Fat Tire Fun @ Paynes Creek Trails + New Shimano Hydro Brakes

After neglecting my MTB for months … and not really giving it a good workout for even longer, I finally found a gap in the schedule to try out the trails at Paynes Creek.

These trails are located at the Paynes Creek COE Rec Area on the Georgia side of Lake Hartwell.  Jud Turpin / SORBA / COE and all the volunteers have been busy working in about 9? miles of trail into the shoreline of the lake, and I wanted to see what magic they’ve been able to accomplish.

Here’s their Facebook page link for more info.

The drive was about 1 hour from home, and with a total car time of 2 hours for a 2 hour MTB ride I can say it was totally worth it.  Coming from someone who doesn’t like the hyper-technical / rock garden / big drops / eroded trail experience but gravitates towards something with XC flow, here are some thoughts from the trails:

  • Excellent flow.  Sweeping curves that let you get into a great rhythm
  • Generally very smooth hardpack surface.  About 80-90% of the trail is devoid of crazy rocks or roots, letting you just hammer through the fast stuff if you want.  In fact I wouldn’t be afraid to ride my Cyclocross bike on these trails in a pinch
  • Great use of elevation.  The trail winds along the shoreline but combines that with towards / away from the lake, so you alternate climbing and descending as you surf the contours
  • Excellent trail design.  You know these guys have read their IMBA manual and used pro trail building techniques.  Switchbacks use a wide base, drops into gulleys are routed just right to avoid that “V” shape sharp transition, and bench cut techniques abound.

Overall these guys get a 10/10 from me.  Paynes Creek deserves comparison to Tsali, FATS and Fort Yargo State Park, some of my favorite trails in the area.  I will definitely be back.  Now if only this were closer to home…

Here’s my overall ride data (Strava Link).  I managed to squeeze in 2 hours of ride time, completing the loop twice.  It was great to go around the second time, having more confidence from the first “scouting” run…

Pictures from the day:

At the entrance to the trails.  Parking is shared with the boat ramp.


Info kiosk.  Make a donation please!


Trail map doesn’t appear to include the newest section (Heartbreak Ridge) which is across the campground road from the main trail.


The start…


Check which way you need to go…


You’re treated to this type of trail for most of the loop.  Nice visibility, good lines, hardpack…


Signs indicating direction for the newest section.


Nice views of the lake abound…


Sunset was very pretty with the leaves changing.  Running out of daylight!


Making the ride even more sweet was the fact that I had ditched my pad-rubbing / hard to adjust / impossible to bleed Magura brakes and picked up a full set of Shimano Deore brakes from Chain Reaction Cycles.  Odd that the UK online store had better prices (including shipping) than anything state-side.

I installed and set these up a few days before, but suffice to say they were absolutely cake to get right.  Pad centering is just about a brainless affair, as the caliper mounts allow for side-side play in your rotor position.


Brake feel was fantastic as well.  As I gained confidence in the second lap, I was easily managing available braking traction.  It was a lot of fun to blast into a descent and squeeze the lever, getting just enough to make the rear want to lift and then let off a bit.


If you want to save cash the Deore hydro group is the way to go over SLX or above.  You get plenty of the goodies and action but just pay a weight penalty.

First impressions are great, I’ll be watching to see how this holds up for longevity and when / if I’ll need a brake bleed.  From what I’ve read in the manuals it looks much simpler than the Magura nuttiness I had to deal with.

Let’s hit the trail again soon!




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