by Bob Weaver
Mountains? No. Mountain Bike Trails? HEC yeah!
Rangeline Nature Preserve. Have you ridden your bike out there? If not, it’s time. To offer a little background, Rangeline Nature Preserve (RNP) is a 180-acre nature area just west of Mounds State Park with 3 mountain bike loops within its boundaries. The City of Anderson owns the park, while a non-profit group, RNP Mountain Biking (Like them on Facebook!) has put in thousands of hours to ‘turn this gem into a tight, twisty and technical single track.’ These words are as true as it gets.
I recently had the chance to ride the trail with a couple of seasoned experts, Jeff Carter and Mike McFall. They also happen to be a couple of guys who have spent a considerable amount of time, effort and creative thought in helping creating and updating the RNP trail. Jeff works a tech job by day – by weekend, you might find him travelling 4 to 5 hours by car for a good ride. And he’s a heck of a rider. The Sunday I met up with him, he’d just returned from a Saturday ride near London, Kentucky. Mike is an engineer by trade who fulfills his love of cycling with time on the pedals and by doing part-time work for Bicycle Garage. He feigned modesty while helping Jeff navigate me around the track, but rode the thing like a pro.
Jeff and Mike insisted that I see the expert trail. Jeff’s reasoning, “I want to show you the best of the trail, the features and construction that make it a favorite…a trail that people who visit from states away tell me they absolutely love and will go out of their way to visit.” We started our trip in Anderson at 8th and Raible, so I also got to take in a portion of Anderson’s well-manicured White River Trail. Thankfully, we didn’t document the RNP portion on video – though there are parts that could be submitted to America’s Funniest Home Videos. I got through it and they did take great care to coach me along the way and I’m glad I got to see the trail through their eyes.
As a commuter and novice to the mountain biking world, I didn’t fully know what to expect. In some ways, it was analogous to snow skiing, which I had done. RNP had three types of trails: novice, intermediate and expert, represented by the colors green, blue and black, respectively. Signage was clearly marked and I could go out there today and ride the novice with no hesitation. In other ways, it was more diverse and exciting than just about any sport I’ve experienced. The number of unique features encountered during a single trip around RNP’s expert course is impossible to mentally catalog in just one trip.
We made a few water stops along the ride and talked about the park and the community of riders it serves. We talked about Mounds Greenway, too. Jeff is excited about the possibilities of Mounds Greenway for all types of cyclists. He’ll admit a strong interest in the connection between Rangeline and the growing Prairie Creek Trails mountain bike park in Muncie, which connects with Cardinal Greenway. “I could see a trip where you ride Rangeline in the morning, grab a bite, take a ride over to Prairie Creek, then come back. You get two different trails, plus something in between.” We talked about the possibilities between Madison and Hamilton Counties, too.
After finishing the ride and taking a side-trip from Rangeline to Chesterfield, I made a pledge to take my kids back to Rangeline. In some ways, it reminded me of a supersized, incredibly tight version of a neighborhood track someone had made on a vacant lot near the home where I grew up. It’s a playground, and a place to get away and a place where your imagination can let loose for a few hours. It would be cool for it to be part of a purpose-built, accessible, regional network of trails – a superhighway for bikes if you will. It’s fun to see every bit of existing trail and bike infrastructure, to think about the possibilities for Mounds Greenway and to meet others who share similar interests and hopes. (pictures courtesy Jeff Carter)
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