Mountain Bike Trail Review: Texas Hill Country

This is a Texas hill country mountain bike trail review by Jeff. He has so much fun playing, that his review posts are somewhat delayed!

LonghornMy first experience riding Texas was east of Austin at a place called Rocky Hill Ranch. It had rained the day before, so I figured the trails would be well-packed, not dusty, and ready to ride. What was not known was this area is actually low country and my bike went from weighing a trim 27.5 pounds when I started to what seemed like 60 pounds from the sticky, red mud that caked both my wheels and bike while riding a fire connector road to one of the interconnecting trails. I cut that trip short and only did 4 miles as essentially an out and back. Consequently, my first ride out of the gate was not exactly a pleasurable ride, however, I was entertained by the nearby long horns. I am sure that during drier conditions the trail would have been fabulous, but it just didn’t work for me on that day.

mapMy impression of Texas mountain biking changed in a positive way once exposed to the enjoyable riding offered in Texas Hill Country near San Antonio. After stopping at a nearby bike shop (Gotta Ride Bikes), they directed me to two trails which offer the best in the area: Flat Rock Ranch near Comfort, Texas and Madrone Trail overlooking Canyon Lake.  Flat Rock Ranch was smooth and flowy, while Madrone Trail was like picking through a rock garden. Let me start with Flat Rock Ranch first.

Getting to Flat Rock Ranch was easy, just off the highway, but you have to eventually drive your car through a gate which keeps the cows corralled. Being from Florida I am not exactly indoctrinated to this type of trail head entrance. After parking my car, I paid the $10.00 fee and proceeded to the west loop. They have about 29 miles of trails, but the western loop was plenty for me getting about 15 miles out of the run. Although the trail was well marked, my Mountain Bike Project App kept me informed of my progress along the way. If you are a traveler and want a rocking app for mountain bike trails around the country, you should download this jewel. Although the first half of the trail was generally a slow and steady ascent up the mountain, the periodic ups and downs during the ascent kept it always interesting. You know the top is near when the tight switch backs start appearing. It gets a little technical going up the switch backs, but it should be a comfort to know the downhill is not far.

bikeOnce at the top, get ready for a rocking smooth downhill which seems like it just doesn’t stop. After a couple more climbs it is pretty much downhill all the way to the car. This is an active farm, so don’t be surprised by the cows and horned sheep getting out of your way or observing your progress during the descent. This place would be great for cross country races or endurance events. My mind wanted to continue onto the east loop, but my legs just wouldn’t support that decision. I hear that the east loop is shorter and a little more technical, but likely more of the same.

MadroneThe Madone trails did not disappoint either. After parking the car, I proceeded into the loop which yielded about 8 miles. Although this loop was much shorter than Flat Rock Ranch, it felt like doing many more miles. As the loop progresses, you are constantly picking a line through the multiple rock gardens, both up and down hills. Although this is not my cup of tea I managed to keep the bike upright and on two wheels most of the time, and can appreciate the technical appeal of this trail. While picking a path through the rock gardens, distractions abound with the marvelous views of Canyon Lake. Half way through I had a magnificent view of the lake and took a much needed break. Eventually you wind back to the car, shocks fully tested. If anything was marginally loose on the bike before, it likely needs some maintenance now.

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