Up from the Chicago area for the weekend, Cody Kunz took time away from visiting his Madison-area friends to check out the Middleton Bike Park. The 22-year-old rolled around the upper level pump track before braving a series of three six-foot high tabletop dirt jumps.

Although Kunz said he'd ridden at The Garden, an outdoor dirt jump park in Chicago, and Ray's, an indoor mountain bike and BMX park in Milwaukee, he marveled at the trails, berms and jumps tucked below the clubhouse of the city-owned Pleasant View Golf Course in Middleton.

"This is cool. And it's free," he said on August 17, pausing to marvel at the skills displayed by Tom Holaday, 21, of Madison, and Cameron Lundin, 22, of nearby McFarland. The two men soared off the jumps, kicking their back wheels sideways before landing cleanly.

With cooperation from the city, a grant from Bikes Belong, Holaday and Lundin - and other members of the Capital Off Road Pathfinders (CORP) - built these features at the bike park. And they freely offered Kunz, a more experienced cross country mountain biker, tips on how to get more air off the jumps.

But soon the resident riders were back to work, joining a dozen other CORP members scratching out a new trailbed with heavy duty rakes, pulaskis and McLeods - hand tools used to cut through scrub brush and the topmost root bed - and a chainsaw.

Among those pitching in for the first time was Justin Lentz and his friend Alex Applegate, another CORP member. "I called Alex up to see if he wanted to ride today and he said 'No. I'm building trail.' So here I am," Lenz said as he raked, making sure the tattoo on his bicep was visible to a photographer.

Kunz and Lentz had stumbled upon a reoccurring scene. Bike parks and singletrack trails are proliferating across the upper Midwest with each taking scores of volunteer hours to build. At the Middleton Bike Park, they were also witnesses to a strengthening coalition between a local bike club and representatives of a national initiative to build sustainable mountain biking facilities to a consistently high standard.  

IMBA on the scene
At a meeting the day before, CORP board members introduced to an assemblage of city and county officials Jesse Livingston and Lori Reed, a two-person team that travels the country helping mountain bikers build and improve local singletrack trails. The Subaru/International Mountain Bicycling (IMBA) Trail Care Crew had made just made a similar presentation in Green Bay, and spent time in Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Crosby, Minnesota, before leaving the region.

On every stop, including in Middleton, Livingston and Reed revved up mountain bikers and impressed upon local government and tourism officials and business owners that good trails draw large numbers of people wanting to ride them.

Read Joel Patenaude's entire article in the October 2012 print edition of Silent Sports