Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Bethpage State Park

I almost called this post "The Blah Witch Project." Almost as horrifying as getting chased around the woods by supernatural nastiness, is riding around, bored, desperately trying to find the trails. That's pretty much what happened today. Bethpage had been on my radar to try out as it's one of the few local riding spots with a bike rental store close by. So I hit the trains again and made my way out to Long Island. The weather was overcast. Flat grey light but thankfully little rain. My ride ; a GT hardtail. Generic, and long stemmed, but it did the job.

Following the shop owner's descriptions, I made my way into Bethpage and found what appeared to be the trail head. Except there were lots of them. The place is very odd. There's the choice of a signed fireroad loop or a spaghetti mess of trails in the centre. A few random trail markers only add to the confusion. So I spent the afternoon trying to make sense of the tangled singletrack, desperately looking for flow. It didn't happen. Coupled with the flat terrain and constantly branching tracks, I just rode around getting frustrated. A few trail features and jumps here and there a tantalising hint that people DO ride here.... I just couldn't figure out what and how. Still, it keeps everything bubbling along. Not a killer workout but enough to stop my legs from withering. And that Norcal singletrack will be all the more sweeter once I'm done with these grey, flat New York trails.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Clarity at 100ft

Precariously stood on ladders, in a metal basket 100ft above New York's East 42nd St gives great moments of clarity. Desperately hoping this craziness would increase my fear threshold, I tweak my camera - all in the name of movie magic, and allow my mind to wander. Stuck in this concrete jungle for a few weeks and I'm already desperately missing Norcal and it's lovely sunshine, illuminating miles and miles of beautiful outdoor goodness. I realise I'm no longer a city type. I always thought I was. But even in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, I feel a bit caged. This change in make up has come about because of mountain biking.

As another gust of wind hits the crane I'm balanced in and primal fear punches me in the gizzards, I distract myself by thinking about other ways that mountain biking has changed my life. I used to mock and scoff at friends who would spend hundreds, thousands on bikes. Last year I happily bought a ride that cost more than my first car. Why? Because the amount of joy (not to mention health) it brings is priceless. I also used to question why my riding friends "needed" several bikes. I now own 3 and could easily add another 2 to the stable (a 29er carbon hardtail and DJ bike in case you wondered.) But adding material possessions isn't life changing. It's not important (although you need at least ONE ride to partake.) What has been significant is how this sport has enriched relations with my fellow man. I can now indulge in this hobby with those mates that I used to mock. I've met their riding buddies and made friends of those people too. I've also introduced a few dudes to the sport and seen them go through the natural, and rapid, progression from idle curiosity to out and out grinning obsession with the dirt! Plus, MTB types tend to be good people. So, meeting people on the trail often leads to shared rides, then shared beers and another friendship cemented. Great stuff. All this, and you get to spend quality hours observing nature at it's very best.

But, as much as this wonderful sport gives, it also takes away. Aside from the blood, sweat and dollards, it can give a short sharp reminder that it's no cake walk. Respect is due and each ride is a fine line between grinning lunacy and a trip to ER. As poor Chris found out racing this year's DH course at Sea Otter. A quick spillage and broken collar bone later and it's a lengthy spell out of the saddle for him. Get well soon Chris. By the time you're well I'll be out of NYC and ready to share the dirt again :o)

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


It's been almost three weeks since my last ride. Aside from a few excrutiatingly dull stints on the hotel gym stationary bike I've been all but inactive - ride wise. The fear of my legs withering away right as race season builds up, plus a genuine prevailing sadness from missing the trails, caused me to hunt out some dirt amongst the concrete sprawl of New York. After some googling I found Cunningham Park, in Queens. A couple of train rides later and I was plonked right outside the Peak Bikes bike shop, where my trusty rental Kona steed awaited!

The weather looked threatening. But as a wise man once said, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." It was either explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes or my friend Aaron Aubrey who coined that phrase. Either way, they're both right. So armed with nice new waterproofs and a PB&J sando I set off to experience shredding, east coast style. Cunningham Park has been transformed by local MTB enthusiasts to provide riders with a whole trail network in an area that is pretty devoid of any real riding opportunities. As such, it has a very man made feel. The constant traffic roar and broken beer bottle litter, also a constant reminder that you're not exactly escaping into nature's playground. However, the trail builders have done a lot, a hell of a lot, with what they have. Although relatively small, Cunningham Park provides a good few hours of riding fun. With no significant elevation change, the rolling nature of the trail dictates serious cranking to keep any sort of speed and flow. Coupled with the twisty, often burmed singletrack and many technical sections, a great ride and workout is guaranteed. Just what I need!

The trails are graded with varying levels of difficulty. Although the red (hardest) trails offer little in terms of scares, there are a few gnarly man made drops and rock gardens to keep things spicy. The trails are split down the middle by a freeway. Each half of the park offering slightly different, but equally fun riding. Plus, each side has its own pump track and dirt jump park! Great fun. A little oasis of dirt that should keep my fitness and kung fu bubbling nicely until I get back to familiar trails.