Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Warmer Riding Alternative

Recently one of the forum member asked about good places to ride within 10 hours of Lafayette. Well this is a bit further but especially during cold winter in Indiana it provides a fairly warm and fun place to ride. Per Tom it's around a 16 hour drive from Lafayette and on the way if you're heading to Orlando.
Just South of Ocala Florida on Interstate 75 near Exit 341 is Santos Trail system. It's a project by OMBA (Ocala Mountain Bike Association) to create trails in the abandoned Florida Barge Canal area. Trails consist of mountain biking, hiking and horse trails with biking and horses separated from each other. The terrain is very diverse with elevation changes of 20+ feet as the trail sig zags across the Florida landscape. Almost all of the trail is in the woods and even crosses Interstate 75 on a bridge that is bordered with vegetation with the only evidence of the Interstate being the noise.
We rode there two days this week. The first day was at the East trailhead on the heavier used trails where the complete array of levels is available. Easy loop trails around the more difficult and double black diamond trails in the center. The center also includes a challenge park with up to 20' drops off a cliff onto a ramp of dirt. Uh, we didn't even think about anything like that. A double black trail around the challenge park was riddled with rocks, ladder bridges and difficult trail with quick up/downs combined with tight turns and more. It easily will challenge the majority of riders. Needless to say we did not clear several areas! Our mileage for this area was around 13 miles and we did not cover all of the trails.
The second day we headed to the West trailhead and rode cross country trails for nearly 20 miles. These too were in wooded areas with lots of variation in the trail. It did provide some challenges with quick ups/downs combined with twisty trail.
We did ride to the center of the "Land Bridge" which is the connector over Interstate 75 (see pic). The two areas we rode do connect West of the Land Bridge but the connector trail is not as diverse.

Tom riding the Land Bridge directly over the Northbound lane of Interstate 75! This one of the few wide trails of the system!

Charlie riding some of the cross country trails from the West Trailhead

Riding the Bunny Trail at Santos East Trailhead

Expert trail around challenge park!

Expert trail around challenge park!

Challenge park features!

Links to sites pertaining to Santos:

OMBA web site:
IMBA's site for epic trails:
Florida Barge Canal History:
Email for a tour of Santos by Tom Albitz!