Test Ride

I’m doing a race or ride or tour or something this Sunday, and hadn’t ridden a mile of the course, so I decided to take a day off and check it out. With 18 hours notice, I asked a few of my buddies if they’d like to ditch their jobs and come along, and had one taker. I was sure we’d have fun, especially since it was only going to get to 95 degrees.

Here’s how it went down:

Morning Sun Flare

We left my house at 9:00, stopped by the shop for some Hammer Bars and asked my wife if she’d rather work or mountain bike. Not surprisingly, we continued without my wife and drove to Cannonsburg Ski Area.


It’s easy to find the Ski Area, maybe not as easy to figure out what to do if you’ve never ridden your mountain bike there before. Not bad, mind you, just maybe not as spelled out as I needed. Still, it was fun. I felt like it had the loosest trail of the three and possibly the most elevation change. The terrain park (er, skills area) scared the crap out of this old body, but it was neat to see. We had a very fun and sweaty time here and spoke with nice people in the parking lot. Hard to beat.

Off to the much-heralded Merrell trail, just east of 131 on 10 Mile Road. If you get to the Rockford transfer station, you’ve gone too far. We circled the bowl (and took a very nice tour of said transfer station) while looking for the trailhead, and laughed at ourselves when we found it merely yards away… across a Long Fence.

Ready for Merrell

Did we like it? Yes. Quite a lot. The guy we talked to in the parking lot said that clockwise days are best, and it seemed pretty darn good to us. Just to note: all traffic — biking, walking, running — goes the same direction, clockwise (yellow arrows on trail) on some days and counter-clockwise (red arrows on trail) on others. The rules and days are clearly posted on the trailhead.

I’ve heard people suggest that Merrell is “dangerous,” that it has features that can hurt you. Cripe! Life can hurt you. In fact, life will ultimately kill all of us, but that’s beside the point. There are things that can hurt you on the Merrell trail, but I found them to be well-marked, and I felt like I had an opportunity to consider a “dangerous” feature before I attempted it, or not. All in all, I liked the trail enormously and felt like it had enough stuff to keep a rider coming back time and again. One word: berms.

Lunch time!


Rockford Brewing had a very nice IPA (confession: I’m not all that fussy about my IPA) and a good sandwich. The waitress/bartendress was nice and the owner was friendly without being overly solicitous. Mucho like.

And then it was time for Luton. And then we found a heaping helping of road construction, so we parked behind a big old construction sign and rode into the park.

Embarking for Luton

Luton was not particularly well marked for this first-timer, who was perhaps initially confused because he’d gone clockwise at Merrell and was instructed to go anti-clockwise at Luton. Suffice to say that it took a minute or two for me to get it together, but once I had my head screwed on straight, I had a fantastic time. Really freaking terrific. Luton is not “hard,” but it is really fun and fast with piles of flowing corners. I’d like very much to go back. And I will. On Sunday.