Even on the flat land of Ozaukee County, mountain bikers have a challenging trail to test their skill and stamina, thanks to the enthusiasts who built a bike park in the Town of Cedarburg
While in college, Ryan Sieber lived near Crested Butte, Colo., considered the birthplace of mountain biking, and was accustomed to hopping onto hundreds of miles of world-class trails. He became addicted to the sport that challenged him physically and mentally.
When Sieber and his wife Liz moved to Port Washington 11 years ago, he soon discovered there were no mountain bike trails in Ozaukee County.
That has changed. Sieber and fellow members of the Ozaukee County Mountain Bikers Club have created five miles of single-lane mountain bike trails at Pleasant Valley Nature Park in the Town of Cedarburg.
The park — now named Pleasant Valley Nature Trails and Mountain Bike Park — is one of seven nature sites on the Treasures of Oz Eco Tour that will be held Saturday, June 14.
Members of the bike club and Town of Cedarburg Parks Board will be on hand to explain the evolution of the park and lead bike trail tours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A naturalist from Riveredge Nature Center will lead nature hikes from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The trails connect beginner, intermediate and advanced loops to challenge experienced and inexperienced riders.
The trails traverse Mole Creek and bogs, go up and down kettles, have natural obstacles and sharp and gentle turns through mostly forested land.
The club took advantage of the site’s natural terrain to create the different levels of difficulty.
“Often mountain bike trails are not much more than flat service roads,” Sieber said. “Some of ours are very technical and challenging, yet the whole family can enjoy them.”
Shawn Cotter of Grafton, a club member who lives 2.9 miles from the park, added, “One of the things veteran trail makers told us is you don’t want to make the trails so hard you scare people off. That’s why we have the beginner and intermediate loops.”
The club creates and maintains the trails at no expense to the town, which owns the 88-acre park with the City of Cedarburg and encompasses the former dump for the two communities. It is surrounded by open fields.
When bike club members Jim Hinze and Greg Madden learned the town wanted to offer more at the park, they suggested mountain bike trails.
“They jumped on it. In two months, we had all the approvals,” Sieber said. “They had problems with vandalism in the past. The town has been very supportive and is happy with how things are going.”
Cotter said he saw a difference almost immediately.
“We used to find two or three cars in the parking lot that scattered as soon as we pulled up. You know they were up to no good,” he said.
“Now, there are usually three or four empty cars. People are hiking or biking or bird watching. It’s being used almost all the time and is pretty crowded early Saturday and Sunday mornings.”
Sieber, a cabinetmaker, rides and works on the trails almost every day, navigating the most challenging routes when he’s alone or with other elite mountain bikers and the beginner or intermediate trail when he’s with his family.
His son Eli, 6, is learning to handle the trails this year. Liz likes riding the trails on her beach bike with 4-1/2-inch-wide buoyant tires that cushion the bumps and pulls daughter Riley, 4, who peddles fast on a pull-behind bike.
“I like mountain biking, but nothing like Ryan. It’s gone beyond a hobby,” Liz said. “He’s obsessed. I think it’s inherited. When his mom visits, she hops on his fat-tire bike.”
Sieber even rode the Pleasant Valley trails on his beach bike during this year’s brutal winter with other beach bike aficionados and devised a trail groomer.
“It made winter more bearable,” Sieber said. “But it’s a lot harder riding in snow than sand. You go a lot slower. It’s even harder pulling a groomer.
“We encouraged snowshoers to use the trail because it packed the snow down.”
The bike trails are multi-use trails, Sieber said. Hikers are welcome, but for safety reasons should walk in the opposite direction of bikers so they can see cyclists coming rather than be surprised from behind by them.
The bike trails are clearly marked with arrows and colors to define the direction and difficulty. Riders are often surprised by the wildlife that live there, and those who slow down can see a myriad of wildflowers and other plants.
For many club members, mountain biking is a family activity.
John Norman and his sons Calhan, 14, and Rowan, 19, are avid mountain bike enthusiasts who compete throughout the state in the Wisconsin Off Road Series. Norman’s son Egan, 17, prefers running to biking. The Port Washington family usually arrives at the race site the day before the event to practice the route and camp overnight.
Matt and Emily Keon of Grafton and their son Sam, 11, also compete in the state off road series and often set up their camp near the Normans.
The Keons and Cotter are also involved in the newly formed Ozaukee Washington County Composite High School Cycling Team that will compete in the Wisconsin circuit of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association this fall.
Emily is the team director while Matt and Cotter are coaches.
Ten students from Cedarburg, Grafton and West Bend have registered, Cotter said, and more cyclists are welcome. The team will start practicing July 3 and so far is scheduled for four Sunday meets.
The bike club is also developing a mountain bike trail in Port Washington that will start in Upper Lake Park and parallel a portion of the Ozaukee Interurban Trail. An attempt to build a mountain bike trail in the Town of Port Washington met opposition from neighbors, so county officials backed away from that plan.
Although many members of the club compete in races, Sieber said he has no desire to do so.
“It’s just about having fun and being outdoors,” he said.
He’s also enjoying making mountain bike trails for bikers of all abilities.
Image information: CROSSING MOLE CREEK were (from left) Calhan Norman, his father John Norman, Matt Cotter, his son Sam Cotter, 11, Mike Kusserow and Rowan Norman. Photos by Sam Arendt. Additional photos are displayed in this week's edition of your Ozaukee Press.