Coming off my first true off road event/race since 1997, I have much to say here, but this post will be about the venue because more folks should be checking this out.
Seven Oaks started life out as a ski area, but it also hosts other summertime activities and one of them is mountain biking. Seven Oaks is located just west of Boone, Iowa and is a stones throw off Highway 30. For a three dollar "on your honor" fee, you can enjoy about 8 miles of the most killer single track anywhere in the Mid-West. The trails are in a loop and you really can't get lost, but you better be an expert bicycle handler if you want to really enjoy them. This place is really demanding and tough.
The event I attended was the Iowa 24 Hours at Seven Oaks. It utilized all the trail that the place had, I'm pretty sure. (There may be some other trails, but I never saw any other trail heads) The place features real switchbacks, tough climbs, exposed traverses, several short wooden bridges, and lots of off camber sections. The trail often snakes back and forth on itself, so at times it's confusing to a newbie to figure out where you are exactly. However; if you just keep pedaling, you eventually come out to the end and back out to the ski area where you started.
The trails can get pretty slick and muddy if they are wet, so it may not be wise to go when there's been rain falling near the time you want to go. These trails are challenging enough when dry, I'll vouch for that. Climbing is a very necessary skill, but there really isn't any climb that is too long. Some are fairly steep though. Downhills are shorter than some other places, but still fun and rewarding. I especially enjoyed the downhill switchbacks, which required all of my skill to clean on my rigid single speed.
The trails consist mainly of buff dirt with some exposed roots and very few rocks. A tire with some low knobs at a moderate pressure will bite enough to get you around here, if it's dry.
In comparison with other Iowa trails, Seven Oaks ranks up near the top if only because of it's many switch backs and level of dificulty. There just are not that many places you can go here in the state and get a schooling that you can use elsewhere in the U.S. like you can at Seven Oaks. The switch backs alone are worth trying out in this regard. I would say that folks coming off the Decorah trails would be right at home here. The biggest difference being the aforementioned switch backs and the almost total lack of rocks, which Decorah has in spades. Length of the trail system is a negative here, as I'm pretty sure it's under ten miles while Sugar Bottom and Decorah have more. That short distance is extremely demanding though, so don't let the lack of mileage deter you from checking out this excellent venue.
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