10-25-07 // Riding in the Big Apple

Got a chance to ride in New York City earlier in the week. If you’ve never done it, do it. Don’t come complaining to me when you get smacked by a bus, but do it anyway.

Hopping a train into the city (I came in from Connecticut for the day) wasn’t nearly as much of a pain in the ass as I thought it would be. Just wait until off-peak hours (peak is about 6:30-9:00AM and 4:00 to 7:00 PM) and it’s a piece of cake.

Metro North shuttle

After putzing around all day, hitting some slickrock slabs in Central Park and grabbing a bite at a nice little deli (which are *everywhere*), my compadre Jeff Lockwood and I rode up to Highbridge Park at about 190th street. (See the Sept/Oct Urban Trails feature for more, or click HERE)


On our way uptown we passed a sobering reminder of what can go wrong with city riding: a “White Bike” memorial to a cyclist who was killed by a truck, in the form of a painted white bike chained to a street sign near the spot, along with a plaque.

Ghost Bike

I think the park is techincally in Harlem but the park’s web site says Manhattan so who am I to argue. En route we rode past 125th street in Harlem, where the first black president, William Jefferson Clinton, now maintains an office.

Nothing quite like riding your bike like Harlem in a full mountain bike getup and fairly expensive mountain bikes. It was all good though, and we were glad we had the right equipment when we found the trails.

Actually, we had the right equipment for the trails, but were undergunned on one particular trail and not prepared for the dirt jump park. One local ripper, Derek (I think his name was), was holding court on a steel single speed 26-inch dirt jumper with a modified new Fox 36 TALAS with the fancy new QR that had essentially been converted to 100-millimeter Float fork. Avant guard dirt jumping in Harlem. Gotta love it.

Dirt Jumps at Highbridge

Highbridge Park is a long, rocky, off-camber swath of undeveloped real estate, and like Morningside Park and some other parks like it in the area, it’s no wonder it’s not developed. The terrain is quite burly, and one trail in particular may as well have been in Whistler. No joke.

Highbridge trailhead

I would have taken more pictures of the acutal trail but mostly I was just lazy and also we didn’t really know who was going to pop out of the woods around the next corner. On the last climb out of the park, on a particularly techy section I had to get off and hike, I found a friendly camo-clad bum lazing at the top of the hill. “You’re in the wrong gear!,” his critique began… and continued until we were out of earshot. Nice guy.

Jeff tells me the park is a lot like some tails he rides in Philly, especially after about a mile in, when we spotted our first empty crack baggie among the assorted trailside (and on-trail) trash.

you can't have just one

So the trash was a bit of a nuisance, but when we needed water all we had to do was pop out and pedal a half block to the nearest bodega. Try that at your local trail. Such are the ups and downs of urban trail riding.

courtesey GoogleEarth

At the end of the day we’d logged about 30 miles, inhaled a lot of exhaust fumes, had eaten well and bot picked up some weird rash on our legs that has since gone away. All in all a hell of a way to see the city. I’ll post some post-happy hour video of ripping through Times Square when I get a chance to process the files.