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DIRT: News

2008 Highland Forest News

From: Todd Enders <snglspeed@mac.com>
Date: April 2, 2008 2:39:04 PM EDT
Subject: New access in Central New York

Hi Mike and Mark,
I would like to share with you the excitement of what our group CNYDIRT has accomplished with the assistance of Onondaga County at Highland Forest.
Over the past decade we have ridden and maintained various types of trails that lacked the quality of good single track technical riding.  Eight years ago we sat in front of the park superintendent and explained who we were and what we could do to advance mountain biking in his park with permission.  We promised several hundred man hours for trail development and maintenance.  In return we asked for the right to build new trails and get some of the trails that were closed to biking opened.  He was unsure that we would back it up long term and was unwilling to make any of the trails "multi-user".  He was sure the only way to have harmony was to keep biking out of the way from the other user groups.  Patiently I went on a campaign to prove to them that it could be accomplished with the proper planning.  So for the next several years every time there was a storm that damaged the park we showed up with workers and tools.  In the year 2003 we helped provide chainsaws and over three hundred hours of help to clean trees on not only bike trails but a lot of the hiking trails and general roads.  That effort was what led us to be able for the first time get permission to use hiking trails on a one time basis for our annual mountain bike race.  That first permission led to several others after we showed the effort to maintain the trails and repair any damage done.  The relationship was made!  We continued to build single track with approval and maintain hiking trails as a token of our willingness.  We met several times over the years out on the trails to show our work and discuss impact.
This past fall of 2007 after being impressed by our groups efforts, the park management approached us about turning Highland Forest into a destination Mountain Biking location.  Finally our efforts were truly paying off.  With our assistance the park is now opening up over 6 miles of previously closed to biking premium single track.  New signs for all previous bike trails will be made, a new map of the park showing all of the bike trails and the new trail designations from being previously off limits, a large bike kiosk at the trail head and main parking lot, a spot on the county website and press as needed.
I am sharing this with you so that maybe through the IMBA newsletter we could share this with everyone.  There are now two major races in NY that take place at the park along with planned group rides, Greenspokes clinics and trail maintenance clinics including several of the IMBA Trail Care crew visits over the past years.
Anything you can comment on and advice you may have would be great.

Todd Enders
CNYDIRT
315-436-5240

Moab: The Mountain Biking Mecca - Tracy Liesche Stonecipher

"Go west" young men and women to the mountain bike Mecca of Moab. I have just returned from there and lived to tell. After the bike show, Lance and I moseyed on over to Southern Utah to see for ourselves if the rumors we'd heard about this magical place were true. Randy Naylor, the local K2 rep and fellow DIRT member Steve Whitehead, who were driving Randy's bike trailer back from Vegas, wisely decided to join us. This was my first time to Moab and I didn't know what to expect. We arrived at night so the full effect of being surrounded by cliffs of red rock was not fully achieved until the next morning. We awoke to bright sunshine and a cool 80 degrees. Perfect riding weather. But we had to get out early since the sun at high noon can be a scorcher. After breakfast at the famed Slickrock Café, we filled our Camelbacks and headed out to Slickrock.

You read about it in every magazine, Moab is the riding place and October is a ripe time to go. The heat, which can be very debilitating, is not too scalding. It just happened to be a Saturday (when you are traveling all the days seem to blend in together) and the parking lot was already full. Slickrock is exactly what it sounds like without the slick part. In fact, with the right tires, you can maintain constant traction on the large stretches of flat rock face. Think slabs, smooth round mounds of rock intermittent with deep sand. It is very hard to describe since there is nothing like that here in Central New York. Most times there is no set trail like single track here. You just follow spray painted lines on the ground so as to avoid riding off a cliff. This you could do easily here. Steve warned us about this since he had ridden here before. They don't like to tell you that but people just ride up to an overlook and keep going. So it is extra important not to wander too far off the trail. But there is room for interpretation. Since it is a large rock slab, anyway to traverse and make a steep climb (and there were lots) is considered fair game. Just have to watch for the sand at the bottom of some descents, your front wheel sinks in to the hub and over you go! I speak from experience. At least the sand was soft and warm.... not wet and squishy like mud.

There were all types of people out on the rock that day. From riders on fully rigid 40 pound Huffys to 40 pound fully suspended downhill rigs. The terrain is rolling, a lot of ups and downs. They were walking down the downhills and up the uphills. The views were spectacular and riding was different but challenging. It has been said that Slickrock is over crowded with too many tourists and idiots. There were a number of people out on the trail but this in no way diminished its effect. It is definitely somewhere that has to be ridden.... at least once. More, if you can swing it. It was like a playground for bikes. One thing is for sure. You do not want to fall. It's like falling on concrete. Ask Steve because he still has the scar from just a small scrape. Carry plenty of water and drink well before hand. The wind alone will dehydrate you just as much as the sun. I drained my Camelback just as I was getting a push up the last hill. I had fallen the day before riding at beautiful Brian Head hitting my knee on a rock. The last half of my Slickrock ride was not without pain but it was still fun. The only thing left to do after a great ride at Slickrock is head down into town to the Moab Diner for the perfect après ride food.... ice cream.

Sadly enough our playmates had to leave us the next day. Steve and Randy still had to drive across the country to Syracuse. I wished they could have stayed one more riding day and join us on the Porcupine Rim trail. This is a 4-mile gradual climb with an 11-mile descent. Lance figured the best, premiere rides that Moab had to offer and we made sure to tackle them. I have to admit I was intimidated by what everyone we asked in Moab, mostly locals, said about the trails. They made every climb seem unclimbable and every downhill a deathtrap. I suppose they are used to novice tourists who aren't really used to challenging terrain. Even the driver who shuttled us to the trailhead of Porcupine (I'd recommend doing this, it is well worth the $ to start out fresh instead of riding 10 extra miles from town) warned us of the dangers. He implied that the climb was very difficult and the descent even harder. "There are going to be places where you'll say to yourself people don't ride this", he said. Well, we would soon find out. Unfortunately for me, my knee hurt from the get go.... but only when I pedaled. This made the first part of the trail an extra challenge. In reality, it wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be. Even in pain I actually enjoyed it. It was more technical climbing than anything, powering up ledges and through rocky sections. Both Lance and I expected it to turn very steep and nasty but we managed to climb it all. At the top is the most incredible panorama of Porcupine Rim (hence the name of the trail) looking out over rock towers and green valleys. After that, it was all downhill- a run of double track where the rock steps were the perfect launching pad from which to take flight. With every lift off, your bike and your spirit soared. Of course, having 5 inches of rear end travel makes it easy to land. Then came twisty, technical single track (still descending) cut along the jagged edge of the precipice. The rocky shelves jutted out over the trail like fingers pushing you ever closer toward the edge. 100 feet below, the Colorado River quietly snaked its way through the landscape. A subtle reminder of how these mountains were formed. Just imagine the best (or worst depending on who you ask) parts of Skytop and Splitrock put end to end for 15 miles.... oh and on the rim of an abyss and there you have it. I know this is a feeble attempt to describe both the geography and the emotion but I was so enchanted by it all, I have to try and bring my message home.

The next ride we did was called the Amasa Back Trail. This was an out and back, again starting with a climb and again I had pain with every pedal stroke. But this was Moab. What was I supposed to do....NOT ride? NOT an option. This time the climbing was a little more difficult but still well within my range of ability to complete. There was only one part of the trail we did not attempt. That was a gnarly chute cut into the rock. One wrong move and you would plummet into the Jackson Hole chasm some 200 feet below. The ascent culminated with breathtaking vista high upon a summit of slickrock. There is a bike shop in town called Top of the World Cyclery. I wondered why they called themselves that. Now I knew why. It certainly looked and felt like the top of the world. Far below the Colorado once again wove itself around the canyons. There is a rock on the very edge Lance and I named Podium Rock. We both took turns standing on it holding our bikes up over our heads. We started what I hope will be a tradition for anyone who goes there to do. It records a remarkable trip in a mountain biking career. Of course the best thing about climbing a mountain is turning around and coming back down. Like Porcupine Rim, all the ledge climbs were now fun ramps to jump. The fun is over much too quickly on the way down. Just as we were finishing, a thunderstorm rumbled through the ravine creating a bit of rain, yes, rain in the desert. It was a welcome diversion from the harsh sun. Here, even a shower produced a spectacle in the form of a huge double rainbow. There seemed to be spectacles at every turn here in Moab. Everything had a dramatic effect. The scenery is so expansive that it almost hurts your eyes to adjust to the depth of field. I know in me it evoked very intense emotions because it is so beautiful and so big that you feel so small. Three different times on the Porcupine Rim ride I was moved to tears. You are riding along and all your extraneous thoughts slowly start to drift away with every rock jump, every little ledge drop-off. Until your riding is pure- you, your bike and the trail, all blending into one efficient machine. You feel at one with the universe. Then, when your mind is clear, when you are an open channel, you see in your peripheral vision this image. You don't want to take your concentration away from the trail because it is demanding your attention. But you can't help but look out at an amazing stretch of red rock canyons, as far as your adjusting eye can see. You feel like such a tiny speck on this miracle we call Earth. You realize how impressive it really is and all you can think is "I can't believe I'm here, riding this. It is so mind-blowing. Good thing I have my bike so I can cover more ground". It is a humbling experience. Like riding with God. If we weren't riding with God, we sure wished we were riding with our friends. We thought of them often. I know how Mr. Mike Powell would have loved flying over the drop-offs. And I know many DIRT members who would have braved the technical descents to enjoy scenery (though I don't know how Jeff Owen would handle all the cliff stuff). When all was said and done, even with my hurt knee, Lance and I rode 99% of the best Moab had to offer. Riding at Skytop, as minuscule as it is in comparison, was a good training grounds for the jagged terrain. Keep in mind that Lance picked out the hardest trails to ride. There are other, less technically challenging rides all around Moab so there is something for everyone. Lately, some magazine articles have expressed opinions about the overcrowding and overuse saying that Moab is overrated. That the onslaught of the masses descending on Slickrock and other trails had devalued the place. I can appreciate this concern. I expected not to like Moab because of those jaded articles. Since I don't live there I guess I would also be considered a tourist. I prefer traveler. And I think everyone should travel to Moab. Despite all the press to the contrary, I found it to be a wonderful place- incredible riding in a gorgeous setting. Truly a wonder of Mother Nature. She must have been a mountain biker because it is definitely a mountain biker's paradise. Go to Moab, you won't be disappointed. One thing is for sure, like Arnold says in The Terminator......"I'll be back."

Trail Maintenance News - Rick Schenosky

This year's maintenance sessions have come to a "bittersweet" end. I'll explain as we go along. First the "Sweet". As a whole, I think a lot of good things have happened this year. First of all I would like to thank Gary, Charlie, Lance, Jeff, Doug, Mike and a small group of others for this years assistance. Here are the highlights- there were no major weather catastrophes like wind storms, floods or anything like the Labor Day storm that caused damage to trails that needed major repair. Although we had a lot of wet weather this year it did not cause as much overgrowth of vegetation to be cut back as I anticipated. We had a decent turnout for both the National Trails Day at Green Lakes and the Pre-Race sessions at Highland Forest. New trails were made at Highland and the sessions before the race was great. I hope others stay for the campout next year.

Now the "Bitter". I do have concerns for next year regarding membership participation at trail maintenance in the future. Not including the two previously mentioned occasions; a number of regularly scheduled sessions were sparsely attended by very small groups or not at all, (i.e.-the post-Highland Forest Race sessions). Lack of participation causes me concern on a number of levels. A group our size should have at least 5-8 people show up at every session. Each session would be more productive and projects or repairs can be completed better, quicker and with new ideas from a larger group of members. Another concern is that riders may be taking for granted the areas that we ride because maintaining and repairing trails is an ongoing matter that not only gives us better trails, but may help to keep existing trails open. Continuous riding on trails in poor condition or riding around obstacles can create an unsightly environment and causes people to avoid poor stretches of trails and ride where they are not allowed. This condition may cause landowners to keep people off their land. Another point to be brought up is that on several occasions I have heard people mention building new trails. Building new trails can be quite a task if it is to be done correctly. I would like to have a tight group of people that have experience in using the tools correctly and the know how to built durable, environmentally correct trails that will be fun to ride.

Maintenance sessions are once a month or if an emergency condition exists a session will be scheduled accordingly. Each session starts at about 10am and will last approximately 3 hours depending on the task at hand and the amount of people at the session. We have enough tools and resources to build and repair almost any trail. We need more participation for manpower, (politically incorrect term), and brainpower.

I am open to suggestions for new projects and inquiries about how to increase participation, session's sites and times. I have tried to call people to generate participation, but that has not worked out as well as I would like and it is quite time consuming. Hopefully with the newly formed "egroups" participation will increase because it will be easier to contact members and inform them on work sites and times. My phone number is in the Ride Guide and members can also see other chair members and me at monthly CNYDIRT meetings at Hooligans for comments and inquiries. One last thought I want to convey to the group is that I want people to think about giving back to the trails a fraction of what you take out of them. I think it makes you a better individual and our group a better organization because we are more than just a bunch of people out on "the Sunday Group Ride". Again, I would like to thank those that participated in this year's sessions and welcome those to participate in the future.

Ride Schedule News - Jeff Owen

Hello, fellow mountain bikers.
Thanks to an idea from Rick Schenosky, at this year's ride/picnic at Fallbrook, we invited all the riders to bring their families. And although it was the smallest attendance of any of the picnics, we all had a good time. So when this ride comes up again, try to have the significant others in your life come and join us.
A big "well done" has to go out to Christian Powell. He wanted to come on the ride and Dad said ok. He wasn't the fastest and he missed some of the technical sections, but he rode more than all of us. When we stopped for a rest or to fix a mechanical, Christian rode up and down the trail. It wasn't until we were most of the way back, did he start to fade. Great job,Christian!

Trail access is becoming an issue at Split Rock. There are a lot of posted signs, especially at and near the trail entrances at the water tower. These have been put up by the property's owner-Solvay Bank. This may be a case of the bank limiting its liability, or it could signal the end of riding there. If you're going to ride there, try not to enter by the water tower. So far, the entrance by the old rock crusher, off Onondaga Blvd. has proven to be ok.

VanderKamp is also feeling the access issue-again. The loggers have finished, but soon they are going to open up a quarry. The company doing the digging has marked out how far they will be digging, and it will kill off about half of the trails that we ride. I talked to Dave Sheldon about this. He tells me that digging won't start until the local government gets its act together. So, we're safe for the rest of this year. It's one time I'm glad to see the government work at its usual slow pace.

It's getting to be fall weather out there. For you newer riders or those not used to riding in this neck of the woods, it's time to start changing the riding clothes. If you're going to continue riding, it's not enough just to put on sweatshirts. Cotton clothes are not a good thing to wear. They retain your sweat, and then when it's cools, it draws heat out of the body.

A good long sleeve jersey, a good wicking shell and maybe a vest is all you need for you upper body. A set of tights, and a set of Gore-Tex socks and you should be good until the temp drops down into the low 40's. Don't forget some long fingered gloves. Stop by your favorite bike shop, and they should be able to get you fully outfitted.

Remember that you should be a little cold when you first start riding. As your riding, your own exertions will warm you up. And with the proper clothes, they will carry the sweat away from your skin.

With the trees turning, there are some really scenic rides ahead, hope to see as many of you as possible out on the trails.

Killington - Mike Powell

With Jim Thorpe only days removed, I start to set my mind on Killington, VT. Killington is my crown jewel of places to ride. I dream of it as the time approaches. Finding out who is going is part of the excitement too. Who am I going to be riding with? It's important, you know. This is no cakewalk, no Erie Canal bike path...this is serious riding and to have fun you must be accompanied by serious riders. No whiners, posers, or 10 speeds; someone could get hurt here (Erik Lenzing broke his collarbone here last year). Usually you never know who is going until the week before and this year was no different. Lets see; the regulars that you never have to worry about...Lance, Tracy, Jeff, Mark, Lynn, all multi year veterans of the mountain. Then there was Rick, Gary, and Steven, who tasted of the mountain last year and needed more (I love it), along with an out of town couple, Scott Nowacki and his fiancé Ellissa. A great mix all around.

Now about the riding. The thing that sets mountain riding apart from our regular cross-country rides is not the overall difficulty of the trails. Riding on a mountain trail is just like some of the trails we ride at Split Rock or Sky Top, Morgan Hill or Highland Forrest. The obstacles aren't bigger, the look of the trails isn't foreign and the first look isn't very intimidating. The difference is the length of the trails and the very real potential for speed. Letting off your brakes on some of these trails is equivalent to twisting the throttle on a motorcycle. Not that that is bad, you just have to be ready for that kind of dynamic and I'm addicted. I just love the speed and the challenge of going as fast as I can through beautiful, difficult, dangerous singletrack. It's a real rush; a natural high. There is nothing like it around here. That is why we drive 4 hours and stay 3 nights...its worth it and we love it. Both days this year we rode to complete exhaustion finishing a total of 10 runs down the mountain. As usual, the second night, we ended up at our favorite pizza shack where they make the best barbecued chicken pizza that I've ever tasted...thank you Jeff for showing me that place...you changed my life. The next night Mark (AKA. Betty Crocker) made his almost famous chicken divan as we celebrated Tracy's 23rd birthday. It was sad to see the weekend go for sure.

I have to say that the best memories I have this year are Gary setting up the ironing board and doing all of our clothes each morning and evening, sleeping on the extremely comfortable couch w/ sandpaper fabric and ending up in Mass. on the way home because I took a wrong turn. Thanks for an awesome weekend DIRT!