I’ve ridden mountain bikes for over thirty years. A Peugeot Canyon Express in the 1980s, and a Trek 820 Antelope in the 1990s. A Cannondale Super V 1000 replaced them. For the past twenty years, I’ve been asked many times if I had ever ridden Santos. When I replied that I hadn’t, they would look at me in disbelief.
Now, after riding only a single trail at Santos, I understand.
With only limited time on our trip to the Santos Trails, I decided to leave my vintage bike at home. I figured I’d see what all the excitement is about with the newer models by renting a mountain bike on site. I’d hoped to try a “29er,” but my 28″ inseam just said no.
I planned to start off with an easy ride on the Pine Tree Trail. After hearing my plans, the folks at Santos Bike Shop hooked me up with a full suspension Giant XTC Advanced with 27.5″ wheels. After adjusting the suspension for my weight, I headed out their door to a trail right behind the building that led to the Cross Florida Greenway and the Santos Trails. I crossed a couple of equestrian trails and the well-marked Florida Trail before reaching the intersection of the “Neighborhood Trail” and the Pine Tree Trail.
It wasn’t long before I found myself with an ear-to-ear grin riding a well-worn single track path, while dodging rocks, roots and a few broken limbs (the trees, not mine). It was comfortable riding along a well thought-out trail with just enough minor challenges for me to keep both my hands on the handlebars and my eyes watching the trail in front of me.
I’ve learned that when I’m taking photos of the trail I need to slow down to avoid blurred shots. I started out riding slow, but the trail was just too much fun to just amble along on. I was enjoying the tight turns and twists cutting between the trees. This meant that I would have to stop often to get the kind of shots we were looking for.
On a typical ride like this I’m carrying two cameras, a GPS, and my phone. Action shots are good, but I want to share the beauty of the trail as well.
The trail is well marked, but with so many other bike trails crossing and intersecting this perimeter trail, it is possible to miss a turn. I did, and found myself at the main trailhead twice, coming in from two different directions. And I didn’t start from there!
The Pine Tree Trail is an excellent and fun entry-level trail. You can ride it at a comfortable pace and never feel intimidated. Pick up your speed a notch, and it feels a little more challenging. Along it, there are two side trails leading to skills elements, including one long skinny boardwalk. These give you the opportunity to challenge yourself and your riding skills whenever you’re ready.
The Pine Trail Trail was the most fun trail riding that I’ve done in years. Using a new mountain bike only made it better. The suspension of the XTC Advanced was far superior to my 30-year-old bike, with the 27.5″ wheels, hydraulic brakes, and modern components. This ride made me wish I lived closer to Santos, because the great staff at the Santos Bike Shop would be outfitting me on one of their Giant 27.5″ bikes within the week. In any case, it pointed up just how old my trusty Cannondale is, and how it was about time to think about a replacement.
Find out more about the Santos Trails from the trail maintaining organization that built and maintains them, the Ocala Mountain Bike Association