Posts Tagged ‘mountain biking santos’

Teaching a Kid To Ride a Ladder on a Mountain Bike

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

by Sean Hess, Team Rider and Manager for Strackacobra. Visit me on Google+ and Facebook.

Since I retired from full time racing and took a much needed mental break, I’ve been jonesing to get back on the trails again.

If I want to keep riding (and keep riding the really gnarly trails I got used to as a racer) I have to get my kids involved. Thankfully, my daughter seems to really enjoy mountain biking.

Last week we went out to the Santos Trails near Ocala, Florida, and worked on a progressive ladder she rode last time we were out. This is the first time she rode it from start to finish by pedaling in from the trail.

So much of mountain biking is mental, of proving to yourself that what your eyes are telling you is impossible is actually possible and quite easy (and fun).

The ladder here is nice because it is so big and wide, and there’s lots of room. We started by rolling off the first hill, then the second, then the third, then pedaling in. The ladder is really just the same hill three times. Once she knew she could master the first hill the rest was easy. Here’s the video below:

You can find this ladder by parking at the main Santos trail head and taking the yellow trails to the right. The ladder is before you get to Blue Highway and (I believe) after the 2nd Marshmallow intersection.

See Strackacobra’s mountain themed T’s at

Mountain Biking in Florida: Trail Building with OMBA

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Trail Building at Santos

I spent last weekend building good karma by trail building at Santos, near Ocala, Florida. If you’ve never heard of Santos it’s I wrote about it earlier on the Trails We Love: Santos page at Santos is also my home course so it was especially important to give back. This is the first time I’ve ever helped build a trail.

It was a bit of an eye opener.

In this cut-and-dried, pre-packaged world there is an expectation for things to be so precise. But there’s not a whole lot of that in trail building.

While there is a lot of care in choosing the route based on topography and drainage, once you get on the ground it’s done by touch and feel.

First the course is flagged by walking…which can be difficult because of all the palmettos and understory we have here in Florida. Then come the chainsaws clearing out the major obstacles, but leaving the trees. You want the trees to wind in and out of.

When they were clearing with the chainsaws the day before I came in they encountered a massive beehive in an old oak tree along the route. The guy running the saw said the bees were “like a dark cloud” there were so many.

Instead of clearing the hive they rerouted the trail giving enough clearance to the old oak. That’s the “touch and feel” approach, and an ecologically sensitive one as well. Good for the bees, good for the trees, good for the riders.

They pointed out the tree to us as we came along…when there are enough bees to see a clear traffic pattern in and out, you know it’s a big hive.

After the chainsaws, two bush hogs came through to knock out some of the understory. Then I and a bunch of others came along with loppers to clear what the bush hogs missed, and to clear all the small and straggly branches at rider level. Then came rakes to move the pine needles but leave the duff, so the trail would break in gradually without the sand bleeding up and through.

There have been times I’ve been on a trail and got–shall I say, “discomforted”–when I’ve hit a small, hard knot of tree stump that I didn’t see in the middle of the trail. I’ve always assumed that the trail builders were sadistic bastards that left those things there on purpose. The truth is that things are just too damn hard to remove in the course of clearing two miles of trail (as we did that day). We get them down as low as possible, but then it’s time to move on. And that’s how a trail gets its character.

This trail has been in the planning stage for months with the goal of having it completed by March for the Ocala Mountain Bike Association’s (OMBA’s) Spring Break Fat Tire Festival. It extends the western-most trails in the Santos system by three miles. This was a beginner level trail, but there are plans to add some intermediate level trails in the same area as money becomes available: there are ravines on the tailings of the ancient Florida Barge Canal project that will need bridges.

Mountain Biking in Florida: The Spider Kingdom is Nearly Clear

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The Santos Trails (see out Trail Reviews page) are known as The Spider Kindom. This is because in June and July gigantic spiders colloquially known as “bananna spiders” (officially “golden orb spiders”) drape massive webs across the trail. If you’re the first one on the trail (as I often am on a Saturday morning) you get a face full of spiders.

It got so bad one morning this summer while riding some of the less used trails, and after having spiders crawling on my arms and on my riding glasses, I just stopped, dismounted, turned around and went back the way I came. At least I knew the trail was clear.

This weekend, I discovered that the spiders have more-or-less cleared out for the season. Or Darwinian selection has gotten rid of the ones who enjoy the space between trails. At last we can ride fast again!

The Humiliation 100, a.k.a. The Hammerhead 100 Mountain Bike Race

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Never again. Never ever ever again.
It was called the Hammerhead 100. A mountain bike race in central Florida in May. Fifty or 100 mile option. It should have been called the Humiliation 100.
Sunstroke. Dust inhalation. My cycling jersey soaked with 50 gallons of sweat, I gallon for each miserable mile I rode. The humidity was so high it was like breathing through wet gauze. It was already 84 degrees at 8 in the morning.
I wrecked in the first three miles. Face planted into the soft dirt. That wasn’t the end of it. As the day went on it was like being baked slowly to death while having your private parts beaten to mush.
At some point I started sympathizing with every country song ever written. Lost my job, lost my dog, lost my truck, low down deep dark depression, excessive misery. “Doom, despair and agony on me.”
Garth Brooks sang about having friends in low places. Hell, I didn’t even have friends. I could have used a friend. You know, to hand up a water bottle, or a stretcher, or something.
At least when the Wicked Witch of the West was melting she had flying monkeys. I could have used a flying monkey. I don’t know what for but I would have at least made sure the sonofabitch brought Gatorade.
Then it was over. And there were meatball subs and chocolate cake. And what else can you ask for but fast calories when there are bruises on top of the bruises and you don’t have a friend?