East Bound and Down: Ocala, Florida

Mar 24, 2016
by Brice Shirbach  
Fancy new EB amp D graphic

Views: 10,338    Faves: 31    Comments: 6


The Sunshine State occupies nearly 66,000 square miles of America's southeastern most corner. This peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean offers up more coastline in the contiguous United States than anywhere else and features a sub-tropical climate in the northern half, and a straight up jungle climate in the south. Florida is known for many things, including alligators, manatees, retirees, tan lines, palm trees and NASCAR as just a few of its many commodities. Tourism is among the greatest economic drivers behind America's third most populous state, and mountain biking is working its way into an up and coming role in this regard. Many of you, like me, might at first wonder how a land mass as flat as this might offer any real value to riders. Indeed, the state's highest point above sea level rises a very modest 345 feet, and that particular place is nowhere near where I'd be spending my week. But most of us have come to realize that while mountains might still provide the backbone of our sport and community, good trails can now be found anywhere vision and ingenuity prevail.

Spanish Moss dominates the region
Spanish Moss is one of the defining visual characteristics of the northern half of the state.
Old City Ocala.
Ocala is a sprawling area, but the city center has a small town charm to it.

Such is the case in Ocala, where the Santos Trails continue to grow in size and distinction. The lack of topographic opportunities hasn't dissuaded the vast and passionate local contingent from spending most of their free time riding their bikes in the woods. Long known as a winter retreat for the equine community from the north, at around 1993 mountain bike specific trail development began, and shortly thereafter the Ocala Mountain Bike Association was formed by original stewards Vick and Bobby Hart, Bob Michaels, Mike Shields and David Ellspermann among others. What started as a set of illegally built trails would eventually be absorbed by the Cross Florida Greenway, originally the Cross Florida Barge Canal, now a mile wide protected green belt corridor connecting the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

A relic from the early construction efforts of the Barge Canal.
A relic from the early construction efforts of the Barge Canal. These support columns happen to be located on the perimeter of the Santos trails.
The Cross Florida Barge Canal was never completed due to local opposition and is now a mile wide greenway that has actually provided the Santos trails with much of their topography.
The Cross Florida Barge Canal was never completed due to local opposition and is now a mile wide greenway that has actually provided the Santos trails with much of its topography.

As the trails began to grow in popularity, the need for a more organized approach to design became clear. "A while back some people got hurt here, and the land managers helped us, through a grant, to bring IMBA in as (design) consultants." Renee Blaney explains to me over some coffee just before a ride. "We did a huge renovation with those guys, particularly at the Vortex area. I was the president of OMBA back then, and we brought them to the Fat Tire Festival as a show of celebration and thanks. Over time, they ended up helping us with club building, socialization of the club, and really helping us become established. But now, while we’re still a member of IMBA, we’re not a SORBA chapter. We’re not a developing club. They actually model some of their stuff based off of what we do. At this point, it doesn’t make sense for us to share our finances with them because they don’t necessarily offer us any direct benefits. We’re protected by the State, so we don’t even need their blanket insurance policy. We still use their trail building outlines, and respect what they do, we just don’t have the same needs that we used to."

The trail builders here make the absolute most of what the terrain offers. And there are hundreds of miles of these reticulated veins of dirt and sand throughout the area.
  The trail builders here make the absolute most of what the terrain offers. And there are dozens and dozens of miles of these reticulated veins of dirt and sand throughout the area.

East Bound and Down Ocala Fl
  OMBA president Jared Hartman has been an OMBA volunteer for 5 years. His only regret is not having started earlier.

Renee still sits on the OMBA board of directors, and to this day is in charge of the state's largest mountain bike festival, the Santos Fat Tire Festival. After spending a few years traveling to California and racing at the pajama party known as the Sea Otter Classic, Renee was struck by the festive atmosphere of the expo area, and wanted to bring a similarly fun and raucous affair to central Florida. After IMBA designated the Santos Trails with the "Epic" appellation, Renee felt that the time was right and after making a few calls and some begging, the first ever event was held 10 years ago as a celebration of what they had accomplished; receiving IMBA's first Epic designation for an entire trail system. The inaugural festival was a relatively mild affair but has since grown exponentially to become not only an event that brings thousands of visitors to Ocala every March but one that functions as OMBA's primary source of funding for the year.

"The festival is our biggest fundraiser by far." Jared Hartman remarks during that same conversation. Jared is a wine and liquor salesman by trade and the current president of OMBA. "As far as the trails themselves go, we’d like to have up to a hundred miles total, but we also want to continue to improve the trails we have now and make them more fun." More fun would seem to be a bit of a challenge in an area where the closest thing you'll find to a mountain is the Mount Everest attraction at nearby Disney World. With trails ranging anywhere between 50 and 75 feet above sea level, it's no small wonder that this place is so popular with the XC crowd, as any speed you want to generate is coming from your legs with virtually no assistance from gravity. Here's the deal: despite the lack of vertical relief, I couldn't help but grin ear to ear throughout the network's sinewy, winding paths amongst the subtropical forest. The Santos Trails are built in part on an abandoned limestone quarry, and manage to make the most of the short ups and downs that digging now affords. The limestone features, coupled with several exposed roots, flat corners and of course, Florida sunshine make for an undeniably fun ride.

Renee Blaney is the former President of OMBA and has been running the state s largest mountain bike festival the Santos Fat Tire Fest for a decade.
Renee Blaney is the former President of OMBA and has been running the state's largest mountain bike festival, the Santos Fat Tire Fest, for a decade.
Jared Hartman is the OMBA president and one of the owners of Brick City Bicycles in town.
Jared Hartman is the OMBA president and one of the owners of Brick City Bicycles in town.

Pedaling is required for any speed throughout the trails but the state is flat and the task at hand is decidedly fun.
  Indeed, you're going to have to do some pedaling if you want to move with any semblance of speed, but this place can be a total playground if you're a willing participant. If you happen to have an aversion to pedaling your bicycle, maybe riding in the woods ain't for you.

Additionally, Jared and the rest of OMBA have been the beneficiaries of one man's decision to spend his winters in Central Florida. "We had to change the culture here." Ray Petro says between bites. We're grabbing dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant in town. My eyes were quite a bit bigger than my stomach, so I'm happy to have a reason to sit back and listen as I deal with the repercussions of my massive portions. "A lot of guys here were dirt roadies for a while. They’ll go out and crush this 45-mile epic, some will do it twice on a Saturday. You have to pedal the whole time. I will tell you this, there ain’t no mountains here but these guys are dead serious about their riding. These guys will go race in the mountains and crush dudes who live in them because all you can do here for speed is pedal hard."

Jared and Ray discuss plans for a new set of trails in a city park.
Jared and Ray discuss plans for a new set of trails in a city park.
East Bound and Down Ocala Fl
Originally, this area was full of trash and litter. Today, bits of it remain as a reminder of just how far this place has come over the years.

Ray s work has brought a fresh flavor to a predominantly cross country oriented culture here.
  Ray Petro's work has brought a fresh flavor to a predominantly cross country oriented culture here.

East Bound and Down Ocala Fl
  If you spend your winters riding frozen trails between freeze-thaw cycles, the Santos trails offer an amazing respite and opportunity to let your bike dance beneath you without having to bundle up.

Ray is the founder of the now legendary Ray's Indoor Bike Parks located in Cleveland, Ohio, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in 2013, he paid Ocala a visit for the first time. From that moment on, his impact has been significant, as Jared has given Ray full creative autonomy and the results are pretty astonishing. "There are a lot of XC guys here, and Florida has what they call “hill envy”, so they make the trails go up and down. A lot. That way you can get a workout in. So when I build trails, I try to build as much flow as the land will allow for, otherwise, it can get kind of choppy. The challenge with Florida is the sand that sits about 3 inches below the topsoil here. So you can’t really dig too far because of it. The organics in the top 3 inches are what hold the trails together, so you can’t take a Bobcat and build a big dirt berm like you can back in Ohio. Before I got here, these guys were taking truckloads of clay and building their berms that way. Well, after a summer of consistent rains, they were essentially washed away. People would ride them while they were wet and leave these big tire ruts. They just destroyed themselves within a year. That’s where the wood came from. It’ll hold its shape and will last for like 20 years here."

The aforementioned Fat Tire Festival pulls in more cash than any other event or fundraising effort for these guys throughout the year, and they use roughly 10% of their annual funding on the rough cut lumber Ray prefers to use for his constructions. And what does Ray charge for his services? "He volunteers 100% of his time. We couldn’t afford to pay him otherwise." Renee says. "Those features wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t completely volunteering his time."

Ray Petro is building some amazing trails in and around Ocala and affecting culture while he s at it.
  Ray is building some amazing trails in and around Ocala, and affecting the bike culture while he's at it. He's someone who truly believes that bikes can be a tremendously positive force for people.

East Bound and Down Ocala Fl

"Ray could have chosen to live anywhere in the country, and he chose this place." Jared adds. "This is where he wants to retire and spend his winters. Overall he’s had a very positive impact here. Some people will make comments here and there and it’s mostly about the wood. We often use it for sustainability purposes, but there are always options to go around. 90% of the riders here love it, but there are some folks who don’t want to see any features when they ride their bikes in the woods. I follow other mountain bike clubs in the state, and now you’re seeing more and more areas adding wooden features in their own regions, so his style is impacting the rest of the state. In the 5-6 month period he’s down here every year, he does 500-600 hours of volunteer work."

Ray Petro s woodwork is appreciated by riders of all ages.
  Ray Petro's woodwork is appreciated by riders of all ages.

As it turns out, Ocala is a two-bike destination. Bring your trail bike, and if you've got one, bring your dirt jumper. Santos boasts two pump tracks, and several skills areas, including a set of beginner-intermediate dirt jumps, and a set that includes the largest jumps in the state. The jumps were first built in 2003, and at the time did in fact, feature a progressive set of lines from beginner friendly to massive, but after a couple of years during which local riders continued to slap dirt onto any and all lips throughout the sets, the progression disappeared and all that was left were big jumps built for a decidedly small amount of riders. Ray had an impact here as well. "I learned a concept from my AA sponsor, it’s called the 80/20 rule. 80% of the population are nice people, 20% are...not. When I apply that to my indoor parks, I apply it to rider ability. 80% of the people can have a blast when riding the terrain built for their ability. The other 20% are pros or elites, and only 20% of the park is for them. Whenever I build something, it has to be built for the regular people who make up that 80%."

Mike reaches for some of the day s last light high above the big set.
  Reaching for some of the day's last light, high above the big set.

In order to encourage newer and less experienced riders to try some jumps out, Ray and some others built a brand new jump line featuring 3 and 4-foot wooden lips at the entrance to the Vortex, and a set of wooden tabletops that runs alongside the largest set of gaps in the park. Those tables are also made of wood, and all of them feature 5-foot lips. This allows for the intermediate riders to get a feel for the speed of those lines, and to get comfortable in the air. Both the mid-sized and large jump lines end with a beautifully built wallride that steers riders into an additional set of features.

East Bound and Down Ocala Fl
Mike Nau sends 'er into the sunset.
Ash rails the wallride that sits below the jump line.
Ash Nau is midway through the wallride that sits below the intermediate and expert jump lines in the Vortex area.

Ray might have been the catalyst for change in the Vortex area, but the primary "keepers of the jumps" is a father-son duo out of nearby Mount Dora. Mike (more well known as Crash) and Ash Nau discovered Santos for themselves just a few years ago during the 2012 Festival. "These jumps weren’t here at that time," Mike says during a break from a late afternoon session with Ray and Ash. "But we were blown away by how many people were here to ride the trails. The jumps that were here at the time were replaced the next year by the current set, and Ashton got through the set in that first year, when he was 11 years old. It took me a couple of broken bones but I finally got through it."

Ash Nau was on fire despite wrestling with a bout of strep throat.
  Ash with a little sunshine foot plant. The 14-year-old phenom wasn't about to let a bout with strep throat keep him from a sunset session alongside his best friend and father.

East Bound and Down Ocala Fl

bigquotesHe might go through a new set first before I go through it, and he will give me pointers on the jumps. If he knows I can not do something, he will just tell me: Dad, do not try these right now. We are just having fun in the woods together. Every weekend. - Mike Nau


Both Mike and Ash ride for Black Market Bikes and Profile Racing, and spend much of the season traveling around the country filming and riding on some of the best jumps in the U.S. But it's here in Ocala that their respective hearts lie. "Everyone thinks that because it’s Florida, there’s no scene here." The 2014 Volunteer of the Year and current board member remarks. "We ride a lot of different places around the country, but with the pines here it doesn’t really feel like you’re in Florida. Plus there’s so much singletrack here and for so many levels of riders. There are a lot of places where this wouldn't be allowed, but we’ve been grandfathered into state protection due to having been a park for so long. With the woodwork Ray’s been putting in, it has really helped people get more and more comfortable hitting jumps and progressing the big line. We would have been stuck out riding around in circles around a BMX track if it wasn’t for this place. I never volunteered for much in my life before I began volunteering here at Santos, but now I lay in bed at night wondering if the jumps were covered at the end of the day. The work that we’ve put into this place has brought my son and myself so much closer because we both know how much it has taken to get this place to where it is now."

Like father like son. Or maybe it s the other way around as Mike readily admits that Ash is often the first between the two to guinea pig a new set of jumps.
  Like father, like son. Or perhaps it's the other way around, as Mike readily admits that Ash is often the first between the two to guinea pig a new set of jumps.

Crash Nau watches proudly as his son works his way down the massive dirt jump set.
  Crash Nau watches proudly as his son works his way down the massive dirt jump set.

Whips for days from the 14 year old phenom.
   Whips for days from the 14-year-old native Floridian. This kid surely has big things waiting for him in the near future.

The Santos trails started off as a modest and unassuming endeavor by a handful of roadie converts and has over time become one of the crowning jewels of the Sunshine State. As OMBA continues to optimize the trail network's reach, Jared, Renee and the rest of the central Florida collective now begin to look towards the future, both in terms of trail development, and the next generation of riders who will be using these trails on a regular basis. Steve Mace, an OMBA member and Brick City Bicycle's business partner to Jared, founded the North Florida Junior Development Squad a few years ago in order to cultivate a talent pool of young, junior XC racers.

There are several jumps in the Vortex area of the Santos trails. Next to the biggest set of gaps Ray has built a set of several tables with 5 foot tall wooden lips.
There are several jumps in the "Vortex" area of the Santos trails. Running alongside the largest set, Ray has built a set of several tables with 5-foot tall wooden lips
Spanish Moss feeds on nutrients and water found in the air. It s abundant here and lends a quiet beauty to the region as well.
You're going to see this stuff everywhere. Spanish Moss feeds on nutrients and water found in the air. It's abundant here and lends a quiet beauty to the region as well.

"The purpose," Steve says. "was to create a localized race team that would support talented juniors who wanted to compete at the National level. As more and more kids and families found out about the group, the purpose shifted to not only serve kids already racing competitively but to introduce the sport and the skills necessary to enjoy it to any kids who wanted to learn." Now called Florida Devo (short for developmental), the undertaking has grown from a small group of 10 kids originally, to now upwards of 40 children on any given Wednesday afternoon, which is the preferred day of the week for the group to meet. Ages range from anywhere between 4 and 18 years, and there are 4 coaches to help the varying ages and ability levels, including Steve, Brian House, Mike Reppe, and Chris Fernandez. And, much like the services provided by Ray Petro, participation in this initiative is free of charge. The group raises funds for this through a variety of means, including washing bikes, selling t-shirts, and water bottles at the Fat Tire Festival, as well as through private donations.

Every Wednesday scores of kids gather on the trails for practice . It s got a soccer practice vibe but it s on bikes so the rad factor is exponentially higher.
  Kids listen attentively to instruction prior to taking off for an hour long ride. We're about to see a tidal wave of talent come from this decidedly innocuous corner of the country.

The future is looking very bright for the region.
  The future is looking very bright for the region.

In the few years that I've been traveling and producing East Bound and Down content for Pinkbike, any inclination to travel to the deep south for riding was always overcome by a stronger desire to explore other, more mountainous options. I don't live in an especially hilly part of the world, but I do have some genuinely brilliant trails surrounding my home, so I've long known that mountains are no longer a requirement for mountain biking. I'm not sure what was holding me back, but after a week in Ocala, I'm sorry I didn't decide to make the trip sooner. Are my legs a little sorer after days of hammering the mostly flat terrain, punctuated by short and bursty ups and downs? Yes, they're thrashed. Am I a little bit bummed that I didn't see a single gator despite my best efforts? You bet I am; as visions of tire tapping a man-eater will have to wait another day. But have I found a reason to head beyond the southernmost reaches of the Appalachians when the time comes next winter to stretch my legs and work on my farmer's tan? Absolutely.

East Bound and Down Ocala Fl

Ocala mountain biking trails
EB&D Travel Information:

For information on the area, including restaurant selections (there are plenty) and activities for the whole family, check of the Ocala/Marion County Convention and Visitor's Bureau website.

Here's the website for the Ocala Mountain Bike Association.

I stayed at the Quality Inn in Ocala. It is bike friendly, has quick WiFi, spacious & clean rooms, a super friendly staff, and is 15 minutes from the trailhead.

If you're interested in helping the Florida Devo group, you can donate here.




77 Comments

  • + 14
 Nice write-up and happy to see some coverage on trails in my area. Honestly, I moved to Florida 10 years ago thinking I would be hanging up my mountain bike and discovering rode biking more. Living on the north side of Tampa puts me halfway between the trails in Ocala and Alafia which allowed me to continue my passion and advance my technical riding skills.
  • + 3
 I visit my mother in LWR and I have been to Alafia(after realized after 6 years there is MTB in florida!), fun little place, I will make my way to Ocala next time I visit.
  • - 7
flag properp (Mar 24, 2016 at 6:11) (Below Threshold)
 There is nothing to ride here in Florida go to Colorado please.
  • + 3
 Ya def go to ocala next time. Alafia is fun but a fraction of the size of santos network. The massive jumps and wood features are icing on the cake. Big thanks to O.M.B.A, Ray and the trail builders. P.S. Yes those are coral snakes not milk snakes.
  • + 1
 I see what you did there.
  • + 4
 I abandoned the family, drove to Santos and hired a bike, jeees how do you guys pedal in that heat , i thought i was going to die lol
Great place to escape from the Coasters, i'd definitely recommend it, it's flat but there is beer available
  • + 10
 Stoked to see another write up about the FL mtb community and Santos. Those guys put in a ton of work on those trails and deserve all the credit in the world. A lot of people would be surprised at the quality of some trail systems in Florida. Santos, Alafia and Boyett are probably the best places to ride imo. With Alafia and Boyett being down the street from one another. Cheers
  • + 9
 How'd they get rid of all the alligators that were laying on the trail when they got there?
  • + 9
 I bet they lured them away with some bunny hops.
  • + 3
 Palmetto trunks are what FL riders call gator backs. Just to bring you up to speed.
  • + 4
 This write up is awesome, my Grandparents moved to Ocala in 1989 to the Oak Run retirement community which is about 5 miles from the Santos trails. I started riding there on winter vacations to see them in 1995, back then it was just some sandy trails thru the forest. Now my Parents live even closer to the area but I am ashamed to say I haven’t ridden here in about 15 years. Visits always seem to short, and to squeeze a bike ride in between catching up with family and Busch Gardens have proven to be fruitless. But the next time I will most certainly have to pull my 20 year old Trek out of my dad's attic and go back to enjoy the beautiful trails here again (on second thought I might be better off renting a bike for a few days lol). Amazing work on the trails keep it up!
  • + 5
 Not sure who's against the wood features Ray is building but there's another 60+ miles of trail they can ride without seeing anything but nature.
  • + 7
 @jeffreylj Everyone when it rains. LOL! If the world was full of Ray's it would be a much better place. Thank you Ray for all you have done for all of us. You my friend are a LEDGEN.
  • + 1
 Me! I avoid all wood stuff...after a couple wet slide outs I had enough, I just don't trust it. I appreciate the effort builders put into making the big wood rollers and stuff but i prefer finding natural launch pads and dirt berms
  • + 1
 Maybe don't hit then in the rain. There are soo many wood features popping up every week it seems. Keep it coming we love them. If xc your thing no shortage on pedalling out here, see you in dunnellon!
  • + 1
 Yeah I know...avoid rain but that green slime develops on wood sometimes too that you don't see until you've slipped...I just don't trust it. Plus there is almost always a natural feature that can be hit instead. Right next to that big roller coaster thing that was built by the vortex, there are multiple launch lines with multiple step downs that I've been hitting for years...I'd much rather fly off those than coast down a smooth wood rolly thingy
  • + 1
 All the best to you and I feel you on the slime factor. Fl trails have diff challanges for us yanks but that is the fun factor. Personally I have never bunny hop a rattle snake or ditch my bike due to massive spiders but it all in good fun.
  • + 1
 Ya those are great natural lines. I think that is the point,, rip what your comfrortable with.
  • + 4
 I rode there and was blown away at the stuff they had there.i thought florida didn't have good riding...I was wrong!they didn't show the good stuff but trust me its there.bring tires!place will eat them up.
  • + 3
 STOP GIVING AWAY OUR SECRETS!
Jokes aside...
FINALLY someone other than a magazine comes down and spies all the awesome stuff Central Florida has going on!
What they don't mention is that in every direction from Ocala, there are more trails.
Markham, Alafia, LHP (formerly Carter Rd) in Lakeland, and many more.
Love seeing this. More press = more awesomeness!
  • + 7
 Graham Swamp the best 6.5 mile loop in FL!
  • + 3
 @properp Graham Swamp is one of my favorite trails in the state. Love all the natural jumps and features, and the various line options. Some some the best downhill(ish) sections around too.
  • + 3
 My biggest issue with the Florida scene is not the lack of elevation, it's the lack of connectivity. Tallahassee and Ocala are the only two cities in the state where you can live within riding distance of both trails, work and grocery. Even then, Santos isn't exactly a quick pedal to Santos. Alafia is awesome, but getting out there after work has gotta be a nightmare if you live in central Tampa. The options in Miami are minimal. Jacksonville has some trails, not many. Orlando is a trail joke. Gainesville has some, but they aren't all public. That's the best part about the western states (excluding CA), we can ride huge miles out our back doors. Florida needs more greenspace closer to population centers, and hopefully with it will come more trails that don't require a car to get to.
  • + 1
 Yea that's the issues with most big cities, to much development and not enough green space. In general I think people need to spend more time outdoors in nature, at least they are taking a step in the right direction. The more demand there is for trails, the less likely that land will be used for property development.
  • + 2
 I worry that Florida's older population sees trails as "paved paths through manicured grassy areas".
  • + 1
 It's all about location! Less than half a mile from my front door to the Santos trails!
  • + 3
 You don't know Gainesville very well...that place is littered with trail...through the city, on the outskirts...it's crazy how much stuff is around there! Yeah, a bunch is illegal but I know guys who have been riding them for years! And the city has been funding more to keep land and allow trails to be made.
This past weekend was the 15th Tour de Gainesville...totaled 73 miles with 80% on trail..I always end up on trails I'd never seen even when i lived there. That's one thing I miss about living there is I could leave my house on my bike...go do a campus assault then head to trails and have a 30 mile loop...my riding fitness has dropped considerably since then since I don't have that kind of access anymore.
Just need to get with some friendly local riders and tag along.
  • + 1
 @GlassGuy I wish they mapped more of it, but yea I understand that Gainesville is one of the better places for trail access in town. Part of the reason I really want to visit!
  • + 2
 Yeah @PHeller, that's a solid point. But it is a sprawling area, and it's densely populated, so there's quite a bit more red tape here than in more open and sparsely populated places out west or in the corner of the northeast. I'm glad that the options are opening up though, right? I do know that there are plans to connect several riding areas and towns via a greenway in the near future as well
  • + 2
 I'm going to be in the area for a few days next week and would love to hit this up. Doesn't look like there are a ton of options for good bike rentals since I can't fly mine down, can anyone who has the skinny send me in the right direction for a high end rental? Looks like Greenway from my limited research in the last few minutes. Thanks!
  • + 5
 Santos MTB Park and its locals are awesome. Great vibe and a great place to spend a weekend. Great article Pinkbike
  • + 2
 This is awesome. Great to see the spotlight in a place that's not blessed with mountains or hills but they still have as much passion from mtb as any other place. Living and riding in Texas, I can definitely relate to wanting something more than xc trails and that local clubs have to work that much harder to make tech riding happen.
  • + 2
 Nice write up. Good to see Florida get more respect in the single track world. But my favorite trails in the state aren't near Ocala. Consider checking out Alafia River State Park and Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve in a future edition of Eastbound and Down. The old abandoned phosphate mines in Bone Valley provide lots of great flow that isn't as flat as Santos and doesn't require wood to build berms -- the SWAMP Club near Tampa maintains over a 100 miles of single track in the area.
  • + 2
 Love Alafia! This is as much about a town/community's embrace of mountain biking as the trails themselves, which is why I went with Ocala. But yeah, Alafia is killer!
  • + 0
 Alafia is the best FL has to offer in my opinion. If you can only ride one spot here this should be it. Graham swamp being #2. Ocala #3 only because of all the 2way traffic on the trail.
  • + 1
 I fear I'll never get to ride Alafia...been riding Santos off and on for 20yrs yet never made it further south, now traffic is so heavy getting through Orlando and Tampa(when i visit family in St. Pete), that the thought of the drive exhausts me. If you live around there I guess you're used to it and it's not as far but I'm becoming less apt to deal with our crowded roads.
I am lucky to have Graham Swamp 35mins from me so I'm there often, and then Santos when I need a bit more distance and mix things up...some good tech riding in both places
  • + 0
 Alafia has aboit 20 miles of trails and nothing for gravity enthusiasts. Santos has over 100 miles and growing of trails and massive amounts of air time to be had. The only advantage Alafia has is being closer to the beach. Santos #1 in florida by a landslide, swamp trails not even close.
  • + 0
 I think the big advantage of Santos over Swamp is simply the shear expanse of it, you can really open up and get pedaling for a while, and lots of fun tech in the red lines. Swamp is kind of a condensed version into a 6 mile loop, but for it's length it packs in a lot of skills stuff and jumps. I ride there the most due to locale but also because it keeps me entertained and allows for aggressive riding.
  • + 6
 Fantastic article. Santos truly is a great place.
  • + 1
 Santos is awesome, has something for almost all spectrum of riders from cx to dirt jump.
If you happen to find yourself further south (broward/miami area), definitely checkout Markham park, actually put a short edit together there www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzTJLxfJalU
  • + 2
 Did this place used to be called Belleview trails about 15 years ago when I was there ? I remember a small quarry type area in the middle with some short chutes that were fun.
  • + 1
 Yeah it was. My father in law used to play in that quarry well before OMBA came around.
  • + 1
 All that is still there. That's a cool thing about the place..if there's a line you liked it's most likely still there
  • + 1
 Rode this place for the first time this past Feb. Trail was fun on the West side, but all XC on the East. Has about the biggest drop I've seen even at a bike park. As high or higher than the Pink Bike A-Line sender at Highland Bike Park with nothing more than a few feet of landing space. Has tons of progression drops for those wanting to dabble in Freeride. Needless to say, you'll want to fly your own bike their like I did or get some "Really good insurance on a rental" if your gonna make it a Huck Fest! Smile
  • + 4
 I all ways laugh when people on PB without a clue about FL call it out as flat and flow less. I say go HUCK your self. www.pinkbike.com/photo/13291990
  • - 2
 @properp IDK, I've ridden at Santos, and it is indeed flat. Honestly, probably the flattest area I've ridden, and I've ridden all over the place. That's not to say it's a bad trail system, it does have it's charm and some fun features, but it's pretty damn flat.
  • + 3
 Great vid of what looks like a trail that's pure fun, nothing more, nothing less. I especially appreciate the soundtrack.
  • + 2
 Nice to see Ocala on PB, heading there in 5 days, Last spring break it was amazing! Cant wait to see the new wall ride and 5 ft wooden tables.
  • + 2
 It's great to see something about Florida on here. It's tough for a guy like me who loves Freeride being down here, but Ocala is great!
  • + 1
 This place is pretty awesome, no matter what states its located in...drove down and camped w family...my 7 year loved it! As did I. And it's a great stop on the way to see the big mouse in Florida
  • + 3
 Incorporate that Barge Canal 'relic' structure into a step up, skinny, drop, or all the above
  • + 2
 This is great! My father-in-law lives in Ocala and all we did was run when visiting... Next time we visit, I will search this trail system out and get after it!
  • + 1
 Found it... Just 45 minutes from his house... Excellent!
  • + 3
 It's a great place to ride. Nice trails and friendly locals.
  • + 2
 Didn't see this being in FL! WOW! Way to go FL, looks like you're going to have some visitors after this #eastboundanddown
  • + 4
 Great job Brice!
  • + 3
 Awesome piece! Love how the video, story and pictures all came together!
  • + 2
 Ok so maybe I will think of mountain biking and Florida in the same thought after all.
  • + 3
 This state is great.
  • + 5
 I moved here 10 years ago from California. I was blown away at how fast FL riders are. I thought I could rail turns until I started riding here. There is something great about this state. It is the ability to carry flow. Not having to climb 3500 ft on a ride. Being able to not use your breaks all day and letting it rip. Riding year around is the bomb. Florida is great for the outdoors type of people.
  • - 2
 Yeah, but... it's a thousand degrees. In the shade.
  • - 2
 Yeah, but... it's a thousand degrees. In the shade.
  • + 1
 Its not the heat its the 100% humidity kills ya. Good thing theres no hills!
  • + 1
 My comment was acknowledging that the trails look good there, to my surprise. Still, I like me some mountains. Half of mountain biking for me is getting ‘away from it all’ and my away from it all favorite is a mountain.
  • + 2
 If you add cloaca to koala and divide by 2, you get Ocala.
  • + 2
 Charming Funky Florida freeriding
  • - 3
 "but it more than makes up for it with ingenuity, creativity, and some good old-fashioned elbow grease."
Not to be captain obvious here, but does this not look like a way flatter version of trails all around the world? I'm not seeing any creativity or ingenuity that hasn't been borrowed from previous trail builders here... Not saying these trails don't look good, especially with what they have to work with terrain wise. But come on Pinkbike, the description to this article made me think Florida had figured something out the rest of the world hadn't.
  • + 4
 You should read the whole story.
  • + 2
 Awesome!
  • + 1
 grapefruit trail in Palm Bay Florida
youtu.be/zIphBbNiSWE
  • + 2
 Nice one Brice!
  • + 0
 Florida, the penis of America
  • + 0
 don't be a dick
  • + 1
 vamonos........
  • - 3
 Man, mountain biking in Florida is like....mountain biking in Florida
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