Not too long ago, we had the opportunity to check out what was new at the Northernmost Ray’s, Ray’s MTB Milwaukee. Ray’s has become somewhat of a mecca for riders looking to push their limits and develop new skills, and now that applies to novice and beginner riders more than ever. In Milwaukee Ray’s went to great lengths to add new features and rooms to the park to give beginners, who were a little uneasy, a place to grow their skills and confidence. We were assured that the same changes had been made to Ray’s MTB Cleveland as well, although verifying this meant a trip to Cleveland to ride the trails for ourselves to find out (you can never be too sure about these things, verification takes lots of riding).
Sure enough, Ray’s CLE has somehow managed to get bigger, better, and still more beginner friendly again.
Check out the new features after the break.
As you walk in, there aren’t a ton of changes to the entrance though there is more space for rental bikes. A needed thing as more and more riders are coming, and more riders are leaving their bikes at home after one too many broken derailleur. Just as I mentioned in the MKE post, you are now able to reserve rental bikes ahead of time for an extra $5 by simply calling ahead (instructions here). This is probably not necessary for a weekday, but on weekends now, the place is packed. Easy peace of mind for $5.
Also, as you walk in you’ll be greeted with classic Ray’s hospitality. Seriously, I’ve been coming here since 2004 and have never been disappointed. Whether I needed a starnut, a tool, info on where to eat, etc. these guys had it no questions asked. The relaxed mountain bike festival vibe is alive and well.
As you might expect, with Trek at the helm, the Trek Demo center is looking good. With the new Scratch front and center, riders can step up and take out a new Trek for 30 min and get some actual riding in before a big purchase. Curious about 29″? Full suspension? This is a good place to start. While not available for test rides, it’s pretty cool to see Tracey Mosley’s and Neko Mually’s Session 88 frames in the cabinets.
Just like MKE, one of the biggest improvements for CLE is the addition of the “Yellow Brick Road.” This clearly defined path marks out the absolute easiest way around the park ensuring that beginners can get straight to where they want to go, without accidentally ending up in the expert section. The markings on the floor now better differentiate Sport, Expert, and the XC course as well.
In addition to the improved markings on the floor, riders will also have an easier time navigating thanks to the all new easy to read signage, even while riding. Signs point out which direction trails go, special instructions, even where to find first aid, a nice touch for riders unsure of their surroundings.
In order to include the new Novice rooms 1 and 2, without removing anything else from the park, Ray knocked out a few more walls increasing the parks footprint again. You start to get the feeling that there is a never ending supply of rooms just waiting for the walls to be knocked out and trails to be built. The entrance to the new rooms is just after the Moab room on the XC course, where instead of going right to the beginner room like you used to, you now go left through Novice room 2 to Novice room 1 and then back out to the Beginner Deck. Like always, moving traffic is diverted away from riders sessioning skills areas so through riders are unimpeded.
In Novice room one, much like MKE there are pathways painted on the floor which increase in difficulty. After you’ve mastered staying in the lines, you can practice your falling (a very important skill) in the new Crash Pad. The Crash Pad is pretty self explanatory, ride your bike into the slot between the cushions, then crash. Practice trying to land comfortably, or put your foot out, or just yard sale as Michael is demonstrating.
Now that you’re starting to get it, move on to the Novice Room 2 where you will find mini versions of the stunts you will find in the rest of the park. Berms, skinnies, rocks, logs, it’s all here in a fairly private room without anyone watching. No pressure.
Interested? Make sure to check out the 1st Timer Deal, where first time visitors will be equipped with a rental bike, helmet, pads, and a day pass for just $24.99.
This would probably be a good time to remind all the ladies of the upcoming Women’s weekends at both Cleveland and Milwaukee. Be sure to check out the details on Ray’s website, but basically it’s an event that’s free to women and only women, hosted by Leigh Donovan to help you get your ride on. Plenty of free instruction from Pro mountain bikers, riding, and fun to go around.
Outside of the Novice Rooms there have been a few more changes mostly to improve rider flow, and offer more line choices for the XC course. The biggest addition is the new trail junction between the Expert section and the XC course. Riders now have the opportunity to throw in some lines of the Expert North Shore section as well as the Expert Jumps as they make their laps. Likewise, riders from the Expert section can dip into the XC course from there if they choose.
Not to be forgotten, the backside of the XC course has gotten quite a few tweaks as well in the name of making it more fun and adding more flow. Gone are the rocks and logs right between the table tops so you can maintain speed. Instead, the roller section includes new hip/berm things that are quite fun and flow into the new Tri-Flow berms which are basically the old berms with an added top section to get your carve on.
That pretty much sums it up. While it may be easy to mistake 2012 as the year of the Novice for Ray’s, remember we’ve all been there at some point, and providing a space for rapid improvement will improve rider flow across the entire park. Now figure out a way to get to Ray’s and go! I know I am…