Monday, March 26, 2012


Great ride out on the trails today, though I've got a bit to rant on today.  In the past weeks I've been doing a lot of technical, rocky, rooty riding.  The stuff that scares the crap out of you at least a few times a ride, but leaves you feeling completely satisfied at the end.  It's the type of riding where no one actually thinks odd of you for wearing body armor (namely kneepads).  It's also the type of riding that, for me, derives the most pleasure.

There are occasions when I like to get airborne, but more interesting to me, still, is actually riding obstacle.  I like rock gardens, rollers (the bigger and steeper the better), and the like.  Anything where there is a crazy line, or big step downs is great.  I like tight switchbacks with impossibly steep angles.  I like down better than up, and I like it when things get slow to the point that you have to actually balance  yourself and the bike, and not just ride it.

Fortunately, there happens to be quite a lot of this type of riding around these parts-well, within 60-90 minutes anyway.  Unfortunately, the local trails are pretty tame, and by all means getting more and more tame by the day.

While I was riding one of my favorite local spots today, as I often do, I spotted areas where "work" has been done.  Now, before I really dig in, let me just say that I'm all in for keeping trails in good shape.  That is, keeping them in good shape, not shaping them.  Trails are what they are, and unless there is a specific problem, danger, or other thing not normally associated with mountain biking, the trail should remain "untouched".  Of course this is open for interpretation.  What one person may consider ridable another may completely dismiss.  However, things like roots, small tree stumps, and small rocks are a no-brainer.  NEVER should things like this be removed, even if they have been the cause of a crash.  If they're small enough to ride over, they should be a permanent piece of the trail.

I saw today one of the most disturbing things I've yet seen on any of the local trails.  I've seen small rocks removed, small stumps uprooted, and even exposed roots literally cut out of the trail, but never have I seen someone actually fill in the spots in between exposed roots to make the trail smooth over them.  Keep in mind, it's not as if these roots posed an immediate danger to any rider, and there was a rather smooth and efficient line over and through them.  Erosion was not an issue, and the roots were not damaged as to pose any problem to the tree/trees they branched out from.  It seems that someone, in an effort to make the trail faster (read: more like the damned road), took it upon themselves to smooth things out.  Ridiculous.  I'm flabbergasted as to why anyone would do such a thing.

Certainly, Long Island is no hotbed of mountain biking.  You'll never see it as one of the mountain bike "Meccas" in any glossy publication, and it'll never be discussed in mountain biking circles anywhere outside of the Long Island Sound.  With all that, I've since I've begun riding I've always defended it as a riding location.  "It is what you make of it," I'd say, insisting that it was not exactly the "pussified" trails everyone off the island insists that it is.  With what I saw today, though, I can't say that I'm any longer justified in taking such a stance.  I'm beginning to believe the hype, drink the Kool-Aid, and talk the talk: Long Island Mountain Biking is a FARCE!!!!!

With people making changes to the trails as I've detailed, it makes it impossible for me to go on saying that our trails are even decent.  They are, in fact, turning into the garbage that everyone insists they already are.  And the worst part of it all, is that there is no end in sight.  The local group that is responsible for taking care of the trails are stuck in the early days of mountain biking, when simply riding a two wheeler on anything but a paved surface provided an adrenaline rush.  I'm beside myself over this.

I've spoken up before and made my voice heard, but it has time and time again fallen of deaf ears.  Perhaps folks are content in riding what they ride, and not interested in developing as riders any further.

I'm not of a one track mind regarding this situation.  I realize that people progress at their own level and will only push as far as they are comfortable.  I'm not delusional, believing that everyone aspires to ride at a very technical and proficient level.  I'm fine with this.  What bothers me is the fact that all parties are not being heard in this situation.

In order for things to progress, a change needs to occur.  Otherwise, the local trails are going to be what they have been reported to be, and deserve the reputation of being great trails to "teach your little sister how to mountain bike."

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