Tireless work puts Kincaid Park one-way bike trails on the map
Carpenter by day, trail builder by night, Ryan Greeff knows the value of having an outlet for a passion. A passion for groundbreaking projects like the new one-way mountain biking trails on the north side of Kincaid Park.
Greeff had played around on handmade jumps in an area that was once a gravel pit. He became comfortable in the air while the land lovers like me stuck to the ground.
Greeff was one of the first mountain bikers brave enough to launch off of the rock on a trail known as Hornet’s Nest in the Hillside Singletrack trail network. This feature whet his appetite for what the International Mountain Bicycling Association refers to as “flow country” trails, the kind with big berms, rollers and jumps – the kind that would challenge the expert mountain biker.
It wasn’t long after the Hillside trails were completed that Greeff and his fence line neighbor Lee Bolling began dreaming of technically challenging trails on the west side of town. With Bolling’s engineering background and penchant for detail, and Greeff’s experience in construction, the duo formed a vision for the new expert level trail sections.
“I took inspiration from the Moab (Utah) area. Captain Ahab is a new trail there that is super fun and flowy. Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory has some pretty fun trails also.”
Greeff, Bolling and a few members of the Singletrack Advocates board road tripped to Fairbanks to test out the Ester Dome trails designed and built by Jon Underwood of Happy Trails. Ester Dome was our first experience riding a machine-made flow trail. We knew instantly that Anchorage needed some of that.
Although Bolling provided the organization and project management of the Kincaid Singletrack, Greeff added technical expertise gathered through his own riding experiences and exhaustive research of other areas with similar terrain. Bolling and Greeff worked closely with contractor Ptarmigan Ptrails to achieve an A+ level of satisfaction with the finished product.
“We have a ridge line that wraps around Little Campbell Lake on three sides. The vertical fall between the ridges lends the area to technically challenging runs.”
There are five one-way sections that spur off of the main two-way trail known as Middle Earth. This trail serves as the backbone of the network connecting Raspberry Trailhead and the Coastal Trail. From the Raspberry side, Hanging Chad (named for Chad Burris), Evolution and Candy Mountain are rated as black diamond expert trails by IMBA.
Second Breakfast, located just off the World Cup Start, has easier features than its black diamond brothers. This trail is rated intermediate.
Northwest Passage is another black diamond trail with big berms and jumps that seem to take the rider skyward. Located on the western end of the network near the inlet, you get the impression that you’re airborne even when your wheels are not. The trail is carved into the contour of the bluff with expansive views of the inlet and distant mountains.
Candy Mountain is the most technically challenging line with a degree of difficulty a notch above the other trails. It is also Greeff’s favorite.
“It’s longer than the others and we were able to design very distinct jump sets. I like railing through the big berms. The air is a bonus to me but it’s all of it together—it’s all about the experience.”
To experience the one-way sections safely, Greeff recommends taking it slowly.
“You need to work up to the trails by gaining some skill. Roll the features slowly at first. Familiarize yourself with the location of the jumps and berms. If you’re scouting them don’t go backward on the trails.”
Warning signs cautioning the public that the one-way sections are expert trails and suggesting ways to safely use them are posted plainly at every point of entry.
Greeff and Greg Matyas, a Singletrack Advocates board member and owner of Speedway Cycles, designed and installed the “filters” at the entrances of the black diamond trails. The filters are difficult wooden ramp or rock obstacles intended to make the rider think twice about dropping in. If you have the technical skill to ride the filters, the odds are that you have the ability to ride these trails.
Greeff would like to see more opportunities for mountain bikers to improve their skills.
“Our community could benefit from a skills development area that has a skills park and pump track so that people can continue to develop their comfort level with this type of trail.”
Perhaps a skills park is in the future for Singletrack Advocates. For now, it’s time for the hard working volunteers to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Key steps to riding black-diamond mountain bike trails
Use correct safety gear. Make sure to have a good helmet, gloves, knee pads, and elbow pads. A full-face helmet offers the best protection.
Use the correct equipment. A bike with a wide handlebar and a slack head tube angle gives you better control in challenging terrain. A seat dropper post moves your seat out of your way and allows you to safely maneuver your bike in the air and through tight berms. If you don’t have a dropper post, manually lower your seat at the start of every black diamond trail. Use flat pedals with flat sole shoes for the jump lines. Flat pedals allow you to learn how to control the natural movement of your bike in the air. It also allows you to quickly put a foot down to regain control.
Preview the trail. Walk to the side of the trail to preview all of the trail features.
Baby steps. Start slow and gradually work up your skills. Ride the trails repeatedly and roll over the features initially to improve your familiarity with the flow of the trail. Once you feel comfortable, try catching small air on the jumps. After a lot of practice you’ll be able to clear the jumps by correctly landing in the landing zones. Don’t “Go Big” your first time. Build a solid foundation of skills before attempting larger jumps and berms.
For more information: Singletrack Advocates (www.singletrackadvocates.com); International Mountain Bicycling Association (www.imba.com) and MTB Project (www.mtbproject.com