I remember seeing a magazine advertisement for a “mountain bike” in 1981, and I was about as stoked as I could be. It brought back memories of riding through the woods as an 11 year-old, and when I saw that these new machines had fat, knobby tires and major upgrades to the gearing and brakes, I couldn’t wait to get one.
My first mountain bike was a heavy, clunky $300 model with no suspension, but it was still a lot of fun to ride in the woods. Little did I know that a generation later, the bikes would be a lot lighter, feature full-suspension and there would be groups of dedicated mountain bikers willing to build and maintain trails specifically for their sport.
Shindagin Hollow State Forest is only 15 minutes from Ithaca, but it has its own Facebook page, many videos on YouTube and a very loyal group of users. This loyalty was on display last Saturday, when four people showed up in a pouring rain for Trail Work Day (they usually draw 20-30). The network of trails and its riders (please visit www.cycle-cny.com) are now affiliated with the International Mountain Bike Association, and the IMBA—which promotes mountain biking globally—oversees instructional sessions on how to build and maintain sustainable “single-track” trails. While the trails are “multi-use,” the riders have forged a relationship with the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the DEC is always on the lookout for motorized vehicles and other prohibited uses. Having put thousands of hours into the trails over the years, the local riders are diligent in protecting them, and local mountain biker David Weiner says, “On a wet day, motorized vehicles can do more damage in a day that we will do in a decade.” Weiner also points out that CNY Cycle invited new rider to group rides, where they can learn the trail systems and pick up useful tips and knowledge.