Competitor jumping over an obstacle with her bike on the Jingle Cross Course

Jingle Cross Cyclocross Races

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of these three days of cyclocross racing, from amateurs to pros, from local to international, from kids to dogs, all on a course and at a venue that has consistently been ranked among the favorite of World Cup racers. Race or heckle under the lights on Friday night, and keep it going all day Saturday and Sunday as racers give everything they’ve got to get up Mt. Krumpit, take their bike-handling skills to the limit on treacherous descents and the sand pit, and deal with the unpredictable conditions Iowa weather throws at them. You’ll be up close and personal with cycling heroes and celebrities, thanks to the Herculean efforts of dedicated local volunteers who make it all happen. There is no other sporting event like cyclocross—come experience it for yourself!

Bicyclists riding through grass at Coralville Creekside Cross

Coralville Creekside Cross

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It is only fitting that the community that hosts the world-famous Jingle Cross Cyclocross Races, including the World Cup, should have a permanent cyclocross course. Completed in 2017, the course hosts races, organized training events, and riders of all kinds any other time it is open. If you’re heading to town for participating in one of the cyclocross events held in the summer and fall, this would be the perfect training or warmup stop. Open July 1 through winter, until spring thaw begins.

Mountain biker riding down rough terrain at Sugar Bottom Trails

Sugar Bottom

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One of the premier mountain biking destinations in Iowa is located in the midst of hardwood forest along the Coralville Lake, just north of Iowa City and between North Liberty and Solon. The Sugar Bottom mountain bike trail system, in the Sugar Bottom Recreation Area, includes roughly 12 miles and 1,400 climbing feet of outstanding hand-built trails. The one-way trails range from beginner to expert and are configured in a stacked loop system. You can enjoy a green ride on a continuous loop through the whole system, or check out the blues and blacks that loop off of the main trail. Along the way, you might hear the calls of barred owls, startle a group of deer or turkeys, or see an osprey working on its nest.

Races are held at the trail system several times a year and draw riders from across the Midwest.

Trail status is updated here and via signage at the trails; fines are imposed for riding closed trails.

Camping is available at the Sugar Bottom Recreation Area, along with disc golf, a beach area, playground, barrier-free asphalt trail, nearby boat access, and more. There is plenty to do between mountain bike rides!

Mountain biker riding through Woodpecker Singletrack Coralville

Woodpecker Single Track

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This urban single track is a newer addition to the cycling amenities in Johnson County. Starting at the Tom Harken Trailhead, the trails meander and flow through a wooded area along Clear Creek; the east and west trail sections are split by Camp Cardinal Boulevard with a connector passing under the street. Featuring mostly green/beginner difficulty level trails and some pump track-like sections, these are fun trails for riders of all types, from kids starting out to the expert looking to squeeze in some convenient training miles. You’ll find lots of solid wooden bridges over water features and wetlands, sandy soil that tends to drain well after rain, and many urban deer that call these woods home.

In the winter, local riders chip in with snowshoeing and stomping to groom snowy trails for fat biking.

Terry Trueblood Recreation Area

Terry Trueblood Recreation Area

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Fat bikes go pretty much anywhere. But the river bottom woods at the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area are the site of the annual I AM FAT (Iowa’s Annual Majestic Fat Ride Around Trueblood) fat bike enduro, and a prime spot in Johnson County for fat bike stomping. Trails are built when possible (depending on fluctuating river levels) and invite exploring.

Road sign off of a flat, paved road with corn fields in the background.

Pancakes, Anyone?

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Wanting to get out on gravel but not feeling like dealing with a bunch of hills? This is the route for you! This route manages to find and string together some of the most flat-like-a-pancake roads Johnson County has to offer. Be warned, however: there’s a total of 3 miles of B road on this route — minimally maintained dirt roads that are lots of fun in good weather and that can get impassably sloppy in wet conditions. You might want to choose another adventure if you’re heading out after any significant precipitation.

Secrest Octagonal Barn in West Liberty, Iowa

Octagonal Barn Loop

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This friendly loop takes you past the 1883 Secrest Octagonal Barn, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The barn is part of a private farmstead just west of the town of Downy, and its unique shape has helped it withstand the storms and winds of the prairie over all those decades. You’ll pedal past this red-painted landmark not quite halfway through this route. About 18 miles into your ride, you’ll arrive at a one-mile stretch of B road, minimally maintained dirt road. Given the regular rectangles of roads in this part of the county, it’s easy to navigate a mile north or south to circumvent that stretch in muddy conditions…or you might end up taking your bicycle for a walk. Choose wisely!

Group of four road bicyclists on the horizon riding past a soybean field on a clear summer day.

Lake and Fields

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If you want to get away from the hustle & bustle but are short on time, this route is for you. You’ll take a combination of streets & paved trail to ride around the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area & a soccer park. Keep an eye out for birds, frogs & other critters through the rec area & soccer park. The lake at the center of the rec area trail was created as a result of sand & gravel quarrying & is, logically enough, named Sand Lake. If you’re in need of refreshment on the way back toward downtown Iowa City, you can stop off at Big Grove Tap Room adjacent to the Riverfront Crossings—plenty of bike parking & seating both indoors and out.

Two road Cyclists passing U of I buildings in Iowa City.

Eastside Townie

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Starting from the Iowa City Bike Library at 700 S Dubuque Street in Iowa City, you’ll pedal north to the corner of the Pentacrest, the cluster of five University of Iowa buildings with the original capitol building at the center, built before Iowa’s capitol was moved to Des Moines. Once you head east from downtown, this route combines local streets and paved bike path to stitch together a relaxed ride through the neighborhoods of east Iowa City. Keep an eye out for the new-and-improved bike facilities—wide sidewalks and bike lanes—the City of Iowa City is continually adding and upgrading along this route.

Single cyclist riding on a paved county road on a summer day.

A Peaceful Roll

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This easy spin will take you through some peaceful countryside on gently rolling hills. On the return, you might enjoy touring downtown Solon and stopping in one of the delicious eateries you’ll find there. You’ll find ample parking at the start-finish, and plenty of amenities nearby.