Mountain Biking Program History

Blackhawk Mountain Bike Program History


Mountain biking began sporadically at Blackhawk in the late-1980s/early 1990s, on trails that were raked out by hand and ran straight up and down the fall line. Some riders started to race on these trails in the early 1990s, and the Chain Smokers began sponsoring “time trial” races in the mid-1990s. In 2005, Paul Manley, Spencer Fulkerson, and Jerry Long led the mountain bike program, with the support of David Reddington, Michael Waisbrot, Dirk Mason, and David Bell. That year, the Program:  
  • Held the time trial series on Wednesday evenings
  • Sponsored at least two Badger State Games mountain bike races
  • Conducted FORCS training camp
  • Sponsored 2 junior riders in WORS series
  • Several podium finishes from members at State, national and international events
  • Improved trails at club and other local areas including Camrock and Blue Mounds
At that time, their goals were to:
  • Increase trail network by linking with Erdman, Wayne Rounds and Middleton properties (noting at that time that the “trail should be developed with multiple use in mind-X-country, running and mountain biking”)
  • Develop facilities for changing and showering and bike maintenance
By around 2008, David Reddington became the Program Chair, with help from Jason Plansky and Renee Callaway. Time trials continued for the next few years, but interest declined and the races ended around 2010. After that, mountain biking activities were not well organized. At that time, several advanced riders began building expert downhill runs, that included challenging wood structures and gap jumps. Few of these trails had options for less skilled riders, so only a limited number of riders were using them.


In early 2013, the Club began discussions about developing a formal Youth Mountain Biking Program that focused on the mission of the Club—teaching kids how to ride—modeled after the successful First Flight Ski Program. That summer, Jeff Iverson and Kelley Linnan started giving lessons to kids, with a 3-year goal of serving 60 kids each summer. In 2013, 30 kids participated in 2 sessions.


By the summer of 2014, the youth mountain bike program had grown to 65 kids in two sessions, with eight volunteer instructors. At the end of the summer of 2014, a “Mountain Biking Committee” was formed, with Pat Remington and Jeff Iverson (co-chairs), Kelley Linnan (programs), Chad Landowski (trails), William Lorman, and Jon Augspurger. The committee developed a plan that was presented to Board of Directors at the October board meeting. The plan included:
  • Vision: Blackhawk will become a national model as place to introduce kids and families to safe, fun, and fast mountain biking
  • Mission: To develop and promote youth and family mountain biking by developing facilities and by offering instruction and sponsoring competition
The board approved the plan, including a 2-year “Trail Development Plan,” the purchase of a mini-excavator, plans for trail stewards, and a CORP partnership. An “Open House” was hosted to build support for the club’s new mountain bike program and trail plan. To support this plan, contributions of $5,000 each were made by Chris Fortune, of Saris, and Jon Wolff, a long-time ski club member.
The Club contracted with Chad Landowski to build our first professional, machine-built flow trail:
  • "Roller Coaster" was built in the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015. The total cost of this trail was less than $1,000 for Chad’s labor, with the use of Trek’s mini-excavator. Recognizing critical importance of the mini-excavator, Pat Remington purchased a used mini-excavator at a cost of $22,500, in October 2014, with the plan that it would be used by Chad to build more flow trails for 2 years, and then would be sold.


By 2015, we held our 3rd season of youth lessons, which continued to increase in popularity.
During the summer of 2015, Chad Landowski built several of the Club's signature flow trails, including:
  • Howling Wolff,” a 1-way intermediate downhill flow trail, named in honor of Jon Wolff's generous donation.  
  • "Ziggy,“ a 2-way beginner trail so named becase of the 35+ swtichbacks. This trail enables bikers of all ages to return to the top of the west side, and access for beginners to the Creek Trail. 
  • East-West Connector,” designed to ride from west to east, this trail is 2-way to permit riders to go between the east and west sides of the trail system.
  • Expert Jump Line,” constructed for the advanced riders, this trail was only partially completed.   


By 2016, we began the 4th season of youth lessons, which included 60 kids. In 2016, our budget for trail building was about $6,300. We raised about $4,000 through memberships and revenue from our youth programs, and received $17,500 in donations. New trails were added to meet the growing demand for trails, including:
  • "The Pines Trail," built by hand by dozens of volunteers.
  • "The Creek Trail," an "old school" single track trail along Black Earth Creek, built by hand by volunteers (including bridges). 
  • "Beginner Switchbacks" on Erdman Ski Trail were built by Chad Landowski, primarly for cross country skiing, but possibly for mountain biking in the future.


In 2017, we began the 5th season of Youth Lessons, which increased to 87 kids. The Club also began the Blackhawk NICA racing team, led by Brian Heifner, the team grew from 4 riders to 12 riders, gained 3 new coaching parents, gained 3 families that had one child join us with a younger sibling waiting to join, and an additional family of riders with two children on the team. And the popularity of mountain biking continued to increase, to 242 single memberships and 119 family members. We also started a Fat Bike winter program in the winter of 2017-2018, with 37 single members and 12 family members--enabling us to buy a fat bike trail groomer (together with CORP).

With increasing popularity of mountain biking, our revenues continued to increase, with about $1,000 from our youth programs, $13,500 from memberships, and $21,700 in donations. In 2017, we began to track our contributions: These funds enabled us to continue our trail-building program, and we contracted with Chad Landowski (about $32,000 in all) to build the following: 

  • "Twist and Shout," one of our most popular flow trails and one of the best trails in region (or nation!),
  • "The Boardwalk" was built by Chad using rough-sawn black locust, to cross the wetland near the pond.
  • The existing trails were improved, including Howling Wolff and a new "flow" section was added to the East-West Connector Trail.


In 2018, we began the 6th season of Youth Lessons, which increased to 90 kids. The Blackhawk NICA racing team, continued under the leadership of Dirk Horne.  Although the number of mountain bike members remained about the same as in 2017, many of the mountin bike members joined the Club as "year-round" members, enjoying skiing during the winter months. The second season of Fat Biking was a success, selling more memberships, and having enough snow to groom trails. Bikers used the north side of the Erdman Ski Trail to connect to Pleasant View.

Our trail program shifted focus from building new trails, to maintaining and improving the existing trails. One section of the Pines Trail was extended during the annual work day, and we contracted with Backyard Trails to repair a section of the East-West Connector Trail. These costs were covered by membership revenues (about $12,000) and donations ($2,200). 


In 2019, we began the 7th season of Youth Lessons, which continued under the continued leadership of Kelley Linnan. In 2019, we had a new record number of kids participating (97), reaching capacity of all the beginner lessons. The new skills feature was a "hit!"  Under the contuned leadershp of Dirk Horne, the NICA race team increased riders with 31 on the team, and an average of 17 riders participating in each race. And for first time, we partnered with Ninja Bike Camps, and held bike camps in June and September, in partnership with The June camp was sold out, but the September camp was rained out. 

To meet the needs of our youth and adult educational programs, we contracted with Jeremy Witek to build a new area to help riders improve their biking skills. Our revenue from increaseing memberships (almost $20,000), and $5,000 in donations, plus unspent funds from previous years, we were able to contract with Jeremy for about $45,000 to builld and improve three traiils:

  • "The Skills Park" has become the new "centerpiece" of Blackhawk's trail system, with progressive beginner, intermediate, and advanced lines. 
  • "The Pines Trail" was improved with the addition of another loop, that climbs to the southeast corner of the property, has a fun beginner jump line, and includes a wood feature.
  • "The Switchbacks" were brought back into use after years of being in disrepair. It is built as an advanced climb, but can be ridden in either direction. It includes a frigid spring-fed swimming pool at the bottom. 


Despite the COVID pandemic, we were able to continue to sponsor lessons and our race team, and build and improve the mountain bike trails. Our 8th season of Youth Lessons, continuing under the leadership of Kelley Linnan, was modified to a single session, and involved almost 100 kids. Under the contuned leadershp of Dirk Horne, the NICA race team practiced and participated in COVID-safe events, with more than 30 racers. And for second time, we partnered with Ninja Bike Camps, and held bike camps in June and August, and October, in partnership with These camps will continue in 2020. 

We also worked with two experienced trail builders in the summer of 2021. Jeremy Witek returned for the second year and built 2 new trails in the Gully section, on the west side, and Chad Landowski returned to build a new beginner trail connecting the East and West sides of our trail system:

  • "The Gully Flow Trail" is an intermediate downhill trail with several "table top" features (now called "Be Happy").
  • "The Gully Climb" is an intermediate trail for riders who want to climb back to the top of the West side as quickly as possible. 
  • "The West Connector" is a new 1-way trail for riders who want to ride from the East to the West side of our system. The old Connector Trail is now 1-way, from West to East. 


In 2021, despite the COVID pandemic, we were able to return to our our lessons and NICA race team (in compliance with public health guidelines) and continued our other lessons and programs for members.

Regarding our trails, we contracted with Jeremy Witek for a major project to remove hundreds of dead ash trees throughout the property. He also improved Howling Wolff, and revised the new Gully Flow Trail (now called "Be Happy"), and improved the “Gully Jump Line.” We also improved the Fenceline trail, connecting Ziggy Up to the West Trailhead. 


We continued to provide youth educational programs (led by Linnan), hosted Ninja Mountain Bike Skills camps, and partnered with local NICA mountain bike racing programs to provide a venue for training. We also sponsored the Hugh Jass fat bike race and provided “girls-only” GRIT mountain bike program. 

For our trails, volunteers designed and built a "Playground" green trail, at the East Trailhead. We also printed large maps and posted on kiosks and on website and added more signs throughout. Due to weather delays, we were not able to contract with Witek in the summer of 2022. 

We established the Mountain Bike committee that met monthly, and completed a review of injuries, and a study on injuries. We also made a Blackhawk Mountain Bike Private Group on Facebook, and improved the Mountain Bike page on the Club’s website.


In 2023, we continued to delivered high quality youth and adult educational programs and events, including youth educational programs, “Ninja Mountain Bike Skills” camps, and serving as a local training venue for area NICA race teams. We also developed and supported several mountain bike events, including the Hugh Jass fat bike race and the “girls-only” GRIT mountain bike programs. 

In addition, we improved and maintained safe and sustainable mountain bike trails, including: 
   -Restored original trail surfaces on several trails, including the East and West Connector, Twist and Shout & Howling Wolff, Roller Coaster, and Be Happy.
   -Improved several trail designs for better rider experience, including Ziggy Up, Playground, the Springs Trail, a rewind trail on Howling Wolff. 
   -Improved the open field south of the east parking lot for youth instruction and added a dedicated “rewind trail” for the skills park. 
   -Built new skills features, including a “Strider Pump Track" near the east parking lot, an advanced Pump Track in the Skills Park, wood skills features in the pines, and a new “Drop Skills Feature” near the top of Hills 5/6.  

Finally, we improved communications and coordination within the Club and community, by meeting monthly with all program leaders (education, race teams, events, trail crew, patrol), providing information in our summer newsletter, continuing the mountain bike Ambassador Program, establishing a Bike Patrol, led by Rob Kudrle, with regular presence on the trails, and receiving generous donations from Walt Meanwell, Jerry Anderson, and from the estate of Dirk Racine. 

Mountain Biking