lunchtime escape.

So after a lot of rambling and bragging I notice there’s not much point to this post other than I enjoy my local trails. But in reality here’s my point: there’s something special about the place you ride the most. In my case it’s made even more special since I work for an employer that not only allows but facilitates and encourage these daily dirt-bound shenanigans. And most of all I want to thank the ones who build, maintain and modify this sweet, sweet singletrack. No names, but there’s a man and his interns that do the dirty work to make this little patch of Wisconsin pretty magical.

As for your happy place I recommend this: join whatever organization takes care of the trails. If there is none, start one. If you’re the lone wolf type then take one day a month during the season, pack a folding saw and some leather gloves and make your patch of gnar better for you and everyone else who enjoys a spirited spin on the dirt. That way it will truly be yours; you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you made it, you enjoy it, and you’re sharing it with like minded folks.

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