Getting bike riders in gear

This is your guide to two-wheeling in Columbia.

Over the years, Columbia officials have striven to make the town as bike-accessible as possible. This is evidenced by bike lanes, bike racks and the many bikers downtown who make driving a pain in the ass for everyone else. The next time you have to slow down for a biker, rather than grumbling and cursing under your breath, perhaps you should find out for yourself what makes biking so popular in Columbia. The area offers many trails in and around the city for even the least experienced biker. So whether you’re the next Lance Armstrong or just taking off your training wheels, hop on a bike and discover the city on two wheels.

The MKT Nature and Fitness Trail

Easily accessible from campus, this trail is a Columbia standard and is widely used by students as both a running and biking trail. The MKT trail branches off the Katy trail, which serves as the biking backbone to Missouri, stretching all the way from St. Louis to Kansas City. The next time you’re bored on a Saturday, see how far you can bike -- can you make it all the way to St. Louis? Or for those looking for a gentler ride, this trail is paved and mostly flat. It curves around Hinkson Creek and provides a scenic, leisurely ride to bikers of any experience level.

Capen Park

Stemming off from the MKT trail is Capen Park’s Hinkson Creek trail. It’s semi-paved with wide gravel-covered trails winding along the creek. The gravel trail makes this accessible for beginners looking for a picturesque place for a leisurely bike ride. It’s very short (less than a mile long), but what it lacks in length, it makes up for in beauty. Be sure to go off the main trail at several points and enjoy the views of the scenic bluffs that line the path. Although the trail is short, it has plenty of variety, opening from shady, cool woods to sunny fields of wildflowers. This park is also easily accessible from campus because it’s only a quick bike ride down Rock Quarry Road.

Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

Further down Rock Quarry Road lies the most kickass of local biking spots: Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. Its miles of well-groomed trails supply the experienced biker and newbie alike with endless entertainment. The trails here range from paved trails, which are good for relaxed trail riding, to downhill dirt trails, which are temperate enough for beginners but challenging enough to entertain the experienced dirt-biker. Beginners, beware: what starts as an easy and mostly flat trail can quickly turn into a downhill fight for survival. Make sure you know what you’re getting into.

The biggest draw to this park, besides the beautiful scenery, is the well-kept trails. Rock Bridge Park closes its trails to bikers and horseback riders on rainy days, which keeps the trails in better condition.

This park is accessible from campus if you are looking for a longer bike ride. Just take a 15-minute ride down Rock Quarry Road and past Capen Park -- the route to the park is perfect for road biking. It’s sparsely used and twists through picturesque woods.

Cosmopolitan Park

If you like it rough and rugged, check out Cosmopolitan Park’s unkempt trails. Cosmo Park offers several trails, the most well-known being Rhett’s Run. Unlike Rock Bridge Park, Cosmo Park doesn’t close its trails for rain, so expect things to be a little more unrefined. Although some trails here are beginner-friendly, bike carefully. Trails are often muddy and uneven with logs or rocks blocking the path. Cosmopolitan Park offers all types of terrain: hilly, steep, flat, rocky, dirt and grass. This is a difficult trail to bike because of lack of upkeep, but if you are a down-and-dirty biker who loves to bike regardless of trail condition, this trail will keep you on your toes and provide a challenge.

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