Traditional mountain bike trails are quickly going the way of the 26-inch wheel. Rather, the trails are evolving. Designers are building more sweeping berms, jumps, and technical features into their singletrack, which definitely ramps up the thrill factor while also improving riders’ skills. It’s happening across the country and even here in St. Louis thanks to GORC Gravity — a new subgroup within 21-year-old Gateway Off-Road Cyclists (GORC).

Working with local land managers, GORC Gravity is focused on the design and implementation of modern flow trails and trail features in the St. Louis region for everyone to enjoy. The initial idea for GORC Gravity developed as longtime friends Dave Schulz and Steve Friedman traveled the country over the past few years to ride their mountain bikes in other, more cutting-edge areas.

Schulz’s experience began with his first job at a bike shop. An injury as an adult prevented him from riding a bike, but he bought “an aggressive e-bike, and it turned my whole world around.” Friedman began mountain biking in the ’90s, and he raced BMX before that. He has participated in downhill and enduro races around the country.

“We traveled all over the US and saw what kind of trails are out there and what was happening with Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas as it developed into a mountain bike destination,” said Schulz. “It made us wonder if we could have a similar atmosphere and experience in St. Louis, without the travel.”

The duo discussed starting a for-profit and a nonprofit, says Schulz. Then, GORC came to mind. The nonprofit is responsible for building more than 95 miles of multi-use trails in the St. Louis area. Its members designed the trails with approval from park and land manages, and they maintain them with help from volunteers.

GORC has been building cross-country trails for 20 years and has everything established. Why not complement them?” said Friedman. “We met with [GORC board member] Bryan Adams to share our ideas and explain how we saw the sport and trail design changing and riders’ expectations evolving.”

Adams was receptive. About the same time, Adam Scott, owner of the Mountain Bike Shed in Eureka, Missouri, was becoming more involved as a member of GORC. He’s passionate about mountain biking and building modern trails to bring more kids and other riders and styles into the St. Louis mountain biking community.

“I attended GORC meetings for about a year before I opened Mountain Bike Shed,” said Scott. “And I volunteered to be a trail steward for Chubb Trail. Most of the trails around St. Louis are cross-country trails, and I got excited when GORC started talking about directional [downhill] trails.”

Scott connected with Schulz and Friedman, and together they co-founded GORC Gravity. “In April 2019, we threw a party at the Mountain Bike Shed,” Scott recalled. “We asked for the community to support building a skills park in Eureka, and we announced GORC Gravity. We raised $5,000 that night.”

Since launching GORC Gravity, 75 new members have joined GORC, Scott says.

The new skills park in Eureka, which is expected to be announced soon, became the first large-scale project GORC Gravity assisted on, connecting city officials with professional trail builders, offering recommendations, and helping facilitate the construction process.

GORC Gravity volunteers working on Bluff View (a.k.a. Zombie) Trail in Wildwood, Mo.

Last summer, GORC Gravity also built a tabletop jump on Bluff View Trail (a.k.a. Zombie Trail). “Generally, at any GORC trail build, there are about 10 people plus those who planned the event,” said Schulz. “There were 40 or more people to help build the tabletop.”

Since then, the tabletop has been the site of numerous meetups and organized photo shoots, proving how stoked local riders are for more progressive opportunities on local trails.

The GORC Gravity crew isn’t slowing down. On September 30, team members joined community representatives in presenting plans for building a pump track in St. Charles County. Officials approved the plans, and now the largest paved pump track in the country is under construction at the Youth Activity Park in Dardenne Prairie.

In addition, GORC Gravity representatives are consulting with city officials in Ironton, Missouri, on how they can develop downhill trails to increase tourism and turn their town into an outdoor destination. Ironton is about 90 minutes south of downtown St. Louis, an easy drive for local riders.

“We stand a chance to change a major piece of our community,” said Schulz. “If you come to St. Louis and ride our trails, you’re probably here because of something else. Our trails are fast and fun, but they’re missing that modern design. We want to give out-of-towners a reason to come here and local riders a reason to stay here rather than travel to Bentonville, or Indiana, or even Colorado every weekend.”

Author: Nick Brennan is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.
Lead Image: Dave Schulz by Alex Noguera.