OMBC Chestnut Ridge Metro Park – Mountain Bike Race Preview

GPS map of the mountain bike trail at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

GPS map of the mountain bike trail at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park. The course starts near the parking lot on Mason Road with a sprint through a field to the singletrack.

On Sunday, September 14th, 2014 the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship Series (OMBC) will hold race #9 at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park near Canal Winchester, Ohio, approximately 18 miles southeast of downtown Columbus.  It’s been dubbed the “Race on the Ridge”.

First Time at the Ridge

James Knott mountain bikes at Chestnut Ridge Metropark

I did a pre-ride of the course two weeks before the race and conditions were awesome. I had a ton of fun riding with sport racer Cory Knight and getting a handle on the trail.

Chestnut Ridge is a relatively new trail and is built and maintained by Combo, the Central Ohio Mountain Bike Organization.  This is the first time that the OMBC has held a race here.  It was originally slated to be held at Alum Creek State Park, but course conditions at Alum’s P1 trail have been poor lately due to the wet weather and some damage the trail received this winter.

I’m personally a little bummed that the race was moved because Alum Creek is my home course.  I usually ride straight from my house over the dam at the reservoir to the trail, so I’m losing my home court advantage.  I have ridden at Chestnut a few times, but I’m not nearly as familiar with it as I am with Alum.

Also, I think the rides across the dam at Alum Creek to the singletrack and back to the finish are almost a rite of passage in the OMBC series.  How many races have been won or lost in the headwinds on this long, exposed, paranoia-inducing section of the trail?  I literally tingle with fear when I think about looking over my shoulder and seeing Chris Knapp closing in on me as I crossed the dam to the finish.

Maybe next year they can do a race at both Chestnut and at Alum!?!

Cory Knight mountain bikes at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

The good thing about Chestnut Ridge is that it’s a very easy course to pre-ride. It’s difficult, but not impossible, to get lost on this loop. Cory Knight was my tour guide for our adventure.  He considers this to be his home course.  The race begins with a sprint through a meadow to the singletrack. I’m guessing that this is about a quarter mile. Get ready to hammer!

Spike-covered tree at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

Whatever you do, don’t run into this tree. It will ruin your day.

James Knott rides a log-over at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

This course has several man-made features like bridges, banked turns and this log over. However, I don’t think they’ve overdone it. The man-made stuff is only used when necessary to route over certain obstacles and in general adds to the flow of the course.

All that being said, Chestnut Ridge is probably a better trail for holding a cross country mountain bike race.  The trail was built from the ground up to be a mountain bike trail.  It has great flow and a variety of features that will appeal to a broad class of riders.

The course is billed as 8.5 miles long with about 900 feet of climbing.  My GPS came up with 8.53 miles and 912 feet of climbing, so I’d say those numbers are right on.  Novice racers will do one lap, sport two and experts three.

This course sheds water very well, and in the case of rain before the race, the track might be shortened to 6.5 miles in length.  There is a low-lying 2 mile section that doesn’t dry out as well and Combo closes this off when things get damp.  In my preride, most of the course was dusty, but the “wet section” still had a few minor mud pits.

I rode the course two weeks prior to the race and I thought the conditions were great.  There is a little bit of rain in the forecast as I’m writing this, but it doesn’t look like enough to even come close to making the course muddy on race day.  …I’m sure people who raced at Camp Manatoc last weekend will appreciate this. 🙂

Cory Knight rides a banked turn at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

Cornering is an important skill at Chestnut Ridge and there are several banked turns that add to the speed and excitement of the trail.

Bill Mickey mountain bikes at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

There were several riders checking out the course when I was there, including my rival, Mr. Bill Mickey. I tried to put a stick in his spokes but he was too quick. I’ll get you next time Mickey!

James Knott mountain bikes at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

I was having a blast at Chestnut Ridge last Saturday. It’s a great trail. But let’s face it, I love most trails. Mountain biking skews my perspective.

How can you describe the trail?  To me, it reminds me of a shorter version of Lake Hope crossed with Mohican State Park. The terrain has a little bit of everything – a few rocks and roots, but not too many – a few man-made features like bridges and banked turns, but not too many – a few challenging climbs, but not too many.  I think you get my drift.  This is the “Even Steven” of mountain bike trails.  It’s a fun, twisty, fast, well-balanced mountain bike adventure.

This course is not nearly as technical as the last two OMBC races, Dillon and West Branch.  There is rocky switchback about half way through that is about as tough as it gets.  I tried to think of what skill would take a racer to the next level at Chestnut and I think it’s cornering.  The trail can get curvy at times and some of the turns happen quickly at high speeds.  Riders who can hold their momentum through the bends can knock some valuable seconds off of their race times.

Rocky switchback on the trail at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

This photo doesn’t do it justice, but this rocky switchback can be a little tricky. If you survive this, then you can probably handle the rest of the trail.

The Ups and Downs

Elevation Chart for the mountain bike trail at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

The elevation chart for one loop at Chestnut Ridge Metropark. You will climb in the first half and descend in the second half. At the 3 mile mark you will be climbing up to an old apple barn with a great view.

If you look at the elevation chart for the trail, you can see that the first half of the lap is spent climbing and the second half of the lap is spent descending.  The most famous climb happens about three miles into the loop.  It’s a 150 foot ascent to the apple barn.  I raced here before when the 331 Racing series was here last year and this climb was key for passing.  Riders who are good at climbing should be prepared to attack when they notice that the are going uphill and the trail is getting rocky.  I was able to pass three or four riders here at my last race.  There is a short section of open field at the top of the climb and this is a great place to eat, drink, pass riders or recover from the climb.  If you look to your right you will see a nice open vista, but don’t plan on stopping to appreciate the view.

Apple barn at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

The biggest climb of the day leads to an apple barn on top of the ridge. I still haven’t found any apples there.

Scenic view at apple barn at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

At the apple barn there is scenic view on your right. Enjoy it now, you will be breathing too hard to appreciate it during the race.

Mountain bike trail at Chestnut Ridge Metro Park

The trail at Chestnut Ridge has a lot of twisty singletrack which can make passing a challenge.

After the apple barn, the course starts heading downhill and there are several sections that are noticeably faster.  You will have fun recovering on some of these downhills, but don’t plan on relaxing too much, some of the descents are a little rocky and will have you feathering your brakes with fear on the cobbled terrain.

The majority of this trail is sweet Ohio singletrack, but the downside of that is that it may be hard to pass.  The trail does not open up very often for “natural” passing.  Riders will have to be aggressive on the sides of the trail or have to ask for passes. Besides the apple barn climb, the start/finish area is also a great place for the sport and expert riders to try and jostle for position, eat or hydrate.


Talkin’ ‘Bout the Start at the Finish

The start of the race will be near the parking lot.  Riders will sprint for about a quarter of a mile to the singletrack.  This is through a wide-open grassy trail with plenty of room for passing.  Be prepared to hammer hard at the start to get yourself a good position on the singletrack.  If you stumble here, it may take you a while to work your way back up.

The Big Picture

Overall, the Race on the Ridge has the potential to become a favorite on the OMBC circuit.  It’s located centrally in the state, so it’s convenient for a lot of riders from Ohio.  The loop is the perfect length for separating the course into novice, sport & expert classes.  It has a wet weather option in the event of poor conditions.  But most importantly, it’s a fun place to ride. It’s not overly technical, so it’s accessible to a lot of riders.  This is a great place for novice racers to come out and see what XC mountain bike racing is all about.  But, don’t by any means think it’s easy.  As the riders get faster, the chance of them tumbling into the woods increases.  I expect my heart will be pounding and legs will be burning all the way to the top of the apple barn.  This will be a battle to the finish at all levels!

Check out more details for the race at Chestnut Ridge at  You can also find out more about Chestnut Ridge on Combo’s website.

See you there!

A Few More Photos…