Ready, Steady, Go!

Off-road enthusiasts in the Boone County area are likely very familiar with the trails of England-Idlewild Park. I’m fortunate to live only a few minutes away, so I visit often – 2 or 3 times per week. But, if you’re new to mountain biking, then you may not know about one of the area’s great places to ride.

Know Before You Go

To ensure that you enjoy your off-road experience, there are a few things to know before you go. England-Idlewild has 11+ miles of wooded, mountain bike trails that are single track and multipurpose. This means that there are no passing lanes and that hikers, dog walkers, and trail runners use the trails too. And though 11 miles may seem like a lot of dirt, rocks, and roots to travel, the odds are very good that you’ll cross paths with several people during your ride. So please keep your eyes on the trail, be polite to your fellow travellers, and follow trail etiquette.

If you’re new to the England-Idlewild Trail, it’s a good idea to check a map before you ride – or take one with you. The most complete map I’ve found online is on, but you’ll find a printable map on Boone County’s website. Keep in mind, sections of the trail get reconfigured from time to time, so the maps aren’t completely up-to-date. But they are good guides overall.

After you ride the trails a few times you’ll become familiar with the concentric loops north of the creek – where people can and do get turned-around. I’ve helped several people find their way back to the parking lot when they were, in fact, headed in the wrong direction. So, it happens.

One last item to know before you ride… Are the trails open? Rain + Dirt = No Fun. And worse than having no fun is the fact that riding muddy trails leads to ruts, erosion, and irreparable damage. The Cincinnati Offroad Alliance maintains a website that shows the status of local trails. So check the site if rain fell recently and follow the recommendations. Because Idlewild’s trails are wooded and almost entirely shaded, mud and puddles take longer to evaporate than under full sun. Today may be bright and sunny, but the trail may yet be closed.

A Little Preparation Goes a Long Way

Periodic bike maintenance is always a good idea – essential, in fact. And another good practice includes a quick “M-check” of your bike before each ride. As the old saying goes: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Simple adjustments may prevent a poor riding experience, damage to the bike, or damage to you. You don’t want that!

Idlewild’s trails aren’t overly technical, so you don’t need to be an expert to ride them, but some trails require more skill than others. The simple truth is that riding off-road isn’t the same as riding on a flat, paved surface – like The Little Miami Scenic Trail. The frequent bouncing,  hopping, and the inevitable wrecks that come with riding off-road mean bike parts will get loose over time. And you don’t want bits of your bike shifting, falling off, or breaking while you ride. So, please, do yourself a favor and do a quick M-check.

Also, dress appropriately! I don’t mean to suggest that you need to buy a new wardrobe for mountain biking, but I’ve seen people wear flip-flops while riding the trails – not often, but I have. I can’t imagine that pedaling with flip-flops is comfortable. And it certainly isn’t safe because it’s highly likely that your foot will slip off the pedal and hit something harder than it is.

Gloves are always a good idea to keep a good grip on the handlebars, and please, please, please wear a helmet. A low-hanging branch may graze your head as you navigate roots and rocks on the trail. Or, you might do as I’ve done and clip a tree as you pass it at speed. Remember, these are single track trails through the woods, and trees are…  everywhere! 

Maybe a helmet won’t prove useful 99% of the time, but you’ll be glad you wear it when you need it. And you will need it.

Time to Get Dirty!

After you familiarize yourself with the lay of the land, check whether or not Idlewild is open for business, give your bike the M-check, and dress appropriately… Now you’re ready to go!

Well, almost.

Always bring a few essentials with you. Water, a spare innertube and pump, a set of Allen wrenches, and tire-removal tools are the barest of essentials. The longer the trail, the longer the list of essentials becomes. But the basics are enough for Idlewild, and, once you’re packed, then you’re ready to go!

One last bit… Everyone goes to the trail to have fun. In my experience, the best way to ensure a good time is to ride safely and to be polite to others on the trail. When someone gives you the right-of-way, say “Thank You”. A little courtesy goes a long way!

Follow my Ride!

Enjoy this video of my England-Idlewild bike ride:

BCPL Program: Bike Pop-up Shop

Saturday, August 14
Main Library Parking Lot, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Join Queen City Bike, Tri-State Trails and the Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance for free bike safety checks on a first-come, first-serve basis to all levels of bikers! To participate, bring your bike to the Library and check in at the tent. You’ll work with a mechanic to learn about your bike, fix safety issues, and discuss options for more involved repairs if necessary. In addition to bike safety, learn more about safe riding options in the area.

For more outdoor fun, read BCPL’s blog about Skydiving!

Rich Webster has worked for Boone County Public Library for 16 years. He tries to lead an active lifestyle, as time allows, and enjoys travel, as funds allow.