What is it about this place? This ribbon of dirt tucked in the woods surrounded by cornfields. Nothing's near it. It's near nothing. But this place has magic and history. It gives me calm and helps me forget all of the pressures, if only for a short while.
Westwood is an eternal "work in progress." There is no perfect trail, yet we head out weekend after weekend trying to achieve the unachievable. For five years and counting we have been building this trail. Starting slow. Fixing mistakes. Re-thinking lines. Deliberation of "around this tree or that tree?" Weekend upon weekend spent leaning over a Pulaski. Weekends spent building bridges. Nineteen and counting in this ten-mile loop. Nineteen damn bridges built one-by-one. As short as four feet. As long as 100 feet. A weekend of labor for a half a second of trail. There is irony in this. Working so hard to build a trail that I am too tired to ride. I am invested in this place with a currency of sweat and blood. I am protective of it but I want to share it. I want to introduce this place to everyone. I want to see the trailhead full of riders heading out and coming back. I want to see the dirty faces and the smiles and the exhaustion. Expand the tribe. Spread the word.
You wouldn't think much of Westwood if you saw it on paper. It is in central Indiana. "Manhole covers are elevation in Indiana." "You can see the curvature of the earth." All of the jokes describing this place and its topographic homogeneity, I've heard them all. But Westwood rewards the rider with ten miles of beautiful singletrack winding its way around the lake. A tight ribbon of trail that rewards the smooth line and punishes the rest.
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There are no major climbs here but there is a surprising amount of elevation. How is that? It doesn't have large climbs looming around the turn—those climbs that sear the memory of pain and fatigue in your brain. No, Westwood has none of that. Instead Westwood offers little climb after little climb in a constant and never-ending succession.
I am proud of Westwood. I am proud when riders return from a ride and are already talking about when they are coming back. The smiles. The grins. The pain that accompanies a hard ride. The cuts. The scrapes. The blood: Yours now mixed with mine out there on the trail. I am proud of this 18" ribbon of dirt meandering its way in a schizophrenic loop, and the views of the lake you get from seemingly every turn of the trail. Those views that seem so natural and so surprising requiring all that work to get the trail there. It is worth every drop of sweat. All of those that have spent hours and hours working on this trail are proud. This place will outlast all of us. —Tim O'Donnell
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I'm supposed to write about interstates and mountain bikes: Two seemingly incompatible things. I suppose the common thread is that one is a means to the other. The end? No. Mountain biking is the beginning. At least for me it is. So let's start there, or a bit before.
I-70 rolls right through Indianapolis. Kurt Vonnegut grew up in Indy. He summered in my hometown, Culver. My friend's family tore Vonnegut's family's house down to build a farmhouse. It's pretty and idyllic, just like Culver. But Kurt is odd. Odd and fun. The man published books that included his own sketches of assholes. Some bike people I know did that. But they didn't publish a book. They just called the asshole their logo. Nice one, Kona. Don't believe me? Go see for yourself.
There are no mountains in Indiana. The south has hills. But up north is flat. Like a pancake. Literally. Sometimes after riding until I was dizzy, I'd fall over and think I could see the curvature of the earth. But it was interrupted by corn, or a trailer or a deer carcass. Indiana's good for things like that. The state motto is "The Crossroads of America." As a kid, I wanted to give the state a reason to rename the motto "more trails than any other place in the world." Like every other idealistic dreamer with more ideas than motivation and patience, I gave up and moved to a place with trails. I now live in a town with barely any trails at all. So it goes.
Then I met a guy who I should have met years ago. While I was busy packing my bags, he was making plans. Plans to get off the top of the list of IMBA's worst states for mountain biking.
There are no mountains in Indiana. But Alex lives in the south. And he has a vision. His vision is one worth sharing: One that unifies the state, one that recognizes you don't need mountains to have a blast riding off-road. It is a vision that's raised a ton of money and brought people together, and will eventually give some young kid a reason to say, "I like my state. I think I'll stay here. Maybe finally change the state motto to something more honorable." Maybe Alex will do that, too. Nah, I bet he goes for another ride in Brown County State Park.
Hills, rocks, trees, roots. A place that reminds you why wheels turn. A place that reminds you that the grass isn't always greener two states over. Pooteeweet. —Michael Browne
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