Just imagine a roadie being strapped to a mountain bike in a very technical mountain bike park. Then imagine this park has snow and deep ground foliage that hides all of the rocks and roots on the trail. Now, you can imagine a me, very nervous rider, as I bounced my way along and tried to avoid injury, while taking in the beauty of the ride. Some who ride this trail often are probably grinning at my definition of “very technical,” but with my particular set of skills, it is very technical too me! Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail in Oxford, Alabama is a very cool place to ride, with 30-40 miles of single track trail. With trail names like Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Baby Bear, Tortoise, Hare, Goldilocks, Talladega, and the infamous Bomb Dog (to name the ones I rode), there is quite possibly a trail for every level of rider. The trails range from Easy, More Difficult, and Hard (Black Diamond and Double Diamond).
The parking at both the Coldwater and Anniston trailheads is nice and easy to access, opening at sunrise to 1-2 hours after sunset. A nice map of the entire trail system is displayed nicely at the start of both heads. The trails have easy-to-see, reflective markers to clearly stay on course. Climbing is something that a rider should be prepared to do, since my route from Mama Bear to Papa Bear to Bomb Dog took me 6 miles with over 1100 feet of climbing over very rocky terrain. To say the least, it is pricey price of admission to the Bomb Dog decent descent.
When it comes to my mountain bike skills, I am less than confident. I mainly use the bike for off-season training and fun with friends. Working my way to Bomb Dog, I had to traverse many, many rock gardens. Nope. This is not a few rocks in the trail. The rocks are the trail. Trying to pick the correct line, maintain the right speed, stay in the correct gear, and focusing on not getting a hard pedal strike took a lot of concentration.
Bomb Dog is named after Deputy Floyd, the county’s first bomb dog. His marker is at the start of the descent. The trail works it way back down the mountain, with various jumps and hard turns, all while working my way over more rocks. I pick up more speed than I wanted in certain places and caught a cramp in my right hand from feathering my brakes so much. I did grab some air in a couple of places, but the landings are tricky with the heavy cover leaves over the rocks on the trail. Not only are the rocks hidden; but combined with the leaves, it makes things a bit slippery.
The feeling of isolation is something that comes only with certain ingredients: a large mountain, huge hardwood trees, and miles and miles of trail. Even though there were many cars in the parking lot, I felt as though I had the mountain all to myself. Which, in itself, can be cool and scary: Peace and quiet of isolation or what would I do if I snap my femur? Signs continued to remind me to “ride within my limits,” but how am I to know my limits if I do not go past them? After almost needing a new pair of shorts a few times, I feel that I found that edge and continued to stay in that limitation. Some of the Strava KOMs on some of these sections are shocking to me. I would not mind watching a very skilled rider “bomb” his way down this section.
After three miles of hyperventilating . . . er, enjoying myself in an excited state . . . The trail rolls back into semi-even ground. As I mentioned before, I could not get over how I did not see another rider while I was out, not even industrial or traffic noise. I made it back to my car for my packed lunch, before moving over the other trailhead (Anniston). To me, one trailhead was not very different from the other. With more time, I will eventually just park at one and ride the whole loop between the two . . . something that is very do-able, even for this novice. All of hat being said, if you are ever in the neighborhood of Oxford, Alabama, take some time to give Coldwater a shot. I am almost certain you will enjoy it.