Mohican State Park: OMBC Race Preview with Photos & Charts

Joel Ronschke and Scott Young ride at Mohican State Park

Joel Ronschke and Scott Young ride down a short steep slope around mile 23. This will have half of you grinning ear-to-ear and the other decreasing the deductible on your health insurance.  This hill was recently renamed “The Plunge” by the Mohican-Malabar Bike Club and is much steeper than it looks in this photo.  It was also reworked in the week leading up to the race, so expect a new line.

On Saturday, May 17th, 2014, the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series (OMBC) will be hosting a race at Mohican State Park near Loudonville, Ohio.  The race begins and ends at Mohican Adventures, a private campground with cabins, shelters, water, showers, bike wash & even a playground for the kiddos.  Registration begins at 10am and the first racers will sprint off at noon.

You can learn more about the race at OMBC’s website.

Expert and sport racers will race for about 26.5 miles.  The main loop at Mohican State Park is about 24.5 miles and racers will add about two miles racing to and from the campground.  This is the only OMBC race of the year where sport and expert racers do the exact same course/mileage.  That makes it the longest course of the year for sport racers, but an average distance for the experts.  The cool thing is that sport racers can compare their times to the experts and see whether they are ready to move up or not.

According to my GPS, the 24.5 mile loop has about 2700 feet of climbing, which makes it about the same amount of climbing for sport riders as Scioto Trails, but a fraction of the 4200 feet of climbing that the experts had to down south.  There will be many racers who will hike some of the harder climbs at Mohican State Park, but overall, these climbs are rideable.  In my pre-ride, I rode up all of them.  There are one or two that have tripped me up in past races.  I usually hike one or two of the hills at the end of the race because my quads are burning at that point and need a break.

In general, these hills are certainly easier than the two hardest climbs at Scioto Trails.

Novice racers will compete on a shorter 8 mile loop that is new this season and has about 750 feet of climbing.

GPS Map of the mountain bike trail at Mohican State Park.

One BIG loop: a GPS Map of the mountain bike trail at Mohican State Park. The longest loop in the OMBC series. Take an extra tube. It’s a long walk back to the car.

Elevation Chart of the mountain bike trail at Mohican State Park

Elevation Chart of the 24.5 mile loop at Mohican State Park. Take that first 250 ft climb and move it to the end of the race. Now you have something to look forward to at the finish. 🙂

Trail Conditions

(UPDATE Thursday, May 15th, 2014: We’ve received more rain than anticipated.  Not sure how the trails will be.  The trail group is supposed to decide whether the trail is rideable.  With luck their will be 48 hours of drying from now until the race.  A decision will be made on Friday, May 16th about whether to hold the race or not.  Read this next section with a healthy bit of skepticism.)

The singletrack at Mohican State Park holds up to the weather very nicely.  There is some rain expected leading up to the race, but I don’t see that being a big factor in the race.  My expectation is that the ground will be mostly be tacky and fast with occasional muddy spots.  I don’t think that mud tires will be necessary.  If you’re in the mood to change tires, your standard XC race tires should perform well – unless Mother Nature throws us a curve ball.  I plan on riding on Kenda Kozmik Lite II’s.

Mohican-Malabar Bike Club works on the trail at Mohican State Park

The Mohican-Malabar Bike Club has been working hard to get the trail ready. There are certain areas where the forest drains across the trail and these may be damp or muddy.  But, many of them are armored with large stones. Expects a few new lines as some of them have been reworked in the final days before the race.
Photo from Mohican-Malabar’s Facebook Page. Make sure to “like” them on Facebook to get the latest news about Mohican State Park

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!  …or something like that

Gnomes in a tree at Mohican State Park along the mountain bike trail

Trivia Question: What mile marker are these gnomes located at on the trail?  Answer in the comment section.

The race begins on a campground road at Mohican Adventures.  The first piece of trail is a short, steep climb.  I have never seen all of the racers in a division make it up this climb successfully.  Somebody always falls and causes a traffic jam.  This leads to two separate strategies for starting.  The first is to sprint as hard as you can and make it to the hill before the back-up occurs.  The second is a planned hike-a-bike.  It saves energy on the starting sprint and you can walk right around the racers who have stalled out.  I have used both strategies with great success.  When I dismount at the bottom of the hill I can usually hike quickly past half the field on that one slope.

James Knott rides on the mountain bike trail at Mohican State Park

Mohican State Park has become one of my favorite races in the OMBC series. It’s technical enough and has the hills to make it challenging. It requires endurance. However, with enough heart, I feel like anyone could finish it. It is definitely one of the best trails in Ohio and I look forward to attacking the downhills.

If you survive the opening climb, you will enter the state park loop at about the half mile marker.  Your introduction to singletrack will be on sections that have rolling hills and good flow.  It’s typical of the types of trail that you find in the park and exemplifies why many consider Mohican to be one of the best trails in Ohio.  A special thank you to the Mohican-Malabar Bike Club for building and maintaining this awesome trail system.

The trail features many rocky sections, but most of them are easy to find a good line through or to float across.  They will certainly trip up some of the riders that aren’t as technically proficient, but they are all rideable.  The rock gardens here are easier than the ones at Dillon State Park or Mohican Cabins.  I would also consider some of the rocks at West Branch to be trickier than these.  That puts this trail in the middle, but slightly above average, when it comes to the technical challenge of the rocks when compared to other OMBC races.

Rock garden on the mountain bike trail at Mohican State Park

The rocks at Mohican State Park provide a good challenge, but you probably won’t break your derailluer on them.  They provide enough of a challenge to make you think, but not so much that you never want to come back.

One of the things that I love about this course are all the mile markers throughout.  It’s easy to keep track of your progress as the numbers tick by.  Around mile 12, you will travel on a brief section of road through a covered bridge.  Congratulations – you made it half way.  Beware – you are about to get spanked.  When you exit the road you have a long 300 foot climb over the course of .6 miles.  If your legs and lungs weren’t burning beforehand, they will be afterwards.  I’m sure many over-heated racers will hike long sections of this hill.

Mile markers along the Mohican State Park mountain bike trail.

The mile markers at Mohican State Park seem to be very accurate with regards to your progress in the race. Remember 26.5 miles to finish.

Covered bridge on the mountain bike trail at Mohican State Park

The covered bridge is close to the half way point of the race. After the bridge you have to climb 300 ft over .6 miles so don’t burn yourself out trying to destroy your competition on the road.

One of the things that I love about Mohican are the long sections of pine forest that you pass through.  Needles are strewn across the trail and you feel like you are riding across a soft, fuzzy carpet.  These sections aren’t overly technical, but they can be deceiving.  Sometimes the pine needles are hiding roots and other gnarly goodness.

Pine forests along the mountain bike trail in Mohican State Park

The pine forests in Mohican State Park are rare for the OMBC series. They might make up a quarter of the trail. I love smelling the pine and weaving through the tree trunks with the needled ceiling above me.

The pine forest feels enclosed by a dark ceiling of branches, but the needles act like mulch and keep the amount of undergrowth to a minimum.  This makes the forest feel open at the same time.  This can lead to higher speeds and maybe a few near misses as you swerve rapidly through the trees.

Whatever speed you’re going, take a deep breath and appreciate the amazing pine smell that floats all around you.

The climbs may dish out some punishment, but they also have a bright side – the downhills that follow.  If you like shooting down the slopes, then this race will be one of your favorites.  The trail opens up and let’s you fall merrily through it more times than I could count.  Most of the downhills are not twisty or technical, they fill you with confidence and dare you not to touch your brakes. But, if you are a wimp like me, you will eventually cry “Uncle” and feather those disks a little.  I spent most of my pre-ride challenging myself to see how fast I could go.  On several sections my eyes were tearing up in the wind.

I find the ending to this race to be one of the most mentally challenging moments of the race series.  You see mile marker 23 and feel like you’re almost done, but those final three miles hide grinding climbs around every turn.  My past finish times have been lengthened greatly when my quads refused to climb up some of these slopes.  I’ve watched the podium slip away as riders passed an exhausted version of me in the Mohican Adventures campground near the finish.

Mountain bike trail at Mohican State Park

Up, Up, Up… Why must we always be going up? Expect to see this fun climb around mile 24 or 25 of the race.

Large rocks at Mohican State Park

I love riding near some of the boulders that Mother Nature carefully placed around the trail.

Looking Back, Going Forward

James Knott tackles Mohican State Park in 2012.

James Knott tackles Mohican State Park in 2012. The bright orange shirt keeps me safe. I have never been accidentally shot in the face by a hunter.  What am I thinking in this photo?  A: Gotta catch Chris Knapp.

When I first started racing the mere thought of finishing the entire loop at Mohican sounded daunting.  My climbing and my endurance did not instill me with confidence.  Over the years, I have grown a fondness for this trail that is unmatched by almost any other place in Ohio.  If you are going to do just one OMBC race this year, then this is the one you should do.  It’s an epic trail and there is always a great turnout.  It’s a comfortable place to hang out and that makes the post-race gathering just as rewarding as the competition.

Mountain bike at Mohican State Park

Natural Beauty: In this photo, mountain bike photography artist James Knott uses depth of field to show mountain biking’s deep spiritual connection to nature. …or some BS like that.

My strategy for this race – pacing.  Going out too hard on this trail can lead to some serious bonking.  I’ve had my best races when I started slow and played catch-up.  As a racer, you sometimes feel compelled to power up the steep climbs, but these are the exact moments that fry your legs and this race has a lot of them.  I’m going to try to manage my uphill efforts and look for free speed on the descents.

We’ll see if it works.  Meet me at the finish line and we can talk about how our plans worked or failed.  I’ll be the happy guy with a Great Lakes “recovery drink” in my hand.  If my pint glass is empty then you will probably find me next to the keg talking about my Mohican 100k strategy while I wait to “recover” some more.

Please share this article with any mountain biker that you think would have fun racing.  Racing is always more fun when there is a good turnout and I want to see a lot of you out there on Saturday.


My Need To Be Loved

Joe Lautzenheiser rides his mountain bike at Mohican State Park

Celebrity Sighting: Is this Joe Lautzenheiser out for a pleasant weekend ride? He stopped to offer me some trailside help and recognized me from Quickdirt. It was fun getting to meet him and find out what he was up to. He looked fast 8 miles into his two planned loops at Mohican. He won’t be at the race on Saturday because he has some work to do to finish up high school, but expect to see him at future OMBC races.

Quickdirt is dedicated to telling stories about mountain bike riding, racing and training.  Please consider following Quickdirt on Facebook and Twitter.  If you like what you’ve read, then I hope you will subscribe to Quickdirt in the right-hand column for instant email updates when new articles, race previews, reports and training updates are posted.

Look forward to racing with you on Saturday.  Make sure you say “hi” and introduce yourself.  I love meeting all the riders that have been reading this blog.

Happy trails,


7 thoughts on “Mohican State Park: OMBC Race Preview with Photos & Charts

  1. Question: You mention bonking if you go too hard at first. I bonked bad at this trail last month when I was about 8 miles in (near the gnome I think?). My legs started to spasm and lock out unlike I have ever felt before. I think it was due to lack of training over the winter since I didn’t have access to a spin bike this year and this was my first ride out since the local trails here in Columbus had been too wet. I tried to sit for awhile, eat some gels, and get hydrated, but after riding for about another mile, I could not stop the leg spasms or lock outs and it became impossible for me to continue. Any advice on what to do when you get to this point (especially so far from your car)? I know how I will try to avoid it in the future, but up until now I have only had to deal with some minor cramping while out on the trail that I was able to wait out and force through.

    • Cramping can be caused by several things including dehydration, lack of electrolytes and fatigue. Make sure you take a sports drink to replenish your fluids and electrolytes. However, if you are still having a problem, then you probably need to train more or pace yourself better.

      Other than that, take a riding partner (or cell phone) that can save you.

    • I’ll try and pay better attention next time. I thought the gnomes were cool, but I wasn’t paying attention to my mileage when I snapped the photo. This was the first time I ever rode here where I wasn’t in the middle of a race.

  2. Great write up as always man. Sorry you wont be catching me this weekend, as this is the one race I’ll be missing.

    • I guess we’ll have to have a rematch at S&S Trails. I don’t think Mohican 100 counts as a rematch. Maybe it does, but that race is going to kick my butt mentally. I know I can finish, but I will be struggling with myself 4 hours in. It’s a little farther than I like to ride.

  3. Pingback: Mohican State Park – Top 5 Reasons to Race Here… | Quickdirt

Comments are closed.