Brown County Mountain Biking

This past weekend I was able to grab a couple days to explore Brown County, Indiana for some mountain biking. I'd heard that this place was the MTB mecca for anyone living east of the Mississippi. We'd been planning a trip for a while and finally worked in an overnighter that happened to fall on the nicest couple days that November will ever see.
We arrived late Saturday afternoon and hit the trails as soon as we secured a campsite. The trail system is well labeled and mapped out. They give clear expectations of difficulty ranging from "Beginner" to "Expert." Our first ride was on an easier trail.
Jason was riding his brand new Kona Honzo. Other than a couple short dirt rides, this was it's first big chunk of time on the Honzo. I love that bike. It's a 1x10 29er that's built with everything you need and nothing you don't. I like that no nonsense kind of a build.
My buddy, Justin, was on a loaner Litespeed. That bike weighed about as much as my Camelbak. It was incredible.

After our easy run, we put ourselves on the most difficult trail at the park. "How hard could it be, right? We ride a lot. We can handle it."

Bruises ensued.

They have really built this thing well. Hand-built rock features, roots and random boulders knocked me out of my pedals plenty of times. I tip my hat to the few guys I saw out there riding it. As darkness was rapidly approaching, we turned back. By the time we had reached the beginner trail to get us back to camp, it was completely dark. It made for a fun ride out at high speeds on an easy path.
The campground is great. There are plenty of well removed sites with lots of trees. I'm so used to camping out in the wilderness, it felt great to have lots of flat ground and a picnic table. But the luxuries didn't mean we had to share the moment with a crowd of RV's and kids on scooters. We were a good distance from any other campers.
I took this shot at sunrise while laying in my sleeping bag. With all the flat campsite space, I just slept on my sleeping pad on the ground. No tent. Not hammock. No tarp. Morning was a fantasticly relaxed pace. I think we understood that there was more day than there was energy to ride it. We made coffee, made breakfast and worked on bikes until about 9:30.
Jason works at Bike Green Lexington. I have to admit, I'm starting to feel spoiled by doing all my bikey adventures with a bike mechanic. It's quite the luxury!
Sunday started with temps in the low 50s, but quickly warmed up. I wore a long sleeve jersey and light gloves that were off less than a half hour after getting on the trail.
BC has a great system of switchbacks, climbs and descents that keep you thrilled and gasping for air at a steady cadence. One minute you're huffing and puffing up a hill, the next your flying down the other side trying not to let your instincts grab the brakes.

We saw several of these chimneys and foundations at the bottom of the hills.
Then we'd slowly make our way to the top for some great views.

One of my favorite things about these trails were how they just went on and on. I've ridden a few different mountain bike parks and the trails consistently just run on top of one another. They switch back and forth and stay really compact. BC allows you to feel like you're going somewhere when you ride. There were a couple points in the day that we'd get separated and not see each other for a half hour at a time. But keep riding and riding and you'd eventually meet up. I love the feeling of "journey" that goes along with all that mileage.
Several cuts, bruises and over 20 miles later, we were done for the day. Having never ridden the park before, I would make some changes. We didn't bring enough food and water to stay out for one long ride. I would either break the ride up or pack more stuff.

Riding the Troll completely rigid was tough. I stand behind the fact that my normal MTB experiences don't necessitate suspension. But BC's terrain and opportunity to ride all day really do. I took note that 80% of the other bikes we saw out there were fully suspended... and nice. To be honest, the Troll was probably the cheapest bike I saw all day. But I get it. If I lived in the area, I'd ride that system at least twice a week. And I'd have a better bike for it. On a random note, we saw one guy walking his full suspension Trek out. The left chain stay was only attached by the QR skewer. It had completely broken off near the bottom bracket. He was fuming at the time, so I didn't ask what happened. But the rear wheel was wobbly and it takes a lot to completely sheer a frame apart. Hope he's under warranty.

Overall, the Troll did it's job. I caught a tree that busted my hand pretty good and crimped the left shifter cable. After that, I couldn't shift up front for the rest of the day. I worked it onto the granny chainring and ran it as a 1x9 from then on. It wasn't an issue at all, though. I'm toying with making the Troll at 1x9 anyway. So this was good experimentation.

Brown County is great. If you're within a three hour drive, go check it out. If you're in Louisville, go. You're close enough to make it a regular thing. We rode nearly every bit of trail in the couple days we were there. And by the end of the second day, we were ready to be done. I could have ridden more if we had taken a break at the care, but it wouldn't have been the kind of riding that is exciting. It would have been keeping the bike upright and taking in the scenery. But however you ride Brown County, it's worth it. Go check it out.

Get out there.


  1. Cool! I may have the opportunity to start exploring some of these places you write about really soon. I've been studying up on MTB opportunities in the Central KY area, or within easy reach anyway.

    Cool write up! Looks fun!

  2. That place looks amazing!