Mountain Biking

Watch now: ‘Mud, Sweat and Gears’ ahead at Comlara Park – Bloomington Pantagraph


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HUDSON — Emily Giesen’s children stood behind the yellow finish-line tape holding signs supporting their mother.

“Go, Mommy, go,” they shouted as she came into view on her final lap of the Mud, Sweat and Gears mountain bike race at Comlara Park on Aug. 15.

Less than an hour later, they were following in their mother’s tire tracks, taking part in the kids race.

The race, organized by the Comlara Off-Road Bicycling Association, is part of a series across Central Illinois and has been going on for a number of years.

It included separate races for juniors, novices, expert/sport and kids.

But the race isn’t the only thing that attracts cyclists from across Central Illinois to Comlara Park. There are more than 10 miles of designated mountain biking trails winding through the western side of the park.

CORBA partners with the county park to maintain and occasionally build the trails, explained the group’s president, Gerrit Sinclair.

The trails are “a combination of what they call single track, which is a narrow trail for a single bike, and double track, which is more like a small road,” said Sinclair.

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The trails range from beginner to moderate, with a few “stunt” spots and several narrow bridges.

Gary White, who has been involved with the club for nearly 20 years, said, “The trails here are great, kind of flowy, and there are some climbs but not a ton of climbs, which is good for older guys like me.”

The variety on the trail, with views of the woods and lake, along with beginner-friendly options, is part of what attracts the Giesen family and others.

“We love to make it a family event to come out and ride all the trails,” said Giesen. 

“The kids can ride some. We run behind them and then they might play in the parking lot and we take turns riding,” she said, referring to her husband.

In addition to maps at the main trailhead and the website, comlaramtb.com, there are signposts along the trails to help keep you on track.

To reach the main trailhead from Bloomington-Normal, take Ropp Road/County Road 1200 East to County Highway 8/Country Road 2300 North. Follow the curve and you’ll see a big parking lot on your right. 

You can also reach the trailhead by taking Exit 8 off Interstate 39, west toward Evergreen Lake, and following it around the lake. This is also a way to reach the Bovine trailhead, just southwest of the spillway.  

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On most Mondays, the club has a “no one left behind” ride that starts at 6 p.m. at the main trailhead to give people an informal tour of the trails.

Club member Hope Hall said the Monday evening rides usually go through the end of September or early October and depend on weather.

Despite the race name, “Mud, Sweat and Gears” riders (and hikers, for that matter) are told to stay off the trails when they are muddy. Riding through mud can damage the trails.

There will be no ride on Labor Day, said Hall. Ride plans are usually posted on the club’s Facebook page the preceding Sunday, she said.

As the trail signs say, “Use your head. Wear a helmet.” 

And a reminder from the maps: “Control your bike. Yield to others. Leave no trace.”

Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

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