Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Mountain bike season has begun: Last weeks trail rides

Posted by Frum Hiker on April 15, 2007

I had the opportunity to ride twice on trails last week, not only were the trails relatively dry and free of ice and snow- I also had a companion to ride with making it all the more fun. I was able to share the beauty thrill of some great mountain biking with one of my best riding friends, Yosef Franklin.

Yosef and I went to yeshiva together in Rochester NY and we used to ride all the time. We both started as major adrenalin junky types- launching ourselves and our 40 pound bikes off of roofs, loading docks, dirt jumps, stair gaps and any other major obstacle that we felt needed to be ridden on.

We used to ride these huge bulky downhill bikes like the one featured ion the link. They did not pedal very well, but were loads of fun while riding off things. Then all of the sudden we grew up- though I still love downhilling- we both sold out non-versatile machines and bought simpler trail bikes. 27-30 pound bikes with 4-6 inches instead 8 of 8-10 inches of travel.

With this new found rig we could venture faster and farther into the woods, riding uphill and downhill all the while having a blast- instead of lugging our bikes up just to go down. I have been riding my current type of bike for the last couple years and have found the great riding in the Hudson Valley area. Yosef is from Monsey but learns in Chofetz Chaim yeshiva in Queens limiting our rides together.

On Sunday we met at the north side of Stewart State Forest the north side is less ridden and lower so I expected mud, but i had ridden the south side last week and wanted a change. It was cold so we donned windproof fleece, fleece gloves and thicker pants then normal. The wind was whipping up leaves and sticks in the parking lot- which is located under Interstate 84- on Barron Rd off of Route 17K in Maybrook NY.

The trail starts off real fast and throws you into a series of bermed up sharp turns and a mix of small rocky parts and soft moist pine needles. We were feeling the effects of the cold air- because a few minutes into the ride we were wheezing. The other problem was that being as it was pesach we couldn’y scarf down any protein bars for our aching muscles.

We rode hard and fast, launching off any little thing that would give us air. The suspension was given a beating, I could feel my shock begging for mercy as I pounded up short steep hills in my middle ring, and then down pedaling like mad. The ground was dry, but very soft forcing me to work way harder then normal, my tzitzis stuck to my t-shirt under my fleece.

We suddenly came to the low part of the trail and had to circumvent a few very large swampy puddles. Barrages expletives rang from my mouth as I stumbled through thorny bushes and got my feet soaked in the icy cold mud pond. We road for a couple hours only seeing one person the whole time.

We got back to the car ate some fruit and had a good chill, I then threw on some Tu-Pac and drove on to my yom tov destination which happened to be Yosef’s fathers farm in the Catskills.

The day after Pesach

Yosef and I had to ride, we had heard there was storm bringing possible snows to upstate New York- so in order to beat the storm and enjoy the 55 degrees and sun that was beating down we hopped in my car and tore off to north eastern PA. Merli-Sarnowski Park off of Route 106 was the destination.

We joked that this park would be a great place if you had a wife and kids but wanted to ride some hardcore technical trails for a few hours. Most trail heads have no activities besides collecting used bullet casings and looking at the bullet hole riddles state land signs. Unlike most parks this one had a beach, horse back riding, boat rentals and playgrounds. Tons of stuff for the wife and kiddies to do while you got drunk off of the pristine rock laden singletrack that awaited you beyond the kid stuff.

Merli Sranowski Park is also known as Fell Mountain to some. We have ridden Prompton Lake which is just down the road many times and wanted to try something new.

The park has extremely technical trails and has some tough climbs. It is not for beginners even the fire roads connecting the single track are tough and filled with rocks and mud. The trails have tons of sharp slate rocks and some good riding solely on rock outcroppings making it super fun. It can be fast, but it can also be extremely slow- depends on your shape.

I would definitely suggest a full suspension and not a hardtail- I cannot imagine how jarring it would have been a hard tail. The scenery is also magnificent- the fully marked trail system follows a lake and at several places there are some great chilling spots. There are a couple of great trails along moss covered giant cliffs- with one huge overhang that would come in handy during a torrential summer thunderstorm.

There is also one point in the trail where you come out to a huge grassy plain that down slopes toward Carbondale- this is a truly awesome point to stop and take a nap. The view of Carbondale, the slicing new route 6 highway and the large windmills on top of the mountain are all beautiful in their own- development-anti-woods-sort of way.


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