Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Running a Corn Maze with a Jackhammer

I have serious going-postal thoughts that Cincinnati gets a big rain storm and a whole twisted network of mountain bike trails washes down the hillside into the Ohio River with a resounding splash.  KA-SPLOOOSH!  Buh-bye Tower Park. 

Oh my god it felt so good to say that I should have a cigarette and I don’t even smoke.  Certainly I can’t be the only one to feel this way.  Normally, I’m a very positive person and blogger.  Putting things down is not a trait I respect in people.   But, somebody had to say the baby is ugly.  Father, I confess, every time I see someone post on Facebook or talk about “hitting the tower” I can’t help but think I how much I hate riding Tower Park in Ft Thomas Kentucky.  Off with its head.  Time for a mountain bike Mulligan.

Before you berate me in the comments, hear my defense.  I feel like I’m a respected mountain biker and trail advocate in Cincinnati.  I have scars on my shins from trail tools.  At the same time, I’m pretty colorful and exaggerated.  Certainly I can’t be for real for having impure trail thoughts.  I admit it is a bit selfish.  Afterall, others obviously LOVE LOVE LOVE riding at Tower Park.  However, as a mountain bike trail, to me the only redeeming qualities of Tower Park are that it’s the closest trail to downtown Cincinnati and you get an incredible feeling of accomplishment and elation when you can clean the trail without dabbing.  

No doubt, if you can successfully eek your bike around the awkward, ugh, rocky, oof, rooty, twisted, steepness you can call yourself an expert rider.  I’ve felt that.  It’s wonderful.  I’ve cleaned the “otter slide” climb.  When the gods are smiling, I can get my triple-trailer of a 29er around the tight switchbacks up and down.  Tower’s rocks and roots and awkwardness, countless times, has given me the skill and confidence to take on larger mountain bike challenges like trails in Whistler B.C. (pictured Whistler's Rainbow Sproat Trail), Pisgah, West Virginia and the Mohican MTB 100.  When I first moved to Cincinnati, it was the first trail I rode.  It was where I first met the teammates and cycling friends I have today.  However, I seriously never have fun riding there.   To me, it’s nothing more than the mountain bike equivalent of boot camp.

The trail has all the flow of an 85 year old man standing in front of a urinal.  Go fast.  Stop.  Track stand.  Turn.  Dig for a grunter.  Chatter down the other side.  Hit the brakes.  Turn right.  No left.  Then right.  You’d have more fun running blindfolded through a corn maze with a jackhammer.  Secondly, aside from the switchbacks down to the river, you never feel like you’re going anywhere.  There are no real destination points.  Being on the Ohio River, you’d think there’d be a cool vista, a unique tree, a pretty creek, an odd shaped rock or something that tells you that you’ve gone from point A to point B.  Truth is, if you take your eyes off the trail for a second, you’ll be part of the landscaping. 

There are great trail organization in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area called CORA (Cincinnati Off Road Alliance) and KYMBA (Kentucky Mountain Bike Association.)  I’m a CORA member and have put in plenty of sweat equity on a number of local trails including Tower.  I’ve spent hours and hours with goofy hand tools carving new trails in Covington’s Devou Park, Cincinnati’s Mitchell Memorial, East Fork State Park and Caesars Creek.  I sent $50 to IMBA this year.  Great organizations and I'm all about putting my time in, certainly I'm at least deserving of an opinion.

Like an NA on the report card, Tower Park needs attention, not just a quick fix to a section or two but some IMBA-type love, a redesign, cosmetic surgery.  Bring out the views.  Highlight the flora and landscape.  Take me from the Tower to the vista, across the ridgeline and through the valley.  I want to loosen my grip on the bars and have a second to discover the tree with the odd knob or the giant boulder with the crazy moss, before the next tough section.  The trails in Whistler are crazy sick twisted tough too, but they also reward with a view, a waterfall, a section to relax the knuckles for a moment to appreciate the ride.  I want to enjoy the challenge Tower Park offers.  

I’m not pointing fingers.  There’s no blame.  Tower Park is still just the backyard neighborhood trail it’s always been.  It can be better.  While I’m no trail designer or grassroots organizer, I am a voice.  Like an ugly baby, it’s still a blessing to have challenging mountain bike trails within 15 minutes of downtown Cincinnati.  Let this be my first step toward making Tower a fuller mountain biking experience.  

To lean more about trail advocacy projects, visit these links and give generously:


Christopher Averett said...

I have always had a LOVE/HATE relationship with Tower Park. The days I can clean the switchbacks both up and down are great. But there are always more days where I have gone down hard in some rocky section.

Judi said...

greeeatt. i am on my way to that trail in about an hour to ride MY FIRST MTB in 20+ years. (i rode my cx bike at mitchell last fall but that doesn't really count). thanks for your post.

Judi said...

yep yep, you are 100% right. that trail is NO fun to ride. especially on a rigid old school 90's mtb.

mike_d_1583 said...

Thanks for the support, I will continue to keep these trails technical and unpleasant. I just put in an order for waterfalls and vistas, they should be here in 5-7 days. Thanks!

Joe Biker said...

Mike, sincerely, thanks for all you do. I've spent many days with a Rhino in hand myself at Devou, East Fork, Mitchell Memorial. I think I ran into you at Tower one day this past summer. I always know my skills are dialed after I can clean Tower.