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  1. #1
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    Amherst area riding?

    Hi everyone,

    I'm heading to Amherst for college this fall, and I'd love to get some info on riding in the Amherst area, if it exists. I talked to the guys at a bike shop in town last year, and they didn't make it sound like there's much riding around.

    Thanks for the help!

  2. #2
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    Lol.

    Amherst and the surrounding area has some of the best riding in the state. Maybe New England. I'm pretty sure some relatively recent threads have addressed this, but here's a start:

    Earl's Trails
    Batchelor Street
    Facing Rock WMA
    Robinson State Park
    Charlemont
    Hawley
    Wendell
    Wilbraham
    Monson

    The list goes on and on. Check this out:

    Strava Global Heatmap

    (centered on Batch and Earls)

    Have fun.
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  3. #3
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    Are you Nemba member? Think about joining. We are all about riding and digging dirt. Thunder mountain has been getting some great reviews. Both xc and downhill. Go talk to Harold Green when you go there. Really some great riding. Really. All over that whole area.

  4. #4
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    That's great to hear! How far are all these trails from Amherst - riding distance, or do you have to drive to trail heads?

    Also, what are the trails like? I'm going to buy a new bike soon, and this might help me decide what to get.

    EDIT: I'll definitely join NEMBA too.

  5. #5
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    Get an XC bike. A hardtail with a 100mm travel fork will do the job nicely.

    Earls/B-street is the closest and is a bit far to bike to on a mountain bike but certainly doable. And the PVTA bus also goes right through there on its way to Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley. Most everything else you'd need to drive to. But if you study the heatmap you'll see that there are also trails just to the North of the UMass campus and in Pelham.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheArbez View Post
    Also, what are the trails like? I'm going to buy a new bike soon, and this might help me decide what to get.
    Tight, twisty, rocky & rooty. Not a lot of sustained elevation, lots of little ups and down. Like riding over every third car at a used car lot. In a word: "punchy"

  7. #7
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    I prefer full sus for the rocks and roots. Santa Cruz 5010 or Bronson, Spesh Enduro. But since you're young a hardtail will probably work.
    My name is Chris and I ride a Ripmo now.

  8. #8
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    Good to know. The top of my list right now is the Norco Sight, Transition Scout, and Devinci Troy. Sounds like all three would work well. How's Thunder Mountain (I think I'm remembering that correctly)?

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    I've only ridden there back before it officially opened, but it was sweet, and all reports I've read seem to agree. There are also some great XC trails in that area, with bigger hills than what you find in this part of the valley.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheArbez View Post
    Good to know. The top of my list right now is the Norco Sight, Transition Scout, and Devinci Troy. Sounds like all three would work well. How's Thunder Mountain (I think I'm remembering that correctly)?

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    Transition Scout is a really fun bike. That would work well especially on the XC stuff.

    Thunder Mountain and the XC trails around it (Charlemont Trails), are my favorite place to ride. However, the hits up there can get pretty big, especially in the bike park. Something with >=140mm travel and a low center of gravity would be my choice. At the same time, you'll want something that can climb, too. I've seen a few Trek Remedies up there both in and out of the park and it looked like people were having a blast.

    I myself am on a specialized camber. Great fun going up, a little under gunned going down.
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  11. #11
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    I went to UMass and rode TONS while I was there, straight from campus. The on-campus, student run bike shop was really a haven for greasy MTB kids. I recommend you get involved with the UMass Bike Co-Op. You can ride right from campus to Amethyst Brook, Robert Frost trail, Jugglers Meadow, the stuff around Puffers Pond, and easily access lots of trails in Pelham, Bull Hill, Mt. Toby - all from campus, without a car and just a mile or two on the road. TONS to ride (and that's just directly surrounding campus).

  12. #12
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    Sweet! I'll actually be going to Hampshire next fall, so opposite side of Amherst I think. Would I still be able to join the Bike Co-op?

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    If you're at Hampshire, then you're in an even better location - the Notch in the Holyoke Range has nearly 35-40 miles of singletrack (between Bachelor Street and Earls Trails) and it abuts campus. Further, the athletic directors at Hampshire (Earl and his wife Glenna) cut......Earl's trails. If you introduce yourself to Earl, you'll have the inside line on all the riding and riders in the Pioneer Valley.

  14. #14
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    What he said
    “People fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death." JM

  15. #15
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    Haha great. Thanks for all the advice, really appreciate it, and really looking forward to riding out there this fall!

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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheArbez View Post
    Good to know. The top of my list right now is the Norco Sight, Transition Scout, and Devinci Troy. Sounds like all three would work well. How's Thunder Mountain (I think I'm remembering that correctly)?

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    I used to ride in that area back in the day when I went to UMass. That was the early 90s when front suspension was still a new thing, and I didn't have it but had a blast. If I went back I'd be very happy on my Troy.

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  17. #17
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    Thanks for the info. I assume that the trails in the area are hard enough to justify 140-150mm or travel?


    EDIT: Hard as in rocky/rooty.


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  18. #18
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    140+ is bigger than most want for many area riding venues.

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  19. #19
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    I ride 100mm hardtail SS. Most people I ride with are also using 100mm up front only..
    “People fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death." JM

  20. #20
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    On the other hand...

    I have 110mm front and back and I wish I had 20-40mm more. It would be overkill at Earl's, but then again I wouldn't feel so bad for my bike hurtling down the mountains of Charlemont.

    As the others have pointed out, a rider can get by with just about any style of mountain bike around here (I expect that's the case with most locales).
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  21. #21
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    You could also check out the Umass Bicycle Racing Club, they ride down at Earl's and Bachelor Street a lot.
    And because of the 5 College system you could race and travel with them as well if you wanted.
    Link if interested:
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/21184673941/

  22. #22
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    The UMass club sounds awesome. I'll definitely check that out. Still not sure what bike I'll be riding out there, but it sounds like my top picks (Sight, Troy, maybe Altitude) would work fine there.

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  23. #23
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    I'm amused by the idea that a valley bike shop is downplaying the riding immediately available to the area.

    Many of us park at the Hampshire College Multi-sport when we ride Earls/B-street. I'll second Harold's comments/others... to the get the most out of the valley, go with a xc oriented bike. Rigid or suspension... that's personal preference. But the valley is all about xc. 140mm is overkill and will just slow you down (unless you trek up Thunder Mtn).

    Where are you coming from/what are you accustomed to riding?

    FWIW- As a mountain biker (or, especially, road rider) I couldn't really think of a better place to get a quality education and spend time on a bike.

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    So far, you've gotten enthusiastic, comprehensive, and very accurate advice from a lot of knowledgeable people...So what does that tell you about the riding scene around the People's Republic of Amherst? You're coming to the right place for college.

    As everyone has said, except for the fact that winter happens here in Western Mass, you'd be hard pressed to find a better college to use as a base of operations to easily access world class mountain biking (And, I am not speaking euphemistically, it's world class).

    As for bikes...well, here the thing, you'll find mixed riding groups of guys on rigid fat bikes (actually, you'll find a shocking amount of guys on fat bikes), squishy-sloppy enduro bikes, the last of the Hard Core 29er SS crowd (it's the 2007 time warp), and loads of XC dualies.

    I suspect that any of those solid, on the aggressive side of xc, new breed 29er Dual suspension bikes (Process 111, New Norco Optic, New Kona Hei Hei, carbon trigger, Specialized FSR etc) makes the most sense.. I also think one of those newer 27.5+ or 29er+ bikes would hit the sweet spot of Pioneer valley Utility riding and low maintenance.

    But truthfully, lots of people find lots of different bikes suitable to the trails around here. And, you'll quickly learn that a new bike isn't as important as developing new skills and new approaches to mountain biking. Like any great riding region, there is a style of riding, or a general held skill set of riding that reflects the nature of the trails themselves.

    I'll share a telling story from a few years bacK: I hosted a Ride at batchelor Street a few years ago, about 16-17 local riders showed up and 1 guy from Pennsylvania. When he pulled into the parking lot, he looked around and saw everybody was riding a Hardtail (w a number of them being SS and even a few Rigid bikes)-He said, 'Oh,. I heard this place was really technical, but seeing everybody on hard Tails and Rigid bikes means that it's not as techie as I've heard (he had a full suspension bike of some kind). Now, the locals reading this are already smiling because they've seen this play before, sure enough, within 30 minutes he was gassed and struggling (and yes, we started with the east side trails). We broke the group up, and led him on a separate route (in fact, I was happy to volunteer for this, because as usual, only rippers showed up for my 'all-abilities ride, and I wasn't really up for the hard hammering required to 'lead' these stronger riders. We can call that some face-saving, self-serving altruism ).

    The moral is: bike choice around here is funky at best and there is no right answer. It depends on the rider-and I wouldn't stress about it, lots of folks are on what seem to be under-gunned bikes relative to the terrain, yet they own it. Big Point: mostly you'll probably need to develop or add some new techniques and approaches to your riding. Which, goes nicely with the main reason you're coming to this area: Education.

    Final bits of advice-If you find yourself on a ride with a bunch of local guys over age 30, pedal hard 'cause chances are they rip and push way harder than any happy college student.

    If you are on a ride with a bunch of guys over 50, pedal harder, because they probably rip, too but are vengeful about it ().

    And if you are on an advanced ride with guys over 60 (which happens quite a bit around here), they'll go a little slower (just a little), but you'll most likely find yourself on a preposterously long, technical, hilly, slog with old codgers who never seem to get tired and ride trails nobody else seems to know about.

    Have fun, Greater Amherst riding is wonderful, you'll enjoy it.

  25. #25
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    ^Awesome post.

    You had me at "People's Republic of Amherst."
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  26. #26
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    2007 Time Warp ? lol.. Good post.. I was most likely on that ride you speak of
    “People fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death." JM

  27. #27
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    Welcome to western MA!

    Fat and/or full suspension will be more comfortable on the rocks and roots, but many of us rode this stuff on old-school hardtail 26ers for years

    MAPS/LOCAL TRAILS

    Once you attend Hampshire, you'll literally be across the street from the Mt Holyoke Range. Earl's and Batchelor offer what is widely regarded as the best riding in this area. You can enter Earl's across from the Bay Road Tennis club. Batchelor is just across the Notch, and it's easy to connect the two for a longer ride.

    The Strava heatmap someone posted is probably the best map of the area, but here are a few others for you to peruse (some are more for hiking):


    As others mentioned, you can get to some of this stuff riding from UMass and Amherst College with minimal time on pavement (it's not far to Amethyst for Mt Orient).

    PVTA BUSES

    If you don't have a fat bike, the PVTA buses have bike racks (that carry 2 or 3 bikes on the front of the bus). From UMass:

    • Take Route 31 north to Sunderland for My Toby (can ride up from Cliffside Apts).
    • Take Route 38 south to Hampshire/Mt Holyoke for Earl's and Batchelor (can ride from Hampshire or the Notch).
    • Take Route 45 east to Belchertown for Mt Orient (can ride from Amethyst Brook).

    Links:


    GROUPS

    • PVNEMBA is very active. Most of them are out of Franklin county and they usually ride farther north (Deerfield, Montague, Charlemont).
    • Bike-packing is starting to pick up in this area.
    • Not sure how much biking the UMass Outing Club does these days.
    • UMass Bike Racing was mentioned, though I don't race myself.

    SHOPS/SUPPORT

    UMass bike coop, Hampshire Bike Exchange (on University Drive), Laughing Dog bikes (Amherst Ctr), Valley Bike and Ski Werks (Hadley), Northampton Bicycle.

    BIKE PATH

    The Norwottuck bike path is a wonderful local paved ride (though it can be crowded, especially on weekends). It connects to a couple other paths, and there are plans to extend the network. There are also some good trails if you continue on the rail bed east into Belchertown. Maps:


    Last edited by Deslock; 05-22-2016 at 04:28 AM.

  28. #28
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    Two more cents: I just moved here, and am surprised at how many hardtail folks there are. New Englanders are a hardy people.

    I would not want to be on a low and slack West-coast bike. The trails are tight and we have steep, rocky climbing, very unlike where most of these modern bikes are designed.

    I'm on a 160/150 bike, and am about to build a 140mm 29+ hardtail.
    Last edited by D.F.L.; 05-23-2016 at 12:12 PM.

  29. #29
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    140mm is a lot in my opinion. I know there is lockout but most of the climbing around here is quick and punchy so no time to switch.

    I ride 100mm front but also think 120mm would be an excellent choice. 29 is defiantly the way to go though due to the rocks
    “People fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death." JM

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by D.F.L. View Post
    Two more cents: I just moved here, and am surprised at how many hardtail folks there are. New Englanders are a hearty people.

    I would not want to be on a low and slack West-coast bike. The trails are tight and we have steep, rocky climbing, very unlike where most of these modern bikes are designed.

    I'm on a 160/150 bike, and am about to build a 140mm 29+ hardtail.
    Us New Englanders are a very stubborn people!

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by D.F.L. View Post
    Two more cents: I just moved here, and am surprised at how many hardtail folks there are. New Englanders are a hearty people.

    I would not want to be on a low and slack West-coast bike. The trails are tight and we have steep, rocky climbing, very unlike where most of these modern bikes are designed.

    I'm on a 160/150 bike, and am about to build a 140mm 29+ hardtail.
    I just built up a SC Bantam for my kid (that happens to fit me) and I completely understand what you are talking about here. It's fun but hard to ride for me after years on a HT: to many punchy up and downs and hub-high ricks to dodge over and around. The hardtail is responsive in these conditions, doesn't compress when you load up to get over something, and can be tossed around a lot. This is another reason SS works well around here: our rocks eat RDs and since we don't have those long sustained 45 minute climbs (and the accompanying descent), one gear and some grunting can cover things quite well.

    My next build will be a 27.5+ SS hardtail that is less low, slack, and long than the current trend. Confident it'll be the perfect bike for NE trail riding in terms of traction, "suspension", handling, and maintenance.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperbMan View Post

    And if you are on an advanced ride with guys over 60 (which happens quite a bit around here), they'll go a little slower (just a little), but you'll most likely find yourself on a preposterously long, technical, hilly, slog with old codgers who never seem to get tired and ride trails nobody else seems to know about.

    Have fun, Greater Amherst riding is wonderful, you'll enjoy it.
    I went to UMASS in the early-mid 90s, taught the Mtb class there too. One day I was out for a ride, leading the group, hammering up a hill. Passed an old guy on the way up. We all got to the top for a much needed break and at the back of the pack was the old guy. He smiles nicely to us as we are all gasping for breath and then turns around and goes back down the hill, when he reached the bottom, he headed right back up...it was his 5th time doing that. He rode a full rigid with a rack on the back

  33. #33
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    I am currently on a OnOne SS - 32/22 that is IDEAL for Bsteet - short chain stays and about 70 degrees up front.. I've ridden a 21 but I am faster on the 22.

    I am eyeing the Pivot Les... Super stiff and super versatile. I still like the 29" tires though; something around 2.25 - 2.3 (depends on brand/make/model).
    “People fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death." JM

  34. #34
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    I thought I'd resurrect this old thread. I grew up in Amherst and started mountain biking and road racing there in the late eighties. I rode all over the Holyoke range before there were "legal" trails anywhere... actually it was before anyone had thought about if trails needed to be "bike legal" or not. I honestly think it's one of the best cycling locations in the entire US. There are MTB trails everywhere, both marked and secret stash. You can just ride all day. I lived there for years and was constantly finding new terrain to explore. Within a half hour drive, there are even more options, especially if you know the locals. Go out to the Berkshires or Taconics and there's a treasure trove of challenging "grey market" stuff to ride. In addition, it's likely one of the best road riding destinations in the country. The entire area is covered with a spiderweb of beautiful country lanes with varied terrain, little traffic and endless alternative routes. There are clubs and teams all over the place. Lastly, it's the unofficial cyclocross center of the US. Most of the best pros live in the area and there's a long-lived and thriving cross scene there. Add in tons of bike-riding college students, an "alternative" cycling-friendly culture, lots of great cafes a country shops to stop in.. man, it's really the best. I miss living there for the cycling. Not sure I miss other aspects...

  35. #35
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    Right on hiro11! A quick shout out to the fun trails at Lithia Springs. In addition to Earls and Batchelor Street riding, LS has amazing double track climbs and descents that will blow you away in quality and beautiful vistas. A few climbs/descents to note: Dry Brook to/from the auto road- with bonus side trip to the summit house, Black Rock, Lithia Outlook (down), and Low Place (down- coming from Earls) Check out the state park map for trail location and a ride I did combining Earls. BS, and LS:

    https://www.mass.gov/files/documents...mz/skinner.pdf

    https://www.strava.com/activities/1058597791

  36. #36
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    Rode earls trails for the first time today. Good stuff. Climbed 1000 ft in 7 miles. What goes up must come down.


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  37. #37
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    Hello folks,
    I’ve been riding at Earl’s Trails and have been enjoying myself immensely. I’m slow and old, LOL. I’ve learned a good portion of the trails and there is quite a mix of wider trails and single tracks. I personally like the single tracks.
    I’m being joined by a friend to ride in the Mt. Holyoke range likely tomorrow. He doesn’t like single track that much and likes the wider trails.
    Is Earl’s the best at the range or does Lithia Springs offer more wider trails?I know they are connected but that is too much for us to do.
    Any advice is greatly appreciated.
    Thanks!

  38. #38
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    I can suggest various loops. How many miles are you looking to do? Keep in mind that there's a good amount of climbing.

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    I usually go by time, about 2 hours max. Agree, Earl’s has lots of climbing. As long as it is not too steep. We can always walk the steeper portions. I find when I start at Chmura and head towards the mountain it is quite steep and I have to walk sections.
    Thanks for your input.
    GJSnow

  40. #40
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    Lots of options at Lithia Springs on doubletrack- wider trails.

    Refer to the state park map for trail names and juntion #s:

    https://www.mass.gov/files/documents...mz/skinner.pdf

    You can park on Lithia Springs Rd and take dirt road to junction #117 then head left on Lithia Springs Trail blazed yellow. Continue on that to a left onto Dry Brook junction #107 blazed red. Take that to the dirt road and make a right. Continue on road, it will become paved at the gate, ride up to the summit house or you can branch off left at the top of Dry Brook. If you go up to the summit house then on your way down hit Dry Brook which will be on you right. Dry Brook will take you back to Lithia Springs Trail and make a left to return the same way but in the opposite direction of course. At junction #111 you can take a short cut back on Lithia Bypass. About 10 miles.

    Or shorter loop:

    Park on Lithia Springs Rd and take dirt road to junction #117 then head left on Lithia Springs Trail (LS) blazed yellow. Continue on that to a right onto Black Rock (BR) blazed blue. Take that to vista and continue on trail to a right onto Lithia Outlook (LO) blazed red. Take that down to a left onto Lithia Springs Trail which will lead you back to the reservoir and car in the reverse direction. About 5 miles.

  41. #41
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    Thank you Craig!
    Great directions. I don’t know if we’d go today because of the rain and wet conditions but will certainly do these loops.
    GJSnow

  42. #42
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    Sure thing GJSnow! When trails are wet I usually hit Lithia because there's less mud than Earls.

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    Hi Craig,
    Went on my own to Lithia. Tried to follow the 10 mile loop as you described. By the time I got to the dam by the pond, the stream was so deep and powerful, I could not cross!!
    Instead, I went around the pond counter clockwise on the unnamed single track. When I reached Lithia Outlook (LO) on the west side, I said, “this looks nice!” I started to ride up. It turned out to be a hiking trail, not rideable for me! I pushed/pulled my bike up to the hill to the Black Rock (BR) trail (110). There, turned left and came across a beautiful overlook. Rode down to the bottom, #109 and almost reached #107 but once again, came across a heavy stream. I turned back and exited via #111-#116. Spent over two hours there, a good part hiking up the mountain with my bike. All that rain made some of the crossings relatively impossible. Didn’t want to get my feet wet.
    I found the trails and the park beautiful, much different experience than Earl’s which are nice but different. The double track trails are challenging mostly because of the hills and rocks. It keeps my speed down! (probably a good thing.)
    Thanks for the advice. You must be in awesome shape!
    GJSnow

  44. #44
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    I’m glad you had a chance to check out Lithia. Man, sounds like an adventure ride for sure! All this rain has completely saturated the ground. I rode there last weekend but there has been a lot more rain since then. I can only imagine what the stream crossings were like today. I made that mistake of climbing (hiking) LO once before. Learned from that and now only hit it going down. Still makes for a tough downhill that definitely keeps you on your toes. At least you got up to the vista and then had some fun downhills. It’s amazing that the range offers such diversity in terrain. Earls, LS, and Batchelor St are all so different from each other.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GJSnow View Post
    You must be in awesome shape!
    GJSnow
    Understatement of the year...he's a freak of nature.

  46. #46
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    He must do three consecutive “iron mans” a day!!!! Lol

  47. #47
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    Hey Amherst area folks.
    I have entered Earl’s trails from Route 116 and Chmura Rd.
    Today I wanted to enter across from Hampshire College on Bay Rd.
    Unfortunately the sign said I need a permit to park my vehicle.
    Anyone know where I can get one? Is this for real?
    GJSnow.

  48. #48
    achiever
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    I haven't parked there in years but it may be Amherst College property. If I don't park at the Notch, I park at Chmura & like to end my ride with a mile long downhill starting at the top of Tinker that dumps you out on Chmura.

  49. #49
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    Thank you. Maybe someone else will know.
    Agree, love the downhill end.....
    Gjsnow

  50. #50
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    I wouldn't chance parking there even though I don't know how they wouldn't know if you are at the Carle museum. Chmura or park on Military Rd up from Atkins.

  51. #51
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    If you're talking about the dirt lot next to the corn field on the South side of Bay... yes, you'd need a permit. I believe only town folk can acquire one. I've seen cars towed from there. Don't chance it. I'll park at the Hampshire College athletic facility lot from time to time.

  52. #52
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    Thank you!
    Nothing worse than a nice day of mountain biking only to find that your car is gone when you return!!!
    GJSnow

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