One thing I have always enjoyed about visiting Ray’s MTB Cleveland is the inevitability of changes in the off season. They’re not always enjoyed by everyone though, as removing certain jumps or features can be a good thing for the masses, yet ruin it for a select few.
However, regardless of your skill level, and what you expect to find at Ray’s each year, you can’t help but be a little excited to go on the mountain bike equivalent of an Easter egg hunt, as you search the massive compound for all the latest additions.
This year is no different, although more than just a few new jumps, or lines, Ray’s Cleveland seems to have a whole new attitude.
Find out what sets this year’s Ray’s MTB apart, after the break!
Let me reassure you, that even though the vibe has changed slightly in Cleveland (and this time it has nothing to do with LeBron), it is not a bad thing. I have been making the pilgrimage to Ray’s since the very first year of business, and I will stand behind the fact that this is the best season yet.
Ray’s has always had a very distinct, mountain bike festival sort of atmosphere, where everyone is simply stoked to be there, and to be part of the vibe. That feeling of community is still there, and it’s not going anywhere.
So what’s different? Ray’s Cleveland seems to have taken on a whole new level of professionalism, with everything exuding a whole new level of class.
The bathrooms are now clean, sparkly, and completely functional (I was never bothered by the old bathrooms, but I heard from more than one person that they weren’t happy with them). While it may not seem like such a big deal, if a few people bothered to complain about it, it can’t be a bad idea to improve them.
The proshop and rental center is well stocked, professionally merchandised, expertly staffed, and easy to shop. Everywhere you look, the Ray’s decoration you have come to expect is there, but somehow everything seems better, more together. While it wasn’t deep winter (it was snowing, however) the entire building seemed warmer than past years. Probably due to new heaters, like the ones being installed right in front of me!
The fact of the matter is that while the core audience that is drawn to the multiple jumps, drops, and skinnies will continue to come, no matter how the interior is organized. However, it is the group of riders that haven’t been to Rays before and and perhaps may have never even mountain biked before, that may or may not make a return based on the overall experience. It is for this exact reason why the changes are a home run, or maybe a perfect back flip is more apropos.
Riding wise, some of the biggest changes certainly have to do with rider flow, throughout the entire complex. Previously, riders were able to meander around and between sections, often inadvertently ending up in another rider’s path. Now, most of the sections are more or less quarantined from each other. Riders from the Sport section, for instance, can’t accidentally find their way into the Expert section, and vice versa.
Other areas, such as the beginner skinny area, are now fenced in so that riders sessioning certain features won’t impede other riders. In addition to walling off certain areas, Ray has really tried to emphasize the fact that the park flows in one direction, and enforces the fact with clearly visible arrow markings on the floor to help you find your way. While the park wasn’t anywhere near as busy as I’ve seen before, it seemed that even with the amount of people that were there, everything flowed better with fewer (none?) incidents with other riders.
The XC course is one of the few parts of Ray’s that really saw some changes, which of course, is good news for most. Numerous line choices have been added, giving riders the choice between the straight and narrow, or rough and tumble. The XC course even includes a very difficult new corkscrew climb, that if you’re not prepared will catch you off gaurd. Look for the new climb in the very back, far right corner, just keep all the way to the right and you’ll find it. Once up at the top, you are rewarded with a fun, rocky decent back onto the XC course. Also along the way, you will find new options for small drop offs, similar to what you would actually find out on the average mountain bike trail.
Don’t be caught off guard at the end of the XC course, as it now gives you the choice to veer right, or get dumped straight into the new Moab room! Following a few nicely placed rhythm jumps, you will find yourself in a strange room with crazy angles, ledges, spines, and rollers sort of like you would find out in the slick rock of Moab (well, at least in a plywood sort of way). You will not figure out the Moab room on your first trip through, nor the second, third, or even fourth. Mostly, this is due to how many possible lines there are, but also because it’s a small room and if there are multiple people on the XC course, it will fill up quick!
If you like to stay on the ground, the XC course improvements are obviously good news, but for those of you who like to get some air, or at least try, you will have to make your way over to the completely new sport jumps. Consisting of 7 new hits, and a few rollers and berms, the new jumps are a lot of fun, yet completely non-intimidating. While I still miss the original sport jumps, the new jumps will clearly appeal to more riders, and may just convince someone who has never jumped before to give it a try.
If you frequent the Subaru Street Park, you may be surprised by the new entrance, and the lack of the table top that led into the big quarter pipe that used hide of the back of the park. While a little different, the changes haven’t really affected the flow of the park at all, although it may change some of your previous lines.
While the Trek Session room didn’t change much, one huge improvement is all new foam for the foam pit! After crawling my way out of the foam pit multiple times, without having to remove a cubic foot of foam dust from my eyes and lungs, I have to admit I was pretty happy. No disrespect meant to the previous foam pit at all, as it helped me learn a lot, but progress is progress!
I want to send a big thanks to the crew at Ray’s Cleveland that helped out while we were there, and apologize for this post taking so long. After working for a week on a complete ride through video of the new additions to the park, scenes inexplicably disappeared, only to be made worse by the ensuing total computer failure. It took me a while to recoup all of the files, and the movie is lost forever, but there is still plenty of winter left. So if you are anywhere near Cleveland, or now anywhere near Wisconsin, do yourself a favor, and get up to Ray’s!