Friday, June 11, 2010

Toad Road, Levis Mounds, Wisconsin

Photo: Greg.
A Levis Mound classic, Toad Road is probably the most technical trail in the entire system. I always tend to climb up it, mostly out of habit. It is definitely a fun ride down, but as a climb it is extremely rewarding—especially when you clean the whole thing!

Starting at the junction with Dead Turkey, Select Cut, and the ski trails, Toad Road begins to climb immediately, doling out a pretty relentless grunt up to the junction with Switchback by the sandstone cliff. If you’re riding my recommended technical loop, this is where you’ll access the trail.

As Toad Road turns left up and past the sandstone cliff, the real fun begins! What ensues is a wonderfully rocky rolling climb past picturesque sandstone bluffs, which you don’t notice the first time because you are so focused on your front tire. Toad Road demands impressive slow-speed handling skills, and the ability to choose an appropriate line through the rocks on the fly.

Rider: Shannon C. Photo: AJ Heil.
Recent Maintenance
Back when I was living in the area during high school, I recall bumping into a couple riders on their “fancy” bicycles, and having them mention that Toad Road was “impossible” to climb. I just smirked and road away, as I knew that I had cleaned the entire climb before on my outdated, completely rigid Giant Iguana. They did have a good point though: Toad Road was a dauntingly technical.

Since that time there has been a lot of work done, making Toad Road and many other sections of trail in the system much less technical than they were. While part of me is frustrated by the change, I definitely know that much of the recent maintenance was very necessary. Said maintenance has resulted in many of the trails becoming much more rideable, and has addressed areas that would eventually have eroded into nasty scars which would be totally unrideable. Toad Road is still challenging, and offers up plenty of rocks that are just begging to make you dab (as I did this spring, although I blame the high gearing on the 1x8 rig I was riding).

Rider: AJ Heil. Photo: Shannon C.?
Plumber's Crack
As Toad Road continues on up the hill, it soon reaches a section that has become a legend in its own right: Plumber’s Crack. In the words of Steve Meurett, one of the two masterminds behind Levis Mound:
Best "Micro-section?" Is "plummers crack" on Toad Road. The rock chute has been there for thousands of years and I think I looked at that spot for as long trying to figure out how to get a trail down deep inside there. Finally I just started pin flagging and cutting. The wood bridges and ramps that squeeze thru the stone walls turned out well.
And he’s right: Plumber’s Crack is iconic. It has been the location of many photographs and video clips, and will continue to be for a long time. Riding that wooden bridge down in the bottom of that three foot wide cleft in the rock is always, always a rush! During my last visit, after I had finished climbing up from the bridge, I looped around on the old washed-out portion of trail that Plumber’s Crack bypasses for a second ride through the rock. Check out the video below:


Photo: Greg.
After climbing up from the wooden bridge the trail hangs a left along the ridge. The singletrack straightens out and rolls quickly along the ridge, soon to join up with the other trails on top of the mound.

Toad Road is over all too quickly. If you really haven’t had enough of it, Corkscrew quickly drops back down towards the bottom of Toad Road, or another epic Cliffhanger/Switchback combo will bring you back around to climb the rocks once again!

Your Turn:  What are your thoughts on trail maintenance and modification, specifically when it makes the ride easier?


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Greg Heil is the Editor in Chief for He's been writing and publishing online since before blogging existed.

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