Illinois is home to many mountain bike trail systems. What differentiates mountain biking from regular cycling? Mountain bike trails are on dirt or other natural surfaces. Single track refers to a narrow trail that could contain roots, rocks, logs or other features. Double track is a wider trail, still on a dirt or natural surface that is typically easier to ride with less features/obstacles.
Riding on trails when they are wet leaves ruts and damages the trails. Most of the mountain bike groups in the state post trail conditions, so you can know if trails are rideable before you go. If you encounter a small muddy section, you should ride through the middle as opposed to widening the trail. If it is a large area, it is best to get off your bike and walk it through the section.
Did you head out thinking trails would be rideable and then find out you are leaving ruts? Switch to the multi-track instead.
Nearly all of the mountain bike trail systems in our state are built and maintained by not-for-profit trail groups. Unfortunately, most trails do not maintain themselves. Volunteer trail workers have likely built and maintained all of your favorite trails. When trails are damaged from people riding muddy trails, as well as by erosion, your local trail crew spends their time fixing issues as opposed to building new trails. Trail workers also trim trees and other plants to improve sight lines, making the trails safer for all users, as well as sometimes removing invasive plants.
Want to help maintain your local trails? Or, do you want to be able to help build new single track? Most local mountain bike clubs host trail days. You learn more about trail building, become more familiar with the trails and get to meet and hangout with other local mountain bikers. As a bonus, many of the clubs will even feed you afterwards to show their appreciation for all of your work! As an additional bonus, trail days can count for community service hours (required by many high schools).
Looking to get more familiar with your local trails? Many of the clubs also host group rides. You may learn a new trail, and may even pick up some tips on riding a tricky section. A few of the clubs have different rides, depending on ability.
Looking to race? The Illinois Home Grown Series is a race series with races throughout the state. The Chicago Area Mountain Bikers host the state’s largest race, the annual Palos Meltdown, which is also the club’s South Chapter’s biggest fundraiser. Clubs rely on fundraisers, memberships and sometimes grants to pay for equipment needed to maintain the trails.
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Jubilee College State Park
Horace B. Garman Park
Geneseo Prairie Park
Illiniwek Forest Preserve
Wildlife Prairie Park
Spring Lake Park
Black Partridge Park
Saw Wee Kee
Dorrance Forest Preserve
Palos Forest Preserve