Riding on a wooden bridge wearing the Bike Part Mandala Tank

Balm Boyette: Single Speed Adventure!

In the middle of enduring a cold and wet winter, we decided to head to Florida for a mountain biking vacation. As an added bonus, I just completely upgraded my spare-parts single speed bike (couldn't pass up a PinkBike deal on some i9 wheels), and I was eager to test it out on a new trail system. We settled on Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve (link to SWAMP's page, the local mountain bike club, a great resource of info), which is located just a few miles away from Alafia State Park, where we had ridden on a previous trip to Tampa.

Balm Boyette is known for its challenging and varied terrain, and it didn't disappoint. The trail system consists of multiple loops and features everything from tight switchbacks to steep climbs and fast descents. The trails are also marked with signs that add to the overall character of the park.

One sign in particular caught our attention early on in our ride: "gear down." I relished the opportunity to tackle whatever climb happened to be around the corner on my single speed. I made it to the top with ease, but not without feeling the burn in my legs. For those unfamiliar with single speed bikes, "stand and mash" is a term used to describe a specific riding style where the rider stands up on the pedals and uses their body weight to power through steep climbs or difficult terrain. As a single speed rider myself, I find that this technique is especially useful when tackling punchy climbs like the ones found at Balm Boyette. We encountered one more sign like this on our ride, but both climbs proved to be relatively easy if you didn't let the distraction of the sign get in the way.

Single speed next to sign displaying "gear down"

As we rode through the park, we were struck by the natural beauty of our surroundings. The trails weave in and out of shaded forests with fern-covered floors and traverse around several picturesque lakes. The flowy sections and punchy climbs were especially enjoyable and kept us on our toes throughout the ride.

Steep trails among the ferns

We couldn't leave without checking out the infamous "Ridgeline" trail that every bike shop in the area recommended. It seems like every trail system has its own "Ridgeline" trail - I'm not sure who did it first, but we were eager to see what the hype for this version was all about. And I have to say, it did not disappoint.

The Ridgeline trail at Balm Boyette was a blast to ride, with plenty of flowy sections separated by steep features to make my quads burn. I'm not sure if it's the best Ridgeline trail out there, but it was fun to ride on the single speed – If you're ever in the area, be sure to give it a try!

Signage at the start of "Ridgeline" the must-ride trail

We also encountered several fun animals during our ride. Tortoises were basking in the sun and mowing down on some grass in some of the open sections leading up to the trails, and we saw a few armadillos scurry along and across the trail in front of us. It was a nice reminder that we were riding in a natural and wild environment.

One of the tortoises that we encountered

Overall, we found the trail system to be well-maintained and marked, with only a few sections requiring us to consult Trailforks for directions, which was very accurate. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to ride all of the trails, missing mostly greens and connectors, but this gives us a great excuse to come back and explore the rest of the park.

In conclusion, Balm Boyette Scrub Preserve is a must-visit destination for any mountain biker looking for a challenging and rewarding ride in central Florida. With its unique signs, varied terrain, and natural beauty, it's a park that shouldn't be missed.

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