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Mountain biking at Vulture's Knob

By Thomas Doohan | Dix Communications Published: April 11, 2015 1:36 PM
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For the past 20 years, Vulture’s Knob has been synonymous with mountain biking in northeast Ohio.

The mountain bike course, located at 4300 Mechanicsburg Road, sits on 125 acres of land just outside of Wooster. With its steep ravines, creative trails and its unique wood trail structures, the trail has become famous in the local cycling scene.

Rody Walter of 331 Racing, who manages the property and aims to keep it open for public use, said in 2014 alone, 3,200 unique users visited the property.

There are a lot of things contributing to trail’s robust fan base, he said, notably the highly technical riding experience. Walter said the trail is like that because of one main thing — its history.

Most mountain biking courses in the area were built on public land, he said. Vulture’s Knob has been privately owned since its inception.

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Initially a farm, the property was turned into the Wayne County landfill, which Walter said is the reason for the plethora of historic household items strewn across the property. Following its stint as a landfill, he said the property was no longer suitable for development and was eventually purchased by Mark Condry.

“He used it primarily for just enjoying being outdoors,” Walter said. “He did some hunting and trapping.”

In spending time outside, Walter said Condry eventually turned his focus to mountain biking and in the early 1990s, he built a series of small trails on the property with the help of friend Todd Caldwell. “They had no preconceived notion of what a mountain bike trail was,” Walter said.

The two men just got out into the woods and started building. While initially a small network of trail, Vulture’s Knob eventually grew and included many unique features, such as jumps, platforms and other wooden structures.

“That really challenged the rider every time they came out,” Walter said.

In the late 2000s, he said, the property changed hands a couple of times, eventually coming under the purview of 331 Promotions.

It is this history of privatization that has allowed the course to be so technical, Walter said. Courses that are built on public lands, such as a public park, require builders to bend to the will of higher powers with other interests.

“We did not have any such restrictions. Imagination was the only limit,” he said. Had Vulture’s Knob been built on public land, Walter said, “there were many features that never would have been approved.”

Of the 3,200 people who come to Vulture’s Knob, he said, less than 5 percent are actually from Wayne County. People come from all over Ohio and even other states. Walter said some people have traveled across the country to try out “The Knob.”

Keith Miller of Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Cleveland is one of the many people who come to Wooster to ride the single track. He said he makes the trip “as much as possible.”
“For an experienced rider, that is the place you want to go,” Miller said. “You know you’re going to be tested.”
    Despite the majority of users residing outside of Wayne County, many in the local cycling community are very aware of Vulture’s Knob. Orrville Cycling and Fitness and fitness Roger Amstutz said, just like many local bike shops, his shop has supported the trail since its inception.
    “It’s just a fun, fun place,” Amstutz said, adding it has changed over the years. “They find little ways to improve on it.”
One change that has been popular, he said, is the inclusion of bypasses around some of the more technical features on the trail. That feature makes the sport more accessible.
“Cycling is a sport that can be enjoyed from cradle to grave,” Walter said, explaining it can be enjoyed by anyone.
For those who want to try out the sport at Vulture’s Knob, Walter said, first check the  the Vulture’s Knob Facebook page for trail updates, sign in at the cabin, fill out a release form and give a donation if possible. Helmets are mandatory.

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