The Rock, Milwaukee, WI
Who says there are no downhill parks when you live in the Midwest. Just this year Gravity Logic designed and built a downhill park at a skill hill in Milwaukee, WI. Formerly Crystal Ridge is now The Rock Sports Complex, located in Milwaukee County Wi. Earlier this year I got my first intro to downhill biking in Jackson Hole, WY and I knew this park was going to open in late June. With a newborn, busy work schedule and family events it wasn’t until August that I carved out some time to go there and give it a try. Also I got to see how my GT Force worked in the environment it was meant for. It turned out to be a very fun day and learning experience.
So if you have ever gone skiing you know they rate the hills with colors and shapes to tell you how difficult it is. On the downhill bike trails it isn’t any different. Green is an easy run designed for beginners. I found the Green runs to actually be quite fun in Jackson Hole and at the Rock it was the same. The green runs are a bit longer, less steep and more like a fast cross country trail. If you love to ride fast on single track you will love the longer Green runs. Next up is blue for the intermediate riders. On blue the trail it gets a little steeper and has some table tops, drops and jumps mixed in. Nothing too scary, but enough to start to get you used to them. Of course all features have an easier path around them if you are not confident or comfortable with what is in front of you. It allows you to progress your skills at your pace. Honestly I could just ride the Blue and Green trails all day long and be happy. There is plenty of speed and fun to be had.
Once you are comfortable with the blue runs you can give a black diamond run a go. Be prepared the black diamond run will have quite a few table tops and drops. Some of them there are no go arounds so at the very least you should be comfortable with these obstacles. Personally I just ride them and keep my wheels on the ground. Still fun and I didn’t leave my bike one time. So that was good. Also be prepared for some banked turns. These are tricky, you can’t go too slow and riding the brakes isn’t a good idea. Just commit to a speed and let the bike do the work. At the rock there are two black diamond runs and one is significantly more difficult than the other. Skid row I found to be quite run with the table tops and drops. It was a nice step up from the blue runs. Rush on the other hand had quite a few sharp drop banked turns. To say this trail was tricky is an understatement. I would almost call it a 1.5 black diamond run. Last trail at The Rock was the double black diamond Nine Inch Nails. Let’s just say I wasn’t comfortable attempting it. Another day………..
So how was my GT Force compared to the Scott Voltage? Well on the blue and green runs it wasn’t even a comparison. I was so much more comfortable and in control I was able to maintain a much faster pace. The Force is not as slack and has a longer wheel base, which makes it more stable at higher speed cornering. Taking more gradual sweeping turns and mild drops the Force was much better. I really wish I would have had it out in Jackson Hole. Now Skid Row was a different story. The long wheelbase became a liability. I see where the Scott Voltage really would have been good there. In the tight downward corkscrew turns the Force just didn’t turn fast enough. So for the trails I am comfortable with the Force served me well. On the more technical true downhill style of riding I think the Voltage would be better suited.
Overall The Rock is a great place in the midwest to get your downhill fix. If you live in Chicago, Madison or Milwaukee it will certainly become a go to place for mountain bikers. Fortunately I live only 35 minutes away from it. Unfortunately it is now closed for the season and I will have to wait for spring to ride there again. Oh well it give me the winter to work on some other riding skills. If you want to know more about The Rock Sports Complex you can find out more about it here http://www.rockcomplex.com/.