So Simple, Yet So Important
If you are a Minnesota mountain biker you’ve most likely heard of, if not ridden, the River Bottoms. It is where a lot of folks, myself included, got our mountain biking start. The trail flows alongside the Minnesota river. It is pretty much always within a hundred feet or less of the river bank. At times it is two or three feet from the edge.
One end is at the Bloomington Ferry Bridge near Salsa World Headquarters. The other end depends on where you choose it to be. You can bail out at a few different spots or take the trail pretty much all the way to Hwy 494. It makes it possible to do a twenty-five mile or more out and back ride. Pretty darn sweet for a riding spot right in the metro area.
The trail isn’t technically challenging for skilled riders but has some log piles and the like. It is almost constantly singletrack though. And true singletrack at that. A narrow dirt ribbon snaking through grass, weeds, wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.
I love this trail. It may not be the ultimate test of testosterone induced mountain biking fury, but it is beautiful, smooth singletrack with enough twists and turns to keep it fun.
It is where I first rode my first mountain bike back in 1989. I can remember heading down there on that Diamond Back Ascent, equipped with my lycra-clad, styrofoam Giro helmet, and Oakley Factory Pilot shades. Those were pre-suspension days and I kept a Blackburn rack on the back end of the bike for carrying a towel to the lake.
As a novice mountain biker in ‘89, the trail was challenging. There were thick, sandy spots that I couldn’t imagine clearing, but then I’d witness local experts ride them. There were also great bushwacking spots where you just tried to find a way.
A bonus of the River Bottoms was that it flooded almost annually each spring, which meant a reroute would take place because some immovable downed tree would be left high and dry right where the trail used to go.
We haven’t had a major reroute down there because of flooding for a while now, although some recent windstorms took some big old trees down and have forced new routes. There is still a healthy degree of old school mountain biking style to the trail. Debris litters the trail and the log piles aren’t perfect. You still need to ride through shoulder high weeds at points while trying to keep your wheels in the narrow dirt groove beneath you.
I like it that the riding is still like that down there all these years later. You’ll break derailleur hangers and suffer freakish flats that don’t happen on a lot of our other more frequently ridden metro trails. The River Bottoms is old school and old school is good!
Like me, countless others have had their first taste of mountain biking down on that trail. It is where I took my son Jordan for his first mountain bike ride. It’s where we still go to ride. The action may be hillier, rockier, and more technical at some other spots, but there is just something about that dirt ribbon that is the River Bottoms. It is an integral part of me as a Minnesota mountain biker.
Got a trail that has become a part of you? Tell us about it.
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.