Words and photos by VIDA Ambassador, Tiffany Hutchens.
As much as we all love being outside riding our favorite trail in the warm breeze, sometimes 'outside' conspires against us. Many riders have heard of Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Parks in the upper midwest, but now there's another option, the Mega Caverns UNDERGROUND Bike Park. Mega Caverns is a giant limestone cave situated under the outskirts of Louisville, KY. They already boast zip line tours, a high ropes course, and tram tours within the caverns, and with Louisville's thriving cycling community, a bike park became the next great addition. Just to be clear here, we're not just talking bmx type features but cross country trails of varying difficulty complete with skinnies, rock features, wood bridges, and drops. I had a chance to visit during opening week with the goal of capturing every square inch of dirt on camera.
Here is a video of riding the bike park: http://youtu.be/to9X4XnYdWQ
A friend and I made the two hour drive from Evansville, IN, to get some much needed dirt on our tires. It took a few trips in and out of the cave to pay and change clothes before we realized next time we should just act as if we were parked at the trailhead: come dressed and ready to ride! There is a bike rack at the registration desk but the only place to put extra stuff is in a 1x1 foot locker in a nearby section of the cave. Luckily you are issued a wristband upon payment so running back to the car for food or clothes is only a minor inconvience. The clay-like dirt, though dusty at times, was well-packed and manicured into smooth, 18 inch wide paths. Complete with twists, dips, kicker- jumps, and off-camber turns, the trails only felt foreign when you looked up and instead of seeing trees or mountains you were enveloped in vastness of open space and the strangeness of having a roof over your head.
The trails are marked in a fashion similiar to a ski hill; green circles, blue squares, and black triangles (not quite diamonds) to denote difficulty. Singletrack trails are all directional, which could have been marked a little more clearly. The main roadway within the cave allows for two way traffic so that you can get to certain sections of trail more directly, but be aware that it is open to the cavern maintenance trucks as well. Also similiar to ski trails at large resorts, the single track consisted of one main loop around the perimeter with a variety of tributaries branching off to allow for more or less challenging lines. We clocked the outter loop at a half mile and after riding all of the variations plus jump lines we accumulated 5 miles. There was no true pump track, but there were a number of lines in which you could get your 'pump on' if desired. I was impressed with the rock and wood features available, and the only thing we did not ride with confidence were the 10 foot roll off drops and the 6 foot high jumps.
The greatest strength of the bike park is the bmx section allowing for hours of jump practice. However, the same hours of practice are not as readily available to the cross country enthusiast despite the 320,000 square feet in which to play. Even for intermediate riders I think the thrill and challenge is likely to wear off by the two hour mark. The buzz from seasoned cyclists that have visited the bike park has been... deflated, but I think most of that is fueled by a desire for more trails. I choose to believe it's totally AMAZING that they built trails in a cave, and those trails will stay dry and at a consistent 58 degrees year-round. I also choose to believe this is the start to more riding surfaces to come, as I am told the Mega Caverns have a total of 100 acres to work with and will adapt and grow based on customer feedback. In the meantime, families, beginners, and tourists get in every minute that you can in this remarkable wonder! When every trail within a two hour drive is soaked to the core, you better believe I'll be looking to hit up the Mega Caverns bike park again!
Visit the Mega Caverns website http://www.louisvillemegacavern.com/attractions/6/mega-underground-bike-park for pricing and details about the trails.