We at The Bonebell are very proud and elated to introduce a new member of our crew for 2011 – Amy Weik. Amy, aka “A-Dub”, is not new to us or the dirtbag scene. Amy’s roots in cycling run deep through her family.  In fact, her parents were involved in founding the famed Apple Cider Century over 30 years ago. Amy has been an avid mountain biker who also maintained the Do Indiana Off-Road Series website better known by its acronym ‘D.I.N.O.’ throughout the early ’00s. On top of that, she is one of the original founding members of the Chicago Cross Cup. We at The Bonebell have had the pleasure of racing alongside her as a teammate on xXx Racing-AthletiCo and are stoked to see her come back to the dirtbag scene exclusively wearing ‘The Bonebell’ colors to further promote our endeavors and increase our awareness. Amy will be doing a variety of articles for the site and bring an additional perspective to our audience!


I recently headed to the newly-opened Ray’s MTB Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with Regina Campbell where we met up with her boyfriend Chris Volbrecht and friend Cale Wenthur.  I’d been literally dreaming of this place over Christmas so was quite excited to finally arrive!

This is Ray’s second location – the first is in Cleveland, Ohio and is the first indoor mountain bike park in the world!  When you roll up to Ray’s you will notice that it’s HUGE (~110K sq ft).  It’s in an old Menards building in a large strip mall.  Upon entering the building, you get an even greater appreciation for the size of this place… and on two floors!

Pre-Ride Preparation

First things first: leave your attitude and inhibitions at the door.  Next, sign in at the computers, then pay at the front desk.  Pretty easy.  The crew at Ray’s were very friendly and seemed stoked to have people from Chicago visiting.  They were welcoming, attentive, and repeatedly throughout the day asked for our feedback – now that’s some great customer service!

Next, if you didn’t bring your own ride, go to the rentals desk.  My suggestion is to use their rentals as they have a great deal – only $10 for the day.  Available for rental are Mirraco BMX bikes and Trek dirt jumpers.  Sidenote: Trek now owns and backs Ray’s financially, although Ray still runs the parks.  Trek also has a special demo area set up next to the rentals where you can test ride most of their off-road line. If you are going to rent, get there early to ensure best selection.  I selected the Trek Mullet which suited me well for the day, and Regina chose the Trek Ticket Signature (after the bottom bracket malfunctioned on her new Kona Shonky – doh!).

If you bring your own mtb, put the saddle down all the way as you won’t be using it much.  Also, take them up on their free shin guards and elbow pads, especially the shin guards – you’ll be glad you did.  They also offer free helmet rentals, and have armor and other gear for sale.

Beginner / Sport Skills Section

After getting my ride I spent a little time getting the feel of it.  After using clipless for more than a decade, the flat pedals took some getting used to but proved to be an asset for this venue.  If you are not used to dirt jumper bikes, ride around a bit before hitting the XC loop or skills sections.  After getting comfortable with the Mullet, I headed for the Beginner / Sport Skills section.  Ray’s did an excellent job duplicating varied outdoor terrain – climbs, rocks, logs, off-camber trails.  They also added super fun extras that you don’t typically find in nature like suspension bridges, teeter totters, and balance beams.  Their skill sections were challenging and fun and had something for everyone.

XC Loop

Next I headed to the Cross-Country (XC) Loop which had just been completed that week.  In a nutshell, the XC Loop is AWESOME!  It includes a little bit of everything – fast downhills, climbs, skill sections, bridges, log crossings including a log bridge, a pump track and more!  My favorite ancillary part of the loop is the pool of what appeared to be dried blood just after the pump section – a bit disconcerting but radical!  The loop is about 0.3 miles and you can ride at high speed for most of it – my kinda cardio!  I rode many, many laps until my legs began to fail me.

There are plenty of entrances / exits from the XC loop, including an exit onto the Beginner / Sport skills ramp.  Based on your skill level, you may need to gather some cojones to ride the loop the first time around.  There are a few alternate paths if you don’t want to attempt some of the more advanced sections – but for other sections you just gotta man up and do it.  I’ll admit that there’s one elevated climb section that I didn’t master on my first trip so I’m looking forward to going back and showing it who is boss.

Expert Skills & BMX Sections

Other sections of this MASSIVE indoor park include the Expert Skills section, which includes an incredible bike “elevator”, several balance beams, and a pivoting bridge.  There are also Sport and Expert Jump sections that are suitable for bmx or mtbs.  For bmxers there’s the “Super Rhythm Jumps” (ride at your own risk!), a ramp into a foam pit (radical!), and an amazing Street Park.  I took some time watching folks ride the street park and was so impressed with the skill level displayed.  I can imagine that this park was long awaited by the local bmx crowd.

Riders

Looking around, it seemed as if there were two distinct types of riders present at Ray’s – bmxers and mtbers (imagine that!).  Although there was some mild intermixing, the bmxers mostly stuck to the street park and jump tracks while the mtbers mostly stuck to the mtb sections.  While I witnessed some mtbers wearing teeth guards, I spotted at least one bmxer proudly donning a toothless smile.

One item of note: There were lots of little riders on bmx bikes all over the park.  I’m talking small fries, like 4-6 years old.  Some fearless, some totally green – just be sure not to run them over as Ray’s has made it clear that they want their facilities approachable for riders of all skill levels.

Facility

Both downstairs and upstairs there are SRAM-sponsored lounges with picnic tables, including a big screen TV with comfy couches.  The only food available at the park is from vending machines so pack your own grub as you don’t want to waste valuable cycling time leaving to get food.  There are currently no lockers so everyone grabs a spot at one of the many picnic tables to stow their gear for the day.  Seemed pretty safe as everyone respected each other’s stuff, and there are Ray’s employees walking around the park all the time.  As this is a new facility, the restrooms are clean, and they have three water fountains.  The park is a little cold indoors (I think I heard 55F) but you get warmed up quickly when you’re riding.  Tip: I also learned that it clears out just before a Packers game!

Final thoughts

My first overall experience at Ray’s was awesome!  They’ve done an excellent job laying out the park, making every use of the available space, and giving everyone something fun into which to sink their knobbies.  The employees were welcoming and friendly, the costs are reasonable, and I can’t wait to come back!

While Ray’s does include beginner sections, this park is probably not meant for the true first-timer.  I’d advise spending some time out on the trails to get used to varied terrain – hills, rocks, roots, rocks, logs, etc – on your own time and while you do not have a large audience.  Unless Ray’s start offering skills classes at MKE (as they do in CLE), first-timers may feel a little intimidated.  However, if you are new, fearless, and shameless, then jump right in!

A word about safety: While it’s cool to be cool, it’s NOT cool to get injured.  Save yourself and Ray’s the headache and wear protective gear – period.  And while it’s good to push yourself to learn new skills, it’s also wise to know your limits.  Just play it safe so you can come back and ride more!

Pack List: Money, ID, helmet (bmx if you have one), gloves (full finger best), armor if you have it (otherwise free to rent), long sleeve shirt, long pants / knickers, street shoes, food / snacks, hydration, pain medication, camera, good attitude, cojones, smarts.

Upcoming Ray’s MKE events to put on your calendar:
Grand Opening Weekend – Jan 29-30 – food, raffle, pros on site!
Women’s Weekend – Feb 25-26 – women only, bike demos, pros and more!

Ray’s has lots of great info on their website as well as their Facebook Page.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gKcNx44Oo8[/youtube]



  1. […] type of mountain bike race and cyclocross race available in the midwest, and now most recently, an indoor MTB bike park. Amy will be providing articles with her added perspective to the dirtbaggin’ scene overall. […]

  2. […] bags (in case you missed it, fellow Bonebeller Amy Weik wrote up an extensive review of Ray’s here). We are still ironing out the details, but for now the plan will be to meet locally by […]


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