With a few years here and there off the trails, I’ve been on a mountain bike since about 1992. BMX, cruisers, road bikes have all been in the mix over my entire life as well. But… I’d never been to Santos in Ocala, FL. Rated Epic by IMBA and on my radar forever, I finally made it with some pals, Bob and Toby, and the system did not disappoint.
From the flush toilets to the park benches and tables to the dirt jumps and the Vortex, the place is a wonderland of exploration and fun. Adult novelty toys, as we tend to say, are scattered throughout – boards to rock drops to some borderline trails-style obstacles. The trails are very well maintained. Over the course of several hours, we hit ever red trail except Sink Hole, which we forgot about until we were on the road home. Check out the map above or go to the Ocala Mountain Bike Association website for more information and a variety of maps.
Coming from the New Smyrna / Port Orange area, we left a little before 6:00am and pulled into the parking lot as the sun was breaking and with only one other car in the lot. We were on the trails warming up (it was a brisk fall mourning – cold to me) by about 8:00am – not too bad for a Sunday morning adventure in the woods.
The only stumble we had was Toby forgot the bag containing his helmet and shoes, so he had to use my spare platform pedals and my casual work shoes. You can see the shoes in this image. Hilarious. He ended up buying a helmet with the bike shop opened at 9:00am.
From what we rode, the Vortex section has the most variety and flow and is a bit longer than many of the other trails. I know there are many ways to link the various trails to create personal favorite loops and rides, but this was my first trip out and Bob and Toby had not been in some time, so we spent a bit of time way finding to ensure we did not miss some of the best sections.
John Brown, Anthill and Magic Mountain were super fun and technical, and I really enjoyed Rattlesnake Ridge. It has less technical turns and climbs with a bit more flow, and though it is a blue (could be yellow), I thought Bunny was a great trail. It is super fast with some little hits and strong, clean berms, and it acts as a great connector.
After the morning ride (3+ hours), it was back to thinking about the waves generated by Hurricane Sandy; I made a few calls and found the swell was strong and the wind was finally cleaning it up for an afternoon surf. Thanks to the boys for agreeing to head back; I hauled home, grabbed my surf gear and hit the water about 10 minutes behind the crew. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday. As for Santos, it won’t be long before I head back to Ocala for another day.