When the weather turns cold and wet outside, things tend to heat up at Ramp Riders. So it was on the Tuesday night that a group of friends and I stepped into the wildly unscripted hangout, formerly a Falstaff Brewery warehouse in the Benton Park neighborhood of St. Louis.
About 20 skateboarders, BMXers and scooter riders shared the 30,000-square-feet of contoured structure, taking turns on the handmade ramps, walls and rails. While there were some nods and chatter exchanged between the divergent groups, mostly each one chose a small area of the “House of Shred” and did its own thing.
I’m not a skilled skateboarder and never really have been, despite a brief fling with the burgeoning sport in the late ’80s. Instead, I’d brought a borrowed Specialized P.3 dirt jumper and at first found myself just standing and watching as my more experienced buddies hopped right into the flow, hitting slopes of all shapes and sizes.
To be honest, I felt a little nervous. On single-track I’m a solid intermediate-level rider, but it had been about 25 years since I last hucked a wood ramp in my neighbor’s yard.
Of course, like skateboarding, biking is largely a mental sport. I took a deep breath and dropped in on the least intimidating feature: a “street” course with mild gradients and some small curbs and boxes. Taking a cue from my friend, Jay, I worked on holding a manual while rolling over a “drive” box — so called, I learned later, because it has a ramp on each end of a platform, so you can generate a lot of speed.
Laughing and heckling each other, we soon moved over to the adjacent zone with three lines of steep rollers and ramps running side-by-side like slalom course on steroids. We’d progressed from baby-bear to mama-bear territory, and it took me a few minutes to psyche myself up again. My flannel whipped around my waist as I bombed up and down the easier line — or, as I like to remember it, the one without the lethal step-up jump at the end.
Our adrenaline pumping, we branched out into other parts of the warehouse. The middle space was dominated by big berms, quarter pipes, spine ramps and vert, everywhere vert. Most of us, being primarily mountain bikers, approached them cautiously.
I’m not going to lie, I ended up crashing more than once that evening, sometimes in spectacular goofball fashion. Most often this happened because I wasn’t going hard enough, not because the park was too technical or unsafe. The pros know: you just gotta send it!
We spent the later part of the evening watching the star of our group, Sean, do just that. As he tail-whipped and 360-ed has way from one giant ramp to the next, it was hard not to be impressed by the skill — and the cajones — it took for him to let it fly, full papa-bear style.
The seven us finally left when the park closed at 10 p.m., dropping our rental helmets at the pro shop, which also handles check-in and repairs. Admission is $10; $65 gets you a 10-session pass. You can even rent out the whole facility if you want, or sign up for a beginner session or private lessons to get your wheels under you.
No matter how old or skilled you are, you can’t help but feel like an action star at Ramp Riders, from street level to the highest obstacle you dare to soar.
Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.
Photos: By Mikey Swenson, courtesy of Ramp Riders.