What does a mountain biker do when temperatures do not crack zero, yet they want to go rolling over everything in sight? Yeah, ok, one of us goes to Palos at 7am every day, but the rest of us would rather not freeze our toes off. So we flocked to a simulated woods experience indoors, of course! "Ray's MTB Indoor Park":http://www.raysmtb.com/, in Cleveland, OH hosted the Half Acre team this weekend so the season could be off to an early start.
A caravan of three cars and nine members left Chicago at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning to arrive by early afternoon at Ray's. We were mad excited and needed to shake our legs out after sitting in a car for so long, so as soon as bikes were rented or brushed off, we all took off like scattering mice to explore the massive space. Ray's is a converted "warehouse space":http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3032/2961499467_314bb8c00f.jpg that is sectioned off into not only "different":http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3061/3069191122_d594a49d69.jpg skill levels, but "different riding styles":http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3213/3069190860_806071081c.jpg as well. There's also a "XC" trail that wraps around the whole space, and even skirts you up around a 20-foot glass ceiling. Not even 10 minutes in, and everyone was already panting.
Hours later, it was time to actually check into the hotel, clean up a bit, and catch our reservations over at "Great Lakes Brewery Co.":http://www.greatlakesbrewing.com/foodBrewpub.php restaurant. It was a great three hour meal, spent as a time to unwind and relax after a long day. We were also delightfully accompanied by some fellow WORS riders who shared our enthusiasm for indoor mountain biking.
The next morning it was time to hit Ray's up again. It was much less crowded, so we were able to cover any area that might have faced us with intimidation the day before. We all felt that what might have seemed a bit scary the day before, was no sweat on this second day. Personally I felt the exact same way. Even if it was something you'd hesitate on, just watching others run it a few times and noting where problem areas might be was enough for you to mentally take notes and then gain the courage to give it a shot yourself. That is certainly something you can't do in the woods on a trail, and a huge benefit of a space like Ray's.
What can you leave an amazing space like this with? A sense of accomplishment, confidence, some newly learned skills, (or perhaps what NOT to do), and perhaps yes, even a freshly forming bruise or wound from pushing your limits a little beyond what you would be comfortable with. But perhaps above all, this weekend was a great opportunity to show that yes indeed, this year's mountain biking season is going to be so much fun that it needed to kick off in January.