On my way south through California, I’ve been making it a point to stop by and check out the status of a number of bicycle skills parks. Although it has been ridiculously hot, it hasn’t stopped me from taking the long way on my trek south to check out a few public riding spots I’ve heard about. One of these spots was the Woodward MTB Park in Fresno.
Fresno doesn’t really strike me as a cycling destination, and I’ve never been to the town, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. From what I had read in the past, it seem to be a good sized project, headed by Hilride, a Bay Area company specializing in cycling destinations, riding area, and skills development areas. Made up of two former IMBA trail care crew members, Nat and Rachel Lopes spent over two years traveling leading trail building workshops. During our tour as a trail care crew, Inga and I had ridden a section of trail they designed at a park in Santa Barbara, and were impressed with the riding experience they had managed to squeeze into a very small area. I was very curious to see how their experience with building single track trail would be applied to bike park construction. They built a website to accompany the Mountain Bike Skills area which is found at www.woodwardmtbpark.com.( Not to be confused with Camp Woodward, the infamous BMX/Skate Skills camp) They’ve also produced a number of videos that can be found on YouTube, like this one:
When I arrived at the park, I was more than surprised. The first thing I saw were stacks and stacks of legit dirt jumps. Right away it was clear that this wasn’t your average bike park. This was the real deal.
It turns out the bike park area is actually made up of three separate facilities. Not only was the park the real deal, but it is the first public park I’ve seen that truly had something for every dirt loving cyclist.
The BMX Park
After I arrived, I hopped out of the car and did a quick walkthrough of the jumps I saw. It wasn’t at all what I had seen from the YouTube videos about the Woodward MTB Park. In fact, it was much like finding a bonus level straight out of a Matt Hoffman BMX game.
In fact, I had to walk around for a bit to find smaller jumps suitable for warming up on. It seems I picked one of the worst days to ride here, as it was ridiculously hot out. The jumps in the BMX zone looked like they could use a good watering and sweeping before hitting them up, so I kept wandering around and explored some more. Next to the jump park was a full sized NBL track. The thing was huge- one of the biggest tracks I’ve seen, complete with paved sections. From what I’ve read online, it may be one of the best tracks on the west coast.
The track was fenced off and signs clearly stated it was only open for practice times and race days. (apparently it is free to ride on the 3rd Sunday of each month) I wasn’t too bummed considering how much terrain was available to ride.
Continuing in past the BMX track I finally found the MTB skills development area.
The MTB Park
The size of the MTB area was equally if not more impressive. Hilride clearly attempted to create a riding experience catering to every skill level as well as discipline. Inside I found wood technical features, a trials area, two pump track areas, a short track, and the longest jump line I’ve seen outside of a pay-to-play ski area.
The sheer quantity of jumps and mounds of shaped dirt is enough to excite any level of rider, and makes the park a great destination for riders looking to expand on their skillset.
Like the BMX area, many of the jumps and lips were in need of maintenance, which rough lips and cracks. Based on the extreme heat, (I was there in the middle of the day) it wasn’t surprising that I was the only rider present, although I did see a number of MTB riders riding the trails outside of the skills area. Even with the cracks, the jump line was still a lot of fun, and a good warm up, although due to the heat, I had to pack it up after my third time down the long jump line.
The amount of table tops in the jump line was impressive. According to the map, the “air DH” line is a half mile of jump filled sweetness. It was definitely designed by mountain bikers- the landings and take offs were very mellow- a big contrast to the kickers in the BMX area. While it was possible to make my way through the entire jump line without pedaling my Black Market hardtail jump bike, the mellow landings and wide spacing between the jumps meant having to pump pretty hard to keep an adequate amount of momentum. It didn’t flow at all like BMX trails would, (or the way I would have preferred them to) but for novice mountain bikers, perhaps that is for the best.
The pump track area was also in major need of some maintenance love. Some of the drainages between berm and roller in a few places were in need of attention. I wasn’t too crazy about the placement of them, as one of them almost caused a crash.
Based on the placement, I’m guessing the drainages were an add-on by a well meaning but ill-informed volunteer. Hopefully after a good rain, someone at least rounds those edges. Or better yet, moves the grade dip to another location and fixes it. A crash because of poor track design could be seen as a liability for the park.
If you have been contemplating a trip to Fresno to check out the Woodward Park, I whole-heartedly recommend it as a great destination you could take your entire family to- from the smallest grom to the BMX ripper. But wait until the weather cools down a bit, and make sure to bring a lot of water.
Video POV tour
There is a $5.00 charge to drive into the park area. I imagine that if you rode your bike in, you’d be able to avoid paying a fee to ride.
For more info on the mountain bike skills area, check out the website: Woodward MTB Park
In addition to the bike facilities, the park features a multi-use amphitheater, a Japanese Garden, dog park, equestrian trails, playgrounds, a lake, ponds, picnic areas, and several miles of multi-use trails. The closest camping appears to be Camp Fresno at Dinkey Creek. For more info on the park itself, including up to date hours and fees: check out the city website: www.fresno.gov
Fresno might just be the best freestyle/ freeride bike town on the west coast; the Mosqueda Bike Park is the largest BMX only concrete park in the country according to the Fresno city website. Expect an updated post as soon as we’re able to make it happen.
Address: 7775 North Friant Road, Fresno, CA (the MTB area is all the way in, on the NW area of the park)