Our First Mountain Bike Trail

June 30, 2008

So… we were searching for a trail to do on Sunday, and pondered a couple of different options on the Little Miami Scenic trail. However, something made me consider looking for a couple of off-road bike trails that were a bit more primitive so we could get some experience off of the paved trails. What we decided on was a “short” trail over at the Caesar Creek State Park next to the picturesque reservoir. Heck… if was only 5 miles… how hard could it be… RIGHT!!!! (I’ve really gotta stop saying that… when will I learn?!?)

View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com

We took a 20 mile drive from home up to Caesar Creek Reservoir. After a couple of turns, we reached the end of Ward Road, and the trail goes off in a couple of directions. After a bit of scouting, the we took what looked to be an easier trail toward the Southwest (just to the left of the main info sign), which would put the Caesar Creek reservoir on our right.

Info Sign at Dead End of Ward Road

This trail starts off very easily. But before long the trail started narrowing a bit, and many tree roots started appearing in the trail, most easy to navigate at first. We enjoyed the view of the water and people in boats enjoying the weekend.

The trail had it’s easy ups and downs, but then there were switchbacks and other obstacles with increasing frequency. The space between trees became very narrow in spots, and we had to portage our bikes across small streams a couple of times when riding across wasn’t an option.

I think the second half of the trail was much more difficult. That, combined with our fatigue level had us making more mini-stops and munching energy bars, walking our bikes up certain hills, and making adjustments to our bikes. One of the big adjustments that I’m glad we made at the beginning, was lowering the air pressure from 65psi to between 40-45psi. We needed that give in the tires with all of the roots, rocks, and short stumps in the trail. Another adjustment that we played with along the way was seat height. On a paved trail, good leg extension on the pedals is needed. For these rough trails, a shorter seat allowed us to put our feet to the ground easier for navigation and to bounce around more as needed.

Just like last weekend, a thunderstorm found us for part of the trek. We stopped for a short bit under a dense cluster of leaves before the rain slowed and we continued on the trail as it wound a bit out in the open in some “lowland” boggy area.

There was a point where the beating we were taking, was taking it’s toll, and we questioned whether to turn back or carry on. After some discussion, we came to a consensus that neither of us had much brains when it come to turning around on trails, so we opted to continue on and I noted the time. Shortly, there was a particularly gnarly set of roots in the path that buffeted me around a bit as I powered over them. In few seconds I heard a resounding “SHHIIIITTTT” and a crash. Quickly jumping off my bike and throwing it down, I looked back and Penny’s bike was laying on the roots and Penny was crumpled in a hole/depression next to the trail. She was quickly shouting, “I’m alright! I’m alright!” It took a little bit to give her some leverage to get her out of her entanglement, but I could see if was damned lucky that she’d just let her self fall without sticking out arms or legs. There were some nice places to neatly snap or twist an ankle had she stepped or reached out to stop her fall. Damned lucky!!! … and grateful too. She assessed the gouges and bruises she’d gotten, everything seemed to be in working order, so we started back up. Quickly I remembered the ibuprofen in my pack and decided it would be a good idea to take some. After all… people our age aren’t designed to be taking this kind of abuse, especially on their first time out. We were both going to be sore, extra falls notwithstanding!!

We reached a fork in the road, and a round trail sign that was laying on the ground. We twirled it around a bit before making an educated guess which direction was the trail head…. pretty comical actually. If we had a compass with us, we could have aligned it with the top of the trail sign… D’oh!!!

Up the path of the anticipated trail head, the grass grew thick and the brush closely enclosed the trail. I wasn’t sure about this direction anymore as it looked like we were entering a bog. However through the trees, I spied a guard rail running along a road, and we soon reached pavement. This was 18 minutes after we’d weighed how many hours of daylight we had left, how many energy bars and water, and who could last the longest. Funny how one’s outlook can change so quickly. {grin}

We took a quick guess about what direction we should head on the pavement, and after a couple of miles arrived back at the vehicle.

There were a lot of good learning points today:

  • Maybe people in their mid-40’s shouldn’t be riding unknown trails for the first time… especially when they are more technical than we were really ready for, even after riding about 200 miles on pavement this month.
  • 30 miles on paved trails with a mountain bike is a heck of a lot easier than 5 miles on rough trails
  • Mountain bike trails are good for developing balance, reflexes, and working different muscles than flat paved trails.
  • There are some cool techniques for navigating through rough trails that we need to learn. I also found that I favor turning left better (than right) on switchbacks for some reason.
  • We were glad we had lot’s of water and energy bars… I guess you can’t have too much!!

We are looking forward to more rough trails to help keep the variety of rides mixed up some!

More Pictures including some over the Little Miami River Valley on the way there and on the way back home:



  1. You favor left hand turns?? I just think that’s the NASCAR coming out in you!! hehehe

    And I didn’t fall, I was SUCKED in by the Whomping Willow!

  2. Wow!! Sounds like quite the adventure!! I’m glad you were both ok!!!

    Sheesh… who knew bike riding could be so dangerous?!? :P:P

    I like the Whomping Willow version :p

  3. The more I read on the bike forums, the more dangerous it sounds! LOL

  4. […] Cyclist maybe small stories, often about people you’ve never heard of. Bob and Penny give mountainbiking a try. Goates brings his young daughters to see a stage of the Tour of Pennsylvannia. Atlanta […]

  5. A visit to the local bike store today confirmed that the trail we tackled was a bit more technical than most in the area, and recommended we also take a look at the trails at East Fork for some variety of “levels”.

  6. A ‘bit’? roflmao…..I can’t wait to see what a ‘bit’ easier looks like. I bet they don’t have a single Whomping Willow!!! Btw, I’m fine. I got a much worse bruise getting out of the Jeep than I did on in my battle with the Whomper.

  7. I got the feeling we might be able to leave the Aleve at home for those trails!! LOL

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