Skill Rating: Black 3
Sugar Bowl has claimed more scalps from Mountainbikers than any other trail at Logwood Bike Haven. This could be because it does seem to be an all-time favourite with lots and lots of riders, or it could be because the first kilometre of the trail often lull riders into a false sense of security.
You will enter from halfway up Heartbreak Hill.
It has occurred to those who contemplate such things, that perhaps the positioning of the entrance (which faces immediately downhill) has contributed to such high numbers of legless and lungless riders heading in to ride Sugar Bowl, who later admit that it was completely beyond their current skill level.
The downhill is very fast and sketchy, with pea sized stones all over the trail’s twisty hard-pack. As if this isn’t enough there are mounds every so often that can launch the unwary rider into the stratosphere (OK so it’s fun, but those flat landing are killers, and the front wheel landings are a recipe for disaster).
A wooden bridge leads past Loch Ness on the left and straight onto another of these launch mounds, which is further complicated by the fact that the landing is a wooden bridge too. Trouble is that this sounds like fun, rather than a certain way to lose skin…even to me who has already donated a healthy amount to this trail.
Grass plains ensue, long golden grass. Rumours of lions knocking riders from bikes persist.
The trail snakes over a larger mound in the middle of this sea of grass and then really becomes serpentine; between trees and over rainy season streambeds before climbing a steep bank through a tight switch back. It is from this bank onwards that things go completely pear-shaped.
The traverse up the bank is ok, but at the top you need to duck under a monster tree without clipping out and then take a very knarly right hand 90 degree bend that drops off the side of a cliff at the same time. If this sounds like fun then Sugar Bowl (and therapy) is for you!
This will leave you travelling at Warp Factor 7 across a (non-existent to the eye) stone bridge between trees and over roots, through more lion infested long grass and then over a couple of wooden bridges and onto another huge bank.
Taking the left hand fork here will drop you (quite literally) over a rough vert wall and through a very tight and very big berm onto Maelstrom just after the long bridge known as Bill’s Folly.
Continuing on straight will take you to the top of the smooth and fast descent known as Don’s Folly (you will have to ask Don from JMBC why it is called that). At this point your trusty steed will feel jet propelled and no doubt have a mind and destination of its own. Hang on and enjoy the journey as you hurtle out into the bush and loop through a couple of bermed turns before starting the long grind up the bank on the transverse climb that leaves you teetering on the top of a steep root strewn decent onto the infamous Sugar Bowl Circular Bridge.
This nasty thing extends in a half circle out into the wetlands area. Mistakes here are messy rather than painful. Think mud. Think deep mud. Think deep mud with critters in it! Think spiky African water plants. Think monsters.
The exit of this bridge climbs to a height of about 3 meters…this is actually good because you will be climbing a vertical dirt wall the same height when you come off, and without lot and lots of speed you will not get up it.
At the top of this climb is a remarkably polite left bend that leaves you swooping down (rather than the normal plummeting) the other side and out onto the plains again. This section of trail looks like a climb but riders will gather speed here.
You were warned!
A series of plank crossings and bridges, climbs and descents, ramps and jumps (including a couple of jumps across running streams) and one final vicious climb will put you back on the Main Drag with still some climbing to do before reaching the top of Heartbreak Hill.