Untitled : 09/18/2007

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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Mike Riemer

Mike Riemer

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.


 Shad Holland |

I actually had my mountain biking start in 1987 at the Cedar Lake trails in Minneapolis. There was a big mound in there and we would challenge ourselves to climb up the steep sides. Over time, that mound eroded and became a much easier place to ride. I also took my BMX bike there and we would play bike tag….way fun!<BR><BR>In the early 90’s a friend of mine took me to the river bottoms. Wow, it was sweet! The trail was fast in sections and tight and twisty in others. The sand spots were always a good challenge too. I fell in love with that place, like so many others did. To me, it was real mountain biking. Unlike the Cedar trails, the river bottoms was long and worked you. On hot summer days I would run out of water. This is the trail that first got me to put on two water bottle cages….then later a CamelBak with tools, spare tubes, and food.<BR><BR>As Mike said, it’s still the same today as it was back then. Thanks for the memories Mike!

 Jason |

For me it the Boyce Park trails in Monroeville, PA. Not the most technical trails but tight and twisty single track with lots of logs and roots. Once you figure out some loops it can range anywhere from 10 to 14 miles or so.<BR><BR>Years ago I can remember practicing getting over logs with little success, and doing a 10 mile loop and having it feel like it was 100. Up until now doing rides for 3+ hours as practice to do 100 miles! <BR><BR>I also met my buddy Tom there years ago and he ended up being one of my best friends. So that’s damn cool.<BR><BR>Every corner has a memory (good and bad), and every new trail creates a new one. I love these trails and feel damn lucky to have them so close to work/home.

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 Anonymous |

I too had my start into mountain biking at the River bottoms. Thanks for the wonderful article about this old school trail.

 Guitar Ted |

Kid, you could exchange “River Bottom Trails” with “The Green Belt Trails” and my story would be near identical to yours right down to the year! (Only thing was my bike was a Mongoose Sycamore!)<BR><BR>I still love that trail and I can totally identify with this post. Thanks!

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 Anonymous |

I too had my start at the River Bottoms.  T-Roy showed me the ropes down there.  I still remember the 1st day I rode the whole thing end to end.  I thought I was a superstar.  I then entered my first race and proceeded to get schooled in the beginner class.  Oh yeah!<BR><BR>Old school folks will remember crossing 9-Mile Creek by walking across the downed tree.  Nothing like crossing a creek on a slippery log all while holding your bike.

 P.I.A. One Speed Freak |

The River Bottom trails had a cool self-propelled raft at one point that I thought was so cool. I rode the trails while there for an IMBA conference years ago. It reminds me of K.C. & Lawrence riding. Still my favorite stuff. <BR><BR>Cool to hear that it’s still working.

 shane |

Your title had me scared, like it was going away…glad it was such a happy story.  It was certainly in my book of early trails.  Good in town stuff is nice to have.

 Joshua |

I got my start in mountain biking on the Holzinger trails in Winona, MN.  To this day I compare all trails I ride to ‘Zinger.  I think Winona offers some of the best natural terrain in Minnesota.  After college I moved to East Bloomington and found the River Bottoms trail, just a short ride from our house.  We ( wife and I ) ran into some MORC trail workers on our second ride out there and stopped to help and ended up joining MORC.  Ever since then we have tried to “adopt” the River Bottoms, helping with trailwork as much as possible.<BR>Riding “The Bottoms” is always a nice break from the “normal” metro area trails.<BR>Kid - I am sure we have seen each other on the trail before, hopefully we’ll meet some day.

 joel |

Got my start in the Mankato area.  Mount Kato ski area offers some of the best mtn biking in MN (IMO of course) - The other place that I learned to ride is 7 Mile Creek, located between Mankato and St. Peter. 7 Mile is mainly horse trails - but there are some fun foot paths to ride as well. <BR><BR>JW

 MG |

Here in Lincoln, Nebraska, our version of your River Trails is Wilderness Park.  Jason rode it last week when he visited, actually.  It’s literally where I learned how to corner on a mountain bike, and I know it’s that way for most Lincoln area off-road cyclists.<BR><BR>Even though there is nothing “special” about Wilderness Park, it’ll always be very special to me.

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