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!

Large group of gravel bicyclists riding on a foggy day.

Let’s Go Look at the River

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This route begins and ends in downtown Solon, where there are plenty of options for après-ride refreshments. You’ll take a zig-zagging route generally northward, passing through the town of Ely, until reaching a point where you can take a spur to go out and back to visit the Cedar River at beautiful Palisades-Kepler State Park. About your halfway point, this would be a lovely spot for a snack…and reenergizing for the climb back out of the river valley. You’ll retrace the spur portion of the route then head generally east and south until you circle back around to end in Solon.

Gravel road in the fall of the Iowa countryside.

Iowa City Gravel Metric Century

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In October, gravel adventurers can enter the Iowa City Gravel event with fellow gravel grinders—or they can ride the 2018 IC Gravel metric century any time they like on their own. The route starts out amid the small handful of buildings that make unincorporated River Junction, where the Iowa and English rivers converge. The route will take you past the iconic red-painted Secret Octagonal Barn, built in 1883; through West Liberty, with a downtown district on the National Register of Historic Places and a bountiful selection of restaurants, many of which feature foods of Latin and South America; and through a few small towns that, like so many other small American towns, appeared with the expansion of the railroad. The map shows aid stations that are only there on race day, so unless it’s race day, you’re on your own!

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.

Kent Park Entrance Sign in Tiffin, Iowa

Westward Ho!

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This ride will give you a chance to fully experience the rolling topography of western Johnson County and beyond in a lollypop-type route. You’ll head west and west, then turn north. You won’t have to navigate many turns until the route heads back east. At roughly miles 27 and 39, you’ll arrive at towns with some C-store options if you’re in need of refreshment, and in between you’ll pedal along the edge of Kent State Park, a hilly gem in the countryside.

Gravel road bikers riding through the Iowa countryside in the fall.

Getting Away from It All

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If you want to get away from the city for a while, this is your route. So, pack food and water! You’ll know you’re away from it all when you meet your first horse-drawn buggy on the road — you’ll be pedaling through the countryside that one of the largest Amish communities west of the Mississippi calls home. This route will also give your brain a break: miles 29 through 43ish are all on one road with no turns required. Ahhhhh…

Sutliff Bridge spanning the Cedar River

To the Bridge!

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Depart from Solon (easy parking) and head northeast to the historic Sutliff Bridge, a three-span Parker truss design originally built in 1898. The flood of 2008 washed away one span, but the bridge was restored and now provides a unique way for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the Cedar River and enjoy the view. Pro tip: Leave some time for a refreshing break at Baxa’s Tavern at the bridge—cash only! On your return, you might want to take an extra spin around the center of Solon to check out the growing number of restaurants and watering holes.

Bicyclists riding down a paved county road.

A Little Get-Away

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This route is a laid-back pedal through the countryside southeast of Iowa City. You’ll want to bring water and maybe a snack, since you won’t pass much in the way of services along the way. However, at 18.2 miles into the ride, you might want to stop at Scott Church Park to enjoy the swings next to the corn field and the prairie flowers.

Winding road in the lush, green Iowa countryside.

Buggy Traffic Jam

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If you’re escaping city traffic, you’re going to love the traffic on this ride—there are often horse-drawn buggies driven by members of the local Amish community. You’ll climb up Bayertown Road to a ridge offering beautiful views of the rolling countryside, a favorite road of many local cyclists. There’s not much for services on this route, with mostly unincorporated towns along the way, so bring your water and a snack. Easy parking in Hills to start.