Cavern: cav-ern. n. A large underground chamber, as in a cave.
In the case of the Louisville Mega Cavern, to describe it as large is an understatement. If they were able to flood it with natural light, you could trick yourself into thinking you were outside. The Mega Cavern Bike Park had a “soft” opening in February 2015 (if memory serves me), and that’s the first time I rode there. In case you’re wondering, I live in Louisville and the cavern is only 20 minutes from my house, so it has been easy for me to check on the bike park’s progress.
Because it is the world’s only underground bike park, it has and continues to get international press in both bike media and local news stations. There are other indoor bike parks, such as Ray’s, in converted warehouses, but nothing comes close to the scale of the Mega Cavern. Furthermore, most other indoor parks are made from wood and rock. The Mega Cavern uses dirt for its trails and jumps which makes it just like being outside, except the conditions are always perfect. In fact, the Mega Cavern has a year round temperature of 60 degrees.
Since the opening of the bike park in February up until I last rode in mid June, things have improved greatly. The trails have packed down nicely and they are keeping just enough water on them to keep the dust down and the surface tacky. They have also added a pump track which is a great time for all ages. Who does the bike park cater to? Primarily dirt jumpers. The trails are marked by difficulty, similar to a ski resort or other mountain bike parks with green, blue and black designations.
There is a “cross country” style green loop that takes you around the perimeter of the bike park. I recommend a quick spin on this trail first to get a lay of the land. The blue trails have more features such as wood bridges, jumps, tight turns and undulations. The black trails are full size dirt jumps that will highlight the talents of the pros, or check the egos of beginners. In addition to the dirt jumps, they have creatively used shipping containers as tabletops between some of the jumps.
I am primarily a cross country / trail rider so the dirt jumps aren’t really my thing. But, could they be? There is a section of trail that has smaller versions of the full size jumps to practice on and it’s the perfect venue to get a feel for things. I would prefer to have someone with experience give me instruction on the full size jumps and it is something I’m considering. It is always great to learn new things and getting better at jumps could add another aspect to my riding experience. Plus, it will keep me on my bike in the winter months since the cavern is always warm enough to ride, and the trail conditions are always perfect.
My hat is off to the owners of the Mega Cavern for their vision to build a bike park. I’m sure it was an expensive endeavor and I certainly wish them the success they deserve. It is not only a unique feature for the riding scene in Louisville but it is truly unique within the biking community around the world. It is definitely worth checking out if you are in the Louisville area and they have bike rentals if you didn’t bring yours along for the trip.
In this video you will see me riding around the perimeter of the bike park (my business partner, John, is following me).
Hopefully this will give you some idea of the scale of the park. The trail we are on is the only “green” (easiest) designated trail in the park – one that almost anyone who can ride a bike will be comfortable on. I have done a few brisk laps on this loop and it is enough to get the blood flowing, although I wouldn't go so far as to say the green loop by itself replaces an outdoor ride when there's nice weather above ground.
The blue trails at the Mega Cavern have more undulation, tight turns and features. They definitely require more attention and give you practice with your bike handling skills. There are also some serious jumps.
If you're stuck inside because of rain, snow or cold weather, being able to ride as much as you want in nature's own temperature controlled environment is a godsend. It's can also be a refuge from high heat and humidity. I also recommend doing their zip line course while you are there – it is the only underground zip line in the world and it is definitely an experience worth a couple hours of your time.
Clark is an avid mountain biker and founder of MORR Protective Gear (www.morrgear.com). He also writes for the MORR Life blog.
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