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  1. #1
    Justin Vander Pol
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    a Northwest boy goes mountain biking in NYC

    I just got back from a week in New York City, and this time out there I finally got to check out some of the city trails, and a couple areas just a few miles out of town. This is my second time out there this year to vist a good friend of mine, Scott, who moved there from Portland, OR.

    This time out I made sure I contacted Michael Vitti, trail builder from NY, who I first met at an IMBA conference about four years ago. At that conference I wanted to learn from other folks who had built urban mountain bike parks as we were gearing up for our Colonnade project here in Seattle.

    I'm pretty sure Mike had the same experience as I did at that conference. Rather than finding info about other parks that had been built, it turned out we were breaking new ground a creating an entire new model for mountain bike skills parks. The only group doing anything similar was Mike and CLIMB (he later helped set up New York City Mountain Bike Assocation to maintain the in-city parks). I think Mike started working on Highbridge Park in Manhattan about the time we were gearing up on Colonnade. So it turned out that Mike and I were the featured speakers at a session on "Urban Mountain Bike Parks" at the IMBA Summit that year (at least this is how I remember it - I've presented about Colonnade enough times that my memory is all jumbled up).

    So time goes by and Mike and I run into each other again at the IMBA Summit in Whistler 2 years ago. It turns out that both of our projects are heading towards success, and we've both got new urban projects in the works (Cunningham Park for Mike and Duthie Hill for me & BBTC).

    This Spring Mike comes to Seattle for a few days and gets to check out Colonnade and I take him riding at another unofficial local riding spot called Towers of Power/Tapeworm. Then last week I finally get to go back out to NYC and check out his projects, and see my good friend Scott.

    Here's how every ride should start out - I leave our New York City vacation rental apartment in Chelsea and take the L train out to Queens. How cool is this, no car needed! (Don't get me started on the need for light rail here in Seattle).


    At the end of the L line Mike pics me up and we drive about a mile to Cunningham Park in Queens. If you live near a subway line I guess you can just take your bike right on, and then its an easy ride to the trails.


    Here's the trailhead map of Cunningham. Since I design mountain bike parks I probably find this more interesting than most, but bear with me - riding pics are coming.


    Cunningham is about 120 acres and has ~6 miles of trails with lots of trail features such as logrides, jumps and rocks. Here is Mike climbing a section of trail.


    One of the great things about urban mountain bike parks is they open up riding to different demographics: urban dwellers, kids, new riders, various ethnic groups, kids, people without cars, etc. Here's a little guy who was riding with his dad.


    There's a nice DJ line where Mike was able to bring the underground builders into the fold so they have permanent (no bulldozing the lines) dirt jumps at Cunningham.


    Next to the jump line is a sweet pump line. Not like a normal pump track, these are basically jumps where you don't get air, but instead you pump. Not only are they fun for even advanced riders, but they teach you how to stay balanced on your bike and keep your speed once you step up to the DJ line. Great idea, we're going to copy this at one of our new Seattle bike parks!


    The elevation is limited at Cunningham, but the fun isn't. We saw rigid singlespeed rigs, DH sleds and DJ bikes all in this park, all having a great time.

    Mike was gracious enough to loan me one of his bikes for the day - a Santa Cruz Chameleon. He probably didn't know how hard I am on equipment If any of you ride with Mike and notice that his bike has damaged parts, let me know. I'm paranoid that I abused it too much. Even though I'm 6'2", I LOVED that bike in a smallish size, it was just really fun and easy to ride and easy to manual. Oh great, now I want another bike. Here I am on one of the higher logrides.


    My buddy Scott cleaning a fairly tricky logride.


    We hit most of the trails at Cunningham, and I was really impressed with what they've been able to do. Anyone who's built trails (legally) in a public park knows that it takes a ridiculous amount of work. Mike and his trail groups (CLIMB & NYCmtb) have done a kickass job!

    After Cunninghm we loaded up in Mike's totally rad surfer/biker van and headed towards Sprain Ridge, just a few miles outside of the city, for some more riding.


    Sprain is a suburban/backcountry trail system. One thing that surprises us west-coasters is the amount of rock they have out in NY and New England. We have lots of rock here in Washington State, but not much until we get into the high country. I'd kill for that much rock in the lowlands.

    They also have lots of leaves and small trees in NY, we really only have conifers. I learned the hard way that piles of leaves are REALLY slick and don't make good berms. Here's Mike at Sprain.


    A few miles into the trail we came across a big lizard with a blinged out bike sporting a Chubie... oh, the wildlife. This lizard proceeded to throw himself off some rocks. I like how this pic shows the rock they have in NY.


    More lizard hucking.


    So Zilla came along with us and was a hero riding on a (fully blinged) big bike in a full-face helmet on an xc-ish ride in warm weather. Nice work! I would have been suffering in that warm of a lid. Here's Mike and the reptile.


    We rode for a few hours at Sprain and covered a lot of the trails. By the end were were pretty cooked, but had a great ride. Zilla, you should rope Scott in for some Diablo days or xc action - he's a strong rider and really fun to ride with.

    Unfortunately, we kind of ran out of time and energy and didn't get to check out Mike's handywork at Highbridge. Next time I'm out there I'm heading up to the north part of Manhattan and hitting this sweet city park.

    Mike, thanks for the tour, I really, really enjoyed seeing what you've been able to accomplish for mountain bikers in NY.

    After this fine day of riding the wifey and I spent a few days riding subways, touring museums with Scott and Angie, and eating some great New York City food. But a few days later, we encouraged the girls to go shopping so that Scott and I could get another day of riding in. Stacie and I took the subway to the train station, and then took the rail out to Tarrytown to meet up with Scott and Angie. Did I mention how much I love being able to get around without needing a car?

    This time we headed 30 minutes past Tarrytown to Blue Mountain. Scott has two bikes, a Giant VT and Giant Faith, both in size XL (he's 6'4"), but I'm tall enough where they worked out. We took turned pedaling the 45lb DH sled with it's low seat for our 5 hour "xc" ride (yes, we sessioned a LOT of rock faces and drops). The bikes were a little longer than I like, but worked out great (turns out I really like tiny bikes, even though I'm a bit tall).

    Blue is an xc area (no artificial TTFs), but there is a ton of rock races, little cliffs and huge boulders that give you many a huckster option. One of the first lines we came upon was this big, mossy boulder... nice and steep!


    Like I said, there were gobs of rocks to play on between the nice xc sections of trail. Since one of our bikes was a bit big for this kind of riding, we made sure to play around a lot since railing the trails on that pig was a bit less than ideal. Here I am on a rock face.


    Art shot of the day.


    We hit lots of trails, and then headed up to the viewpoint at Blue Mountain "summit". It was a beautiful and warm day, and the nuclear reactors looked particularly lovely in the late afternoon light.


    More riding around, we somehow spent about five hours out here on a ride that usually takes Scotty about 2 hours. We sessioned a LOT. Here's Scott jumping over one of the East Coast stone walls that look prehistoric to West Coast eyes. They really have a nice sense of history out east that we lack in the west.


    It was pretty warm out, and Scott ran out of water. About 30 minutes later he really started to feel the lack of water and food, but we had time for one more little rock feature on one of the trails heading back to the car.


    This turned out to be one of the best weeks travelling that I've had. Seeing a good friend, riding with a fellow mountain bike advocate and trail builder, and enjoying the sights and tastes of the bit city all added up to one amazing week.

    I just want to give another shout out to Mike and the work he's done with CLIMB and NYCMTB. The work these groups have done is truly amazing, and they've made biking in the big city not just possible, but pretty darn good!

    Justin Vander Pol

  2. #2
    Te mortuo heres tibi sim?
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    Excellent. As a northwest coaster now on the east, all I can say is: yes.
    Florence Nightingale's Stormtrooper

  3. #3
    Think I can make that?
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    J - you nailed it. Too bad my helmet cam videos didn't come out nearly as well as the pictures. Don't worry, I"ll have it dialed in before my August article, "Former west coaster now east coaster, goes riding at Whistler/North Shore"

  4. #4
    don't move for trees
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    you're not the only one who thinks it is a cool picture


    cunningham park is great, easy 7 mile ride from campus and has a ton of stuff to ride.
    "Get a bicycle.You will not regret it if you live." Mark Twain

  5. #5
    It's carbon dontcha know.
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    I was out with Zilla at Sprain on Saturday and ran into Scott, bunch of photos from the afternoon here: http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=418269

    With tours of Slypig, Sprain and Blue you were definitely treated to some great riding spots.

  6. #6
    Lay off the Levers
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    Awesome writeup man!
    I was cooked in that dh gear, getting headache and all. No more trailriding with a FFH above 55 degs.

    Dude, Blue is my backyard!! I wish I could have hosted a tour with y'all there... With my lighter bike. Looks like you had no trouble finding the goods thoug.Like 6E said we ran into Scott again last w/e we had a blast.
    Faster is better, even when it's not.

  7. #7
    Justin Vander Pol
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikezilla
    Awesome writeup man!
    I was cooked in that dh gear, getting headache and all. No more trailriding with a FFH above 55 degs.

    Dude, Blue is my backyard!! I wish I could have hosted a tour with y'all there... With my lighter bike. Looks like you had no trouble finding the goods thoug.Like 6E said we ran into Scott again last w/e we had a blast.
    That helmet looked REALLY uncomfortable after a while on those xc trails. Impressive that you still hammered it and didn't get heat stroke. Hopefully we'll be able to hook up with you when you're out here for a Whistler run.

  8. #8
    Singletrack Slayer
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    Nice Pics Glad you had fun at blue!!! Love going there on short trips after school and such, peekskill is about 5 mins away in all. Gotta love those rollers!

  9. #9
    FM
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    Good stuff man! Too cool you hooked up with BZ, pretty funny how small the biking world is especially with a little help from MTBR.

  10. #10
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    Yeah - super cool post Juice!

    Be sure to let me know when you're in Whizzler - the Westside has some new tasty goods.

    Z

  11. #11
    Justin Vander Pol
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whiteyak
    Be sure to let me know when you're in Whizzler - the Westside has some new tasty goods.

    Z
    Westsiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide! Love those trails, can't wait to hit the new stuff. I hope to get up there sometime in June, I'll def give you a shout when I nail down a date.

  12. #12
    Just roll it......
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    Quote Originally Posted by juice
    Westsiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide! Love those trails, can't wait to hit the new stuff. I hope to get up there sometime in June, I'll def give you a shout when I nail down a date.
    Awesome post Juice. So cool of you and Scottie to hook up with Bikezilla on the trails.

    Hey, I'm heading to Whistler with a buddy that is coming up on the 11th. Let's talk.

    EB

  13. #13
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    Great write up

    I work in mid-town (23rd and Madison Ave) but live in north Jersey so, while I know of Highbridge, I've never ridden there either. I was not even aware of Cunningham though I've been to Blue Mountain a couple times.

    Glad you enjoyed our rocks. That is about what riding in northern New Jersey is like too. Pretty technical stuff.

    Anyway, thanks for the write up. It was excellent.

    PS: I'm rebuilding my Chameleon at the moment with a Pike and lots of other freeride gear. Yes, that is one sweet ride.

  14. #14
    Lev
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    Saawweeettt! I'm confused though... Are all those trails right in Manhattan? That might give a new definition to mountain biking

  15. #15
    Ska
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    Cool post. We needed that.

    Glad guys like you take on the challenges of building new trails. I wish I had the time. I'll head out and do trail work and help build stuff but that's the easy part.

    Thanks again!
    Here's my crummy, slow-going blog The Slow Spoke if you're interested.

  16. #16
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    I am gonna move near cunningham park hopefully in the next couple of weeks.

    I want to build a chameleon and wonder what your feedback was. I dont have a big budget for all top of the line parts but i figure getting a good Frame is my strongest starting point. can the chameleon be built to be a light bike?

    Did you also go to Forest Park? a few miles from Cunningham. i know its a big park but not sure if there are trails.

  17. #17
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    Chameleon comments

    May I jump in here? I just built up a Chameleon with some pretty heavy duty parts. I.E. Pike with spring, 2.5/2.35 Nevegals, Ryno Lite Rims, DH saddle, Avid Mech Discs (8"F/6"R), eThirteen bash guard, etc. Nothing very light but the whole bike is lucky it if tops 30 lbs so with the right mix of parts, you certainly can build a reasonably light Chameleon.

    Its a hardtail built to abuse though, not a XC racer. A frame that is way more fun than you would expect.

    Enjoy it.

  18. #18
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    Thanks for the review. I live about a 1/2 hour from Cunnigham Park by car. Sorry I hate riding the subway. Anyway, I'll check it out.

  19. #19
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    ... and if we just ... Check these trails out NAOW!

    To the OP and all interested smarties:

    If you ever get a chance to hitch a ride or rent a car you DEFINATELY want to check out Stillwell Woods and ride it all the way down to Bethpage state park. A little further out but still accessible to a city boy. And way more trailage than Cunnigham! My favorite loop. Instead of riding in a park you get to play connect the dots and go to an actual destination.

    Hell, for the automotively challenged you can even take the LIRR. Take the Port Jefferson line, get off at the Syosset station and ride east 1.5 miles. Enjoy.


    Coordinates for the google earthed:

    4049'41.75"N
    7328'7.54"W

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