Saturday, February 18, 2012

Riding Hard in Louisiana

English: Typical All Mountain Mountain BikeImage via Wikipedia
By Pat Walker

Bike riding in Louisiana is a challenge - there's a wide variety of terrain from hills to mangrove forests and swamps. Plus, there's also the climate; while nobody can exactly forget that Louisiana gets hot and sticky and humid, there are people who underprepare. Just remember to fill your canteen before you start, and refresh the sunscreen and insect repellent regularly. Don't forget to keep an eye out for local wildlife, though most prepared trails won't have much to speak of.

If you like a river-view, check out the Stoner Trail in the Shreveport area. It's got several different rides to choose from, and all are color coded for difficulty and well maintained. The 8 miles of track give something suitable for all but the most extreme levels of skills. There's even a local bike shop in the area, that hosts events.

Another Shreveport mountain biking destination is so called "Monkey Trail". It's in Eddy D Jones Park and regularly has a park ranger riding over it; there's a 10 mile loop with the first 7.5 miles of rolling hills that have some hard ascents and some hair raising descents. Rumor has it that the nickname comes from the agility needed to go up the hills; it's a nice technical challenge on the last quarter of the trail, but isn't so daunting that beginners need to stay home.

Lincoln Parrish Park near Ruston is one of Louisiana's best kept secrets. Surrounded by woods, this 10-mile loop features jumps, drops, climbs, descents, and lots of fast riding. There is something for everyone here, from beginners to experienced bikers. However, a lot of it is technical, so unless you're prepared to work on your skills, don't expect a leisurely ride here! There are a number of events held here throughout the year, so the track is always well-maintained.

The Lake Claiborne State Park near Homer has several miles of trails that involve a lot of climbing. The downhill sections are fast and short and then you'll be climbing again. Prepare for quite a workout! It's especially challenging after a rainfall when the trails are rather muddy. There are cabins available to rent nearby, if you want to stay in the area overnight.

In the southern half of the state, there's not as much biking terrain, largely because there aren't a wide variety of hills. One of the minor exceptions is near Baton Rouge, with Hooper Park Trails. This setup has eight miles of well maintained trails with interlocking loops covering a pleasant variety of terrain. Most of the trails are well maintained by the local mountain biking club, and they're mostly color coded for difficulty.

Bodcau near Bossier City is one of the best trails in Louisiana. There are 10 miles of several loops involving fast descents and long climbs. It may be too difficult for beginners. The climbs are tiring, but the incredibly speedy downhill sections are totally worth the effort!

Louisiana has a varied terrain with most of the hilly areas in the northern parts of the state, while the southern areas are more swampy and consist of marshlands. Naturally the better places to ride will be found in the north. The trails listed above are a great place to start when discovering everything Louisiana has to offer bikers of all levels of experience.

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