It has been a bad winter. Instead of the three months of rain we are usually treated to, we have been snowed in, frozen solid, and then flooded out. As it turns out, complaining incessantly does nothing to help the situation! I've been hearing about Seattle's Colonnade Bike Park for awhile now, and it seemed like there was no better time then now to pony up and head South. Nestled safely directly under the massive I-5 highway, the park promised dry dirt and new terrain. In other words, our winter Shangri-La!
Inside you'll find way too many pictures and a video showing you what the Colonnade Park is all about!My usual lack of motivation was usurped by our first real full-on winter in over a decade. Something had to be done, and quick. A loose plan was formulated to gather some fellow dirtbags and hit the road asap. A short list of riders was put together, some directions were gathered, and bike gear was piled by the front door. Hell, I even found my passport, which if you knew me would come as a surprise! After a rider or two bailed due to lameness, it came down to only me and Mr. Spoiled Good's himself.... Probably because we were the only two that never have any real plans.
The park is big enough that the map actually came in handy
We hit the road at 8 am sharp, planning on about two and a half hours of driving from Chilliwack. Despite Jordan's prior convictions for gangster-ism and rocking out the peachfuzz mustache, we were allowed entry into the United States of America on one condition: that we both drink at least 2 liters of Monster before we leave the country. Done and done. Bonus points for $17 worth of hot beef jerky for breakfast.
Heading South from Canada in my right-hand-drive Delica, we only got a bit lost and arrived in about three hours time. Not bad for a two ton van with 80 horsepower. Nearby parking is free and we managed to find a spot close to the park, unload excitedly, and make our way up towards the the fun zone. At first sight I didn't know what to think, besides maybe "holy shit!" I was not prepared for the sheer size of the park. Two acres does not sound like that much land, especially when one is used to big forested mountains, but it struck me as a massive slice of heaven. Maybe it is the smart and thorough use of what land they have at their disposal, or the fact that the entire trail system is under a 12 lane highway with drivers above oblivious to the terrain below them.
You are looking at what uncountable hours of hard work by many people can do
The Seattle areas Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club has been lobbying for, and working hard at building the Colonnade Bike Park for some time now. Built largely by volunteers, and supported by donations from both individuals and companies, the park is a masterpiece of design and follow through. Nearly every discipline of rider has been taken into account. A snaky XC route that will both physically and technically challenge you is built into the side of the hill, with different lines for riders who like to lower their seat for the gnar and those who leave their perch tall and proud. A tamer novice section has been placed on flat ground and safe distance away from the jump lines. The beginner zone has everything from 3 foot wide bridges to 3 inch wide skinny's to practice on, and all only inches from terra firma. There is even a trials pit for all you balance-gifted riders to get freaky on, and for me to go nowhere near! And don't forget about the pump track! We had some previous coverage of the park not long ago, but this really was more than I was expecting!
The trials zone
The goods we came to poach were the more challenging lines, and we were not disappointed. Besides many shorter mini routes that were rad in their own right, there are three main jump/drop lines to session. They all start at the same point, with a bit of a squirrel catcher at the beginning to keep those who still need a bit more practice time from hucking their meat. Atop the first wood roll in you have to make a choice between three lines: to your left is a mellow roll down into some smaller (albeit slightly awkward) tables that lead into a massively fun wooden wall ride, and a fun fade away into a wee step-up. Option number two is some medium sized tables with more gradual and predictable lips that point you towards the same wall ride, but with a nice pumper of a drop for the run in. Up and over the same step-up with a nice manual off the other side and into a berm that shoots you back up with hill. A few eager riders were pedaling their way back up to the roll in as it really isn't steep at all, but most young guns were walking back up while watching their friends come down. That is one part of the Colonnade experience that I hadn't counted on. Because everything is within a stones throw from each other it is easy to see your friends and other riders as they make their way down the slope.
Is that a flying squirrel?
The third and most difficult jump line consists of a few less booter's, I'm no mathematician but I'm guessing that is because the three jumps it has are a fair bit bigger than on the other two lines! Up the same wooden starting feature, except entry to the man-line necessitate dropping off and onto a smaller landing zone that is banked in order to 'no brake' it into the first jump, a gentle hip to the riders right. There is the option to fly straight, although the best tranny sits off to the side. A few confident riders were throwing a few strokes in on the run in, not for the hip, but for the twenty some-odd foot table after it. The bigger table is key to clearing the wooden rainbow bridge cleanly. Landing on the top meant having to put the power down to make dirt on the next jump, while nosing into the LZ let you coast in and break out the steeze. Not that I did any of that, but a few riders were laying out some impressive moto whips. Nice work boys!
Check out the awesome self-filmed video of Colonnade Park by Northwestdhdad
Because the park is made available to everyone of all skill levels, safety is obviously a big concern. There are those who could manage to hurt themselves in a pillow fight, this place is not for them, but every effort has been taken to keep the risks to a relative minimum while keeping the fun level pegged at a maximum. Just like a ski resort there are clearly marked signs labeling each and every section so if you plan of going take note and ride within your limits, this is not the place to wad yourself up badly! With the exception of a few strays, nearly all jumps are tables and the landings are wide and forgiving. There has been no skimping on the earth moving and I would be impressed in a way to see someone overshoot any of the trannies.
A tunnel under the last big jump lets riders access other lines or make their way back to the top
Jordan "You tripp'n dawg? I don't need no berm!" Holmes
The two smaller sets were fun to play on, mostly because they both led to that previously mentioned wall ride from heaven, but watching riders nail the big jumps convinced me I had to move on. A quick walk through while trying not to get run over and it was a go. Sort of. Ok, so neither of us managed to clean that tricky middle jump leading into the rainbow bridge nicely, but thankfully the builders know Jordan and I suck and built it so we get snag a few pedals and get over the last jump smoothly. And what a fun jump it is, the perfect mountain bike lip in my humble opinion. Which is nice, since it is a mountain bike park and all. Fairly mellow, and with some good length to it, the jump encouraged riders to throw some style off of it.
Wall ride after the two smaller lines converge
Some of the most fun lines were getting no love by the riders that were in attendance, which made for some clear trails for us! Like I said above, there is no wasted space, neat features are hidden away in every nook and cranny. Set down on the lower part of the park are some amazing roller coaster style bridges that are spit into two tracks depending on how steep and high you feel like going.
All wood work is over built and solid
If you wanted access to the roller coaster's you made your way through some entry skinnies with a few tricky corners of their own. There are handrails a plenty if you need to throw out the anchor, although you want to avoid doing that while atop the highest points! You also had the option of trying your luck at the big teeter totter. Once on the 'totter you can either drop straight into the line, or use some body english to get it to rotate while going down, thereby giving you entry to the harder line. It's been ages since I've come across one of these beasts and it was neat to see another one.
The chained off zone you see below the wood work is for your dog!
Heading back up the hill and into the far corner was a line that probably had the most vertical in the entire park. Start off by rolling through the pump track a few times and then exit onto a skinny bridge that parallels some great graffiti. Drop off the end and roll your way through a wooden berm and into the danger zone! Straight ahead is a gnarly rock garden that could easily claim those who are not paying attention. To your left is a steep straight chute that drops you into a monster berm.
A good way to get some speed!
A great zone to gauge your progression is the drop zone, directly after that big 'ol berm. Riders of all skill will enjoy this part as there are four or five drops that progress from about a foot, to around five feet. The transition is a monster, being at least twenty feet long and of just the right gradient. Put together with dirt, as opposed to gravel, this would be a great spot to learn how to spin off of a drop.
One of the few real gap jumps was off to the side, surrounded by ivy and a little mucky as it was partly exposed to the elements. Roll into some amazing rock work that reminded me a Roman road, a quick berm and bam! You are airborne and hipping into the next right hand corner. The jump is built right into the exit of the berm and feels oh so sweet as you exit it at about mach 7.
He may be too young to have heard of Devo, but he whip's it nonetheless
Ok, enough of the jumping, what about just good old fashioned bike riding? There is loads of that here also! The XC zone looks to have more singletrack built into it than most city folk will ever see in one spot...under an overpass anyway! I found that the terrain is best enjoyed with the seat dropped a bit to lower the death factor. The switchback's are tight enough that you have to put your front wheel in the right spot and keep the power down, no falling asleep over here.
There is a lot of trail packed in there!
The "XC" area also has some teeter's spread about, a few small and steep rock chutes, as well as some awesome steps built right into the side of the hill. Made from caged rock and wood, the steps are spaced far enough apart to roll down in control without getting bucked around. At about a foot wide it still takes a little bit of know how to navigate them safely.
One step at a time
Not enough dirt close by? Make it happen anyway!
Every trail needs a chain bridge to make riders feel dumb...
... and a wall ride to make them feel like a superstar!
There really is something for everyone at the Colonnade Bike Park. At the opposite side of the park, novice's and youngster's alike can practice on more forgiving features. Hard time getting out of the house without the wife or girlfriend? Bring her along and set her loose to rehearse her trail skills. That's assuming she doesn't make you look like a chump on her mountain bike already!
I brought my girlfriend Jordan, and he loved the novice zone!
Sometimes the easy stuff is the most fun!
So to sum it up, yes I drove three hours to ride my mountain bike underneath an overpass in the middle of a city. And I'd recommend that you do the same. This mini trip was exactly what the doctor ordered, some proper time on my damn bike. It's funny how an extended period of time out of the saddle will make you really appreciate the riding time you do have. The park is a great place to work on some skills and have some fun instead of sitting in front of your t.v. playing Call Of Duty for 7 hours straight in your boxer's. Get up and get out! I had a load of fun on my 6" travel bike, but riders were rocking out on everything from single speed hardtails, to 9" downhill bikes, even the kid on the unicycle was wearing a shit eating grin. Get some friends together, pack some lunch and refreshments, and hit the road!
Below are even more pictures of the days fun at Colonnade. Have a look and get stoked!
He only has one wheel! What's my excuse?
A Second Opinion
After close to 3 months without riding my bike, I've been put into a state of suspense, waiting for the next riding day to come. Day by day you watch the snow melt, and the clouds blow out. You watch the thermometer rise up in the sunshine, and once it hits the positives you know it's ready to go. Chilliwack may not meet all those criteria right now, but Colonade Park does and it's close enough to ride bikes at only 2 and a half hours away. So, after driving down to Seattle, Mike and myself jumped out the time machine, strapped on the lids and went to work.
When we first showed up I was blown away. There was a fair amount of riders out getting their ride on, the dirt was really dry, the weather was clearing up, and I was sweating wearing a hoodie. Felt just like spring time under the Seattle highway. Colonnade has a nice dividing line that separates the extremely novice riders from the more advanced riders. The left side consisted of skinny lines, rock drops, little tech lines. The right side was the exact opposite. Jumps, drops, gaps, wall rides, the right hand side was designed for riders more like us.
Colonnade has a very nice progressive feel to it. There is nothing out of anyone's reach there. It appears to be the perfect training ground for anyone who wants to learn to ride a bike, or even a unicycle. There was a dog walking park beside the bike park which could easily double as a place for mom to waste some time with the dog while you ride your bike, or just a place to ditch sparky while you go do some riding. Colonnade has a very smart layout, and all the lines are designed to come right back up to the top. There was 2 main hiking lines to get back to the start, both of which provided you with a good view of what the other riders were doing during their runs.
I have to say I am really stoked on our trip down to Colonnade. It was wicked fun and I would suggest anyone who is jonesin' to ride a bike in the lower mainland to hit up Colonnade. Thanks to all the riders that were present at the bike park and fed us a really good vibe of how Seattle operates.