Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Helmsburg Loop + Yellowwood State Forest mixed terrain

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

On Monday, my friend Dave and I rode a modified version of the Helmsburg Loop we’ve ridden before. In the past, nearly all the riding I’ve done with Dave has been mountain biking, but it was a lot of fun to tackle some mixed terrain with him this time around. We added some trail and gravel road riding through Yellowwood State Forest, which made the loop longer, spicier, and more fun.

Here’s the route and profile. The ride ended up being about 43 miles. TopoFusion claims the climbing was 3891 feet but once again, this seems high.

View Helmsburg, Yellowwood, Lake Lemon 09/07/2009 in a larger map


I rode to/from Dave’s house, adding nearly 16 extra miles to my ride — but those were fairly flat, easy, paved miles on State Road 45. These extra miles are included in the route.

This was an interesting ride because Dave rode a full-suspension mountain bike with semi-slick tires, and I was on my Surly Long Haul Trucker with much narrower and slicker tires. This put me at an advantage on paved or smooth gravel roads, and him at an advantage on loose gravel and trails. Both setups worked out well, for this kind of riding, despite how different they were.



Once Dave and I connected, we rode further out 45, and turned onto Tulip Tree Road, a very nice gravel road that follows the top of a ridge.







After a few miles of gravel, we turned onto a faint trail that went straight down a steep hill. It was eroded, overgrown, and muddy. I suspect that Dave chose this route specifically so he could see what the Trucker is capable of, after hearing me talk about how great it is on mixed terrain. This trail was pushing it to the limits, mainly because my slick tires didn’t have enough traction for solid braking. The bike handled everything well, but I would like to get some knobby tires for it, at some point. After that trail, we spent a few minutes on another trail covered with freshly-graded, chunky gravel.




Soon, we reached Yellowwood Lake Road, a gravel road that runs through Yellowwood State Forest. I requested that we head toward the campground so I could top off my water bottles, but we saw the park office and stopped there instead. This still took us slightly off course, but only a little bit. I also took advantage of the break to get a shot of our bicycles together. It was really cool that we were able to ride together despite our completely different setups. I think that mixed terrain is a great equalizer in that way. No bike is perfectly suited to all portions of a ride like this, and each has its advantages in different situations.


From here, we rode 3 or 4 miles of mostly-uphill gravel. It was a more gradual climb than I anticipated, and never terribly steep until we neared the top.


Eventually, we reached the top of the hill and turned onto Lanam Ridge Road. From this point, the rest of the ride was on paved roads. The riding was still varied, though, from some rolling ridgetop hills to a couple of blistering descents, a couple of good climbs, and some flat riding along Lake Lemon.









6 Responses to “Helmsburg Loop + Yellowwood State Forest mixed terrain”

  1. Bill Lambert Says:

    Beautiful photos as usual. That’s pretty country down there.

  2. Tim Says:

    Dang! No fair! Already big-ish mileage out in the IN mixed-terrain landscape. Looks marvelous.

  3. Chris Says:

    I used to want to ride where you used to live. Now I want to ride where you now live. Keep posting those great photos.

  4. Myles/ rattrappress Says:

    I never had the chance to take my Trucker out on gravel roads, but it seemed to handle short off-road shortcuts just fine. I see that you replaced the front fender. Hopefully you won’t have to deal with cracks again.

  5. Dave Says:

    What a great ride. The Trucker did great, as did the pilot. That eroded singletrack downhill was no piece of cake, and you navigated it with relative ease. We’ll find more mixed terrain out that way, for sure. I didn’t know you were taking so many pictures – these are great!

  6. Bob & Pat Gregoire Says:

    Always enjoy Michael”s blogs that are sent to us by Dave. Great pics, per usual, and the narrative is super.
    Keep headin’ down the trails, you two!. Dad And Mom Greg.

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