Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Santos Trails Mountain Biking

READER ALERT!: The following travel-log entry is nearly 100% concerned with mountain biking. If, for some reason that I cannot possibly understand, you are not interested in this wholesome, healthy, exciting activity, then perhaps you'd prefer to spend your time another way, watching television or sorting your stamp collection, whatever it is that you do do. Thank you.


Santos Trails, located on the south side of Ocala, Florida, are listed by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) as "epic", recognizing this trail system as "...having the biggest influence on riders, as well as land managers and decision makers. These rides are the models that shape our conception of what is possible for trail recreation on public lands." I read that Santos has not only a wide range of trails for all abilities, but also two pump-tracks, a skills area, and a free-ride area with stunts and jumps ranging from just-learning to expert. (The biggest drop is 20 feet!) Furthermore, they have a state-run campground at the trail-head! This made it a mandatory stop for our trip.

The campground had a site available so we booked it, arriving to find all sites taken, and all sites littered with mountain bikes. Clearly we were in good company.

I took to the trails as soon as the unseasonably cold Florida temperatures made it into the 50's. At first I was unimpressed, for while the curvy trails were fun, they had the technical requirements of black-top. But I came at last to the expert level trails, "Magic Mountain" in particlar, at which point the trail took advantage of some rare Florida landscape features, kind of like hills, and made of something kind of like rock. This is what the Magic Mountain trail looks like from its starting point:

The expert trails proved to be a load of fun, requiring much in the way of technical ability and picking a good line, but not to the point that they were not rideable on the first try. I particularly enjoyed a trail called "John Brown". Here I am descending a rocky outcropping:

I made my way through the park and over to a section called Vortex. Here there is an area of expert trails and the free-ride section. They have cleverly installed a "gate" to the area: a ramp feature which, if you can ride over it, provides a good indication that the expert trails beyond are within your ability. It was well within mine, so I proceeded.

The first thing I saw was the free-ride jumps, a three wide and about 100 yards long series of jumps and table-tops that ranged from beginner to insane. Here's a guy taking flight on a table-top jump:

I then rolled down to the quarry floor, where the big drops are. I found some little ones to play on and then watched a guy drop off one of the "medium" drops, perhaps a 6 footer with a good gap between the launch ramp and the landing area such that the drop had to be done at speed. Here's the guy mid-flight:

I went off to ride the expert loop, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and which included some ramp opportunities which I was able to do. Here's the longest one, about 50 feet long, maybe 14" wide, and around 3 feet above ground at its apex. Nice!

Having scoped things out, the next day Nancy saddled up her comfort bike and we both did a loop on the easy trails. We did a short loop one day and a longer one the next. She did great, and really enjoyed it!

We even both played around on the pump track and skills area. Here's some shots of our two wheeled fun:

A really great trail system with something for everyone, well worth a visit if you're in the area and are interested enough in the sport to have read this far. There are two bike shops near the trail head which rent good bikes.

The Power Converter: I was cooking dinner at dusk the evening before we were to depart when Nancy called to me "Power's out!" I looked around and saw lights elsewhere in the campground, and went inside to investigate. A noxious odor assailed my nostrils upon entering the Whale, so I bolted to the electric hookup box and threw the breaker. Upon investigation, the source turned out to be our power converter, which takes the 120V AC "shore power" and converts it the 12V DC power that most of our electric lights and pumps run on, and also charges our battery. Without it we would run our battery down in short order, so a replacement would have to be found right away. I saw that an RV dealer was just 1/2 mile away and arranged for a new converter, under warranty, to be available the next day. Unfortunately they received the wrong one, so we ended up staying two extra days, but ultimately the correct one was received. I installed it and we are back up and running.


  1. Matt...despite your warning I read the entire entry and it looks like your experience at Santos was "EPIC". Remind me to thank you someday because I had to watch Austin drool over the keyboard as he read your blog and checked out your pictures! As I said to you over the weekend get your @#$ out west so we can come visit!

    PS - look like a pro!

  2. Likewise....despite the warning I did read your entry. You will now have to endure a 40 hour course given by me in BASIC FIREARMS TRAINING!!! Sorry to hear of your electrical problem. Sounds like you had a visit from Joe Gloom.