Kenosha County has access to some great biking trails. You might already know about the Multi Use Trail and the wide paved bike lanes on the shoulders of highways crisscrossing the entire county, but there is more. Kenosha Area Mountain Bike Association (KAMBA) maintains mountain biking trails in Kenosha County Parks. The thought of getting caught out in a Red Bull Rampage style downhill would be daunting, but mountain biking in Kenosha County is a lot of fun if you properly prepare for it. Here are four easy steps to mountain biking in Kenosha County.
Know Before You Go
The first and most important thing to know about mountain biking is to check the trail conditions before you leave home. This can be done by calling the KAMBA Trail Condition Hotline at (262) 857-1876. You can also check online at the KAMBA website or the KAMBA Facebook Page. The KAMBA site has an, “Is It Rideable?” page which follows recent precipitation measurements near the trails. The rangers at Richard Bong State Recreation Area (Bong SRA) maintain their own trail hotline for ATV, horse riding, biking, and hiking at (262) 878-5600.
This is the most important step because mountain bike riders don’t ride on wet or muddy trails. Riding puts all of your weight on your tires and that makes ruts. When ruts dry out they are hard to repair and make riding less enjoyable for everyone. While running in all conditions and getting dirty is a point of pride in trail running, riding wet trails is bad stewardship in mountain biking. So your best bet is to check conditions at the trails before investing your whole day in riding them. Rainy Wisconsin Weather can be frustrating in Spring and early Summer, but riding the trails only when they are open is worth the wait.
Get In The Groove
KAMBA trails are free to ride and are maintained by KAMBA volunteers. These trails are also called “singletrack,” with a resemblance to trails made by deer, runners, or other wildlife. Volunteers work year-round to improve trail conditions and perform maintenance like mowing undergrowth or removing tree branches from the trail. Major repairs or trail building is coordinated with the County Parks Department. Trails are also color coded by difficulty, similar to what you find in downhill skiing as outlined by the National Ski Areas Association. Green trails are the easiest to ride, followed by intermediate blue trails, and expert black and double black diamond trails.
While you can find some gnarly downhills if you look for them, most of the trails in Kenosha County are considered “cross country” trails in mountain biking terminology. When it comes to cross country trails, the word to remember is “flow.” Flowy trails are for maintaining your momentum while you climb and descend hills, and encounter turns or other features. The fun in flow is being able move through the forest while being a part of the forest. Flow feels like your tires stick to the trail as you lean into a banked curve and surprise! There’s a deer standing on the side of the trail. Sounds great, right?
The trails at Bong SRA are not part of the KAMBA network of trails and they require a state park trail pass. Bike riding at Bong SRA is only allowed on trails North of Highway 142. All of the trails at Bong SRA are considered “double track.” They are wide, grassy trails with little to no technical obstacles on them. Ok maybe a few surprises. But if you consider yourself a beginner, or less than a beginner, these trails offer hills and wide easy turns and a great place to start riding.
A modern mountain bike is going to have some form of suspension on it. It might be a “hardtail” with only a suspension fork on the front, or full suspension providing a plush ride in the front and back. Suspension will smooth out some of the roots, rocks, and bumps you will encounter, which makes the riding safer. If you don’t have your own bike, there are a handful of bike rental opportunities around the county.
Beyond your bike, a well made, well fitting helmet is a must. You shouldn’t need a full faced helmet, just one from a reputable company. Modern helmets come with lots of adjustments and padding, and are a far cry from the rattling brain buckets of twenty or thirty years ago. Using a pair of gloves is a good idea to protect your hands. A water bottle stowed in a cage on your bike will be an easy way to carry water, but backpack systems are widely used too. Be aware of the conditions, as that will dictate how much water you need to drink. But most of all, please remember bug spray and/or ways to keep mosquitoes off of you. It is Wisconsin and you are heading into the woods.
Bring Your Bike
It’s time to ride! You have already been to the KAMBA website to find the best trails for you, so hop on your bike and, “Send it!” In the fall of 2019, Kenosha County decided to make all of the trails maintained by KAMBA into mountain bike only trails. This means if you love the experience and want to come back to hike the trails with friends and family, you will have to stick to trails open to hiking or running. You can check the map at KAMBA.org for trails open to hiking.
Trails that are closed to hikers/runners are well marked and many trails are directional (only ridden one way). As a new bike rider on a directional trail, you can have the expectation that faster riders will come from behind you and you will catch slower riders in front of you. Two way trails are marked as such and you should expect traffic in both directions on two way trails.
The double track trails at Bong SRA are open to hiking, running, bird watching, and biking (and in some cases horse riding). They are also open to two way traffic. When it comes to riding with other users, the International Mountain Bike Association has a Rules of the Trail guideline that is widely followed. In mixed use trails, mountain bikers yield to foot traffic and horses. On hills descending riders yield to climbing riders.
It is a great time to be riding bikes in Kenosha County. You can find some nice biking resources on the Kenosha County Parks website. Resources include a county-wide bike map, an annotated bike tour of the major features you can see from your bike seat, and (my favorite) the Comprehensive Bike Plan for Kenosha County through 2025.
If you have fallen in love with mountain biking, consider helping out with the KAMBA trails by participating in work days, becoming a KAMBA member, or just by telling people how much fun you had.
Submitted by Todd Hauser, Kenosha Area Mountain Bike Association