Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Standard By Which All Others Are Measured: Sugar Bottom

I remember when Sugar Bottom became my measuring stick for mountain bike trails. I think it was around 1994. Even though I'm not sure of the year, I am sure that I was screaming down the front side of a gravity cavity (think giant V in the earth) the locals call Cyclocross Hill. Repeating the fate of many would-be hillclimbers, I stalled out about halfway up other side, running out of momentum and leg power. Inconveniently, I was still fastened to my bike via toeclips (how's that for old skool?). At some point, while trying to yank my feet off the peddles so I wouldn't cartwheel backwards down the hill I thought, "You know, this Sugarbottom place is pretty hard.......and sweet."

Luckily, I was able to bail out sideways, but my trusty old Trek 7000 wasn't so fortunate. She flipped and flopped her way down the hill, probably very disgusted with her inept rider. She was fine though, sturdy ole' gal she was.

Since then I have rated every trail in relation to SB. For those that don't know, Sugarbottom is a trail system located in the recreation area next to the Coralville Lake right outside North Liberty and near Iowa City. It sports 10.5 miles of trails that are one directional and rated according to IBMA's standards, similar to ski runs. They've got a very nice mix of twisty, rooty and hilly tough singletrack along with some beginner and intermediate trails you can just fly on.



Unfortunately it got hit very hard by the flooding eariler this summer, so only a small portion of the total trail is open. I had heard that nothing south of the service road that bisects the area was open. I stuck to the 101, 102, 103, 104 trails and just did a few loops around. I didn't take my trusty map with me and now, after the fact, I think I missed out on some riding over in the 2's and 3's that are back from the (newly defined) shore. I didn't see the T intersection on 101 to get over there...or maybe it was blocked off (?) I probably just missed it. I'm such a freakin' idiot.

You need to ride up the park road from the beach to the highwater access point to begin.



Made necessary because of:



and:



Jackie worries about me when I ride alone. I told her SB was popular, so I wouldn't really be completely alone. She called BS. Now, I produce this visual evidence:



Ha! I was RIGHT. Okay, maybe a couple of those cars belonged to people who were using the disc golf course, but the others were bikers.

Here's a rooty drop into a sharp turn that's pretty typical of the black trails at SB. The view is looking back up after the ride down. I didn't capture the hairpin very well, but it heads straight right at the bottom.



And another one right after the first. This view is looking down from the top.



Here's a rooty climb, I actually think this is on an intermediate trail. I might be mistaken about that.



it contines to be steep and rooty after the inital section. This is looking back down the hill. It doesn't look too intermediate to me.



The pine grove areas (there are a couple of different ones when its not flooded) at SB are very enjoyable. They are basically long twisty climbs and decents, they really inspire s-p-e-e-d.



I cleaned (rode up without putting a foot down) this climb for the first time ever (x3). Pretty pleased with that.



Semi sketchy rock drop off.



There are certainly trail systems that are bigger, technically tougher and physically more demanding all over the country (don't get me wrong SB holds its own). Places like Decorah can even challenge SB's title as best riding in Iowa, but there's just something about Sugar - for me anyway.

In closing I couldn't have asked for more this weekend. I got to ride at Beverly and Sugar and do-up the waterpark. Now I'll turn it over to my main man, on his trike, to send us out proper.

1 comment:

B George said...

I realize this is off an older post you had but a friend of mine and I rode this last thursday. Was surprised that it was opened with the rain Tuesday. Anyways, my friend from north of chicago and I loved the trail. Whomever thinks that Iowa does not hold great trails is so wrong. I have ridden FDR, Decorah, Beverly, Sugar Bottoms, 7 Oak and Sylvan. I am a traveling salesman so if you know of any DES MOINES trails, I would happily take some spins there.