Friday, February 2, 2018

You Take the Low Road, I'll Take the Highbridge

Back in December I wrote for Outside about Highbridge Park, home to Manhattan's only legal mountain bike trails.  Highbridge opened in 2007, and shortly after it did I headed up there with some friends and found these feeride trails cut into the side of a bluff far too burly for my timid and dainty singlespeed-oriented style of riding.  Plus, it was far from my home in Brooklyn, and when the far more flowy Cunningham Park trails in Queens opened shortly thereafter I knew I had found my in-the-city mountain bike spot.

Then in 2012 I moved to the Bronx, a mere three mile ride from Highbridge.  So I rode down, not having been there in five years, and not only did I still find the trails daunting but I also interrupted two people in an advanced state of intimacy and generally found the whole riding experience to be uncomfortable.  I also now lived less than an hour's ride from Sprain Ridge Park, a popular mountain biking destination outside of the city I could only drive to when I lived in Brooklyn, and that soon became my default for knobby-tired rides.

Recently though it began to dawn on me that living so close to mountain bike trails and not taking advantage of them is stupid.  Also, while riding to and from Sprain is eminently doable, it's still a couple hours round-trip not including actual trail time.  And while I don't mind that round trip in the least, as the parent of seventeen (17) human children and the curator of an equal number of blogs I don't always have the time.  So I resolved to finally figure out this Highbridge thing.

Here's something going on there next weekend by the way:

Dig, then ride with us on NYCMTB's monthly welcome days at Highbridge park in Manhattan.

Bring your friends and family for a day of fun in the woods and learn what it takes to build, maintain, and ride the most progressive urban bike park in America. All participants, NYCMTB members, or anyone with logged volunteer hours, receive a free 20 minute clinic and a guided ride throughout the trails. Bikes and helmets provided!

Highbridge Park is the home of NYC's first Mountain Biking Course. The 3 mile course offers trails of varying difficulty from Intermediate to expert, and a free-ride trail that includes drops, steeps, and berms. The park also features a Dirt Jump Park and pump track, which makes it a good place to develop different skills at all levels. The course has been featured in national magazines and is stewarded by volunteers just like you!

Getting to Highbridge from my home is a straight shot right under the elevated tracks of the 1 train.  This means I can get there in 15 or 20 minutes.  I also found that if I edit out all the super rocky body armor-type stuff I can do some fun loops on the more cross country-oriented sections of the trail.  Of course, owing to the diminutive size of the park riding in one corner of it is not the sort of thing I'd want to spend hours at a time doing, but for a quick ride it's highly enjoyable--not a full meal but definitely a satisfying snack that will hold me over until the next big dirt ride.  So when I've only got an hour and a half to squeeze in a ride, or when it's so goddamn cold I don't want to be out for that long, or when I want the novelty of a city ride with a singletrack detour, Highbridge is just the thing.

Anyway, yesterday was bitterly cold with some residual snow from the previous evening, which made it a Highbridge morning.  On the way there however I took a little detour into Van Cortlandt Park, where I availed myself of the facilities:

I should also mention that after trying various subtle spots on the Jones bar to mount my artisanal bell I found they all interfered with my hand positions, and so I was finally forced to place it front and center where it sticks out like one big cycloptic nipple:

The best thing about the Jones bars is that they're amazingly comfortable, and the second-best thing is they force you to surrender any aesthetic considerations you may have when it comes to your bicycle.

From Van Cortlandt Park I headed down to Highbridge.  That's a mountain bike trailhead, a protected bike lane, and a subway station, all in one place, and in Manhattan:

Come on, now that's incredible.

I could have entered there, but instead I headed onto the bike lane, climbed the mighty Fort George Hill (where they once held automotive hillclimb races don't you know) and went in by the dirt jumps.  As you can see, Highbridge Park is indeed high:

The trail had just the right amount of crunchy snow on it:

And I followed the tracks of some animal that had evidently been running laps in the night:

I don't know shit about animal prints, but I'm assuming that's from a raccoon, or else one big-ass rat.

Here's a photo of Ol' Piney cutting a dashing silhouette against the "Extreme Difficulty" trail marker:

And here's the trail marker for the trail I actually ride:

Oh, I should also mention that part of the joy of riding in Highbridge is wearing "regular" clothes: I just grab a bike and go.  On this particular day though I do confess I was wearing some fancy Mission Workshop pants--these pants, I believe:

Because I am a world famous blogger and social media influencer the same people who hooked me up with the Renovo proffered the pants, and where I come from when someone offers to drop trousers on you you don't say no.

Wow, that didn't sound good.

I should point out that at this point in my blogging career I've tried a lot of bikey pants: Rapha, Levi's bike-specific jeans, Outlier...  So far the only ones that didn't die the same crotch hole-related death as ordinary pants do were the Outlier--which seven years after I took delivery of them were still going strong.  Unfortunately though they've also recently gone missing, and I've turned my wardrobe inside out searching for them to no avail.

Outlier notwithstanding, I'm currently of the opinion that the best jeans for cycling in terms of cost, comfort, and durability are the ones from Uniqlo with a little stretch in them.  They're not ostensibly bike-specific, but they are relatively inexpensive and hold up at least as well as anything I've tried.  Nevertheless, I seized upon the opportunity to try the Mission Workshop jeans to see if they're worth the considerable premium.  At this early stage I simply don't know yet, but here's the waist-down selfie that you never thought you wanted and now you wish you could unsee:

We'll see how they hold up after six months of Highbridge rides and infrequent-to-nonexistent washings.

Once I'd shredded enough (to be fair I don't shred so much as I vainly attempt to cut with leftie scissors) I hit the city streets once again, and the other great thing about riding at Highbridge is stopping at Target on the way home:

There's nothing quite as exhilarating as the transition from trail to linoleum, and from mountain bike to shopping cart:

Of course, being a dutiful Strava douche I paused the app while I shopped.  Nevertheless, as I browsed the aisles I received a notification from them:

Naturally my tweet prompted the predictable "Why would you want to?" responses.  I dunno, are there really people who would enjoy getting messages like this?  It's 2018, and thanks to the Internet you have instant access to any type of erotic image imaginable.  Sure, you could enjoy it in private, but why do that when instead it can appear on your wrist in the checkout line at Target?

Anyway, I rode home with a full backpack and carrying a pair of plastic Target bags (hey, I overshopped) and by the time I got home and went to block whoever sent the message the account seemed to be gone, so maybe Strava saw my tweet and deleted it.  And if they're reading this now, I hope they don't take away my (probably erroneous) KOM from the other day:

It's all I've got.


Anonymous said...


wishiwasmerckx said...

Should have scrolled down before I read this in its entirety.


Anonymous said...

I tried to block a spam account on strava and couldn’t find an option to. So strava if you’re reading this please add that feature!

Wisconsin_Escapee said...

That's incredible.
May you challenge yourself each day on the trails.
I miss the quizzes; I understand the time constraints with a coastal lifestyle, but would consider a monthly midterm?

Kindly, etc.

Doper said...

"Please... DON'T SKID"

America is so weird.

Some guy from upstate said...

That lock-up job looks a little sketch, especially in the NYC metro. I would have thought 27.5 plus wheels were a high-value item.

wishiwasmerckx said...

I have three pairs of the Levi's commuter jeans and one jacket as well.

I love all of them and routinely wear them on days without the bike as well as days with it.

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

Late again, Scranus to all!

Anonymous said...

The tracks are canine

Schisthead said...

You're living the dystopian dream that Futurama predicted:

"With the new eyePhone, you can watch, listen, ignore your friends, stalk your ex, download porno on a crowded bus, even check your E-mail while getting hit by a train. All with the new eyePhone."

Txzen said...

Dunno - before I blocked her, I’d ask whatpressuredoyouride?

Brendan said...

As a tourist on a bike, I explored Highbridge a few years ago. While a bit of it was really difficult, overall the trails were pretty fun despite being a bit overgrown and blow down-ridden. Perplexing was that I rode it on New Year's Eve and I was the only person on the trail on a day most people had off.

I had heard about the place, because some of my friends has raced in it: Perhaps it'll catch on now thanks to BSNYC's promotion? The park is also home to an awesome, all-season skatepark.

Blog Drafter said...


Chazu said...

Did you say that you're left handed? My wife is left-handed. And that's how I know the archaic definition of "sinister" is "of, on, or toward the left-hand side."

When overtaking, shout "On yer Sinister side!"

BikeSnobNYC said...


I'm right-handed, but I "shred" like I'm using s lefty scissor.

--Wildcat Etc.

JLRB said...

When my favorite jeans went missing I knew my bride had offed them, but could never prove it...


janinedm said...

Every time I've claimed Fort George Hill, it's been because Google Maps decides to punish me for really only knowing Tremont Ave. Once I was on this bike when I realized with dawning horror what Google Maps was about to make me do. Also for future reference, this is the bike I call the beautiful monster.

Spokey said...


missed the early doors. it was too cold and windy to ride to the PO so i walked. but i did don a healment (but wool akin to what the hoser bros wear) and foolish fingered gloves. due to the cold i was running low pressure.

X-Congressman Wierner said...

Now you will never be President WCRM!

X-Congressman Wiener said...

No Presidency for you WCRM!

bad boy of the south said...

My eyes!my eyes!first,the bike in the men's shot.i hope that you have sterilized ol'piney after that.secondly, the fashion eyes,oh,my eyes!

1904 Cadardi said...

Do your left handed scissors have duckies or bunnies on them? I'm totally a shred with the duckies guy, but I can respect the bunnies too!

Anonymous said...

Would a spacer mount from VO be a more aesthetic solution for your bell?

Anonymous said...

seeing as you're ahead of your time, the bell should go on the seat post.

HDEB said...

Highbidge and Inwood Hill Park have some of the best skiing anywhere in NYC when there is lots of snow. -- steep drops like the stock market today. And, they are reliable places to score "dog food" or "rock" if you are so inclined.

leroy said...

I once wound up on the High Bridge trails on a carbon road bike because someone convinced me it’d be an interesting detour.

I’m not saying who that was, but he’s the same guy who’s been cutting tail holes in my winter tights and won’t lift a paw to help me find my base layers on chilly mornings.

He just reads the paper at the kitchen table, sips coffee, and suggests my tauntaun will freeze before I reach the first marker.

One of these days, I’m going to ask him what’s a tauntaun, where’s the first marker, and what’s with all the eye rolling and giggling.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure those aren’t his tracks in the park. He’d have left his name in yellow.

Ride safe all!

McFly said...

Maybe someone from Outlier reads this here blogulation.

Spokey said...

i never put a bell on the new(ish) bike so i considered getting one of those artisanal dudes. couldn't bring myself to pop for $50. so i sadly went with a cheapo rivendell one for $13 (after redeeming my rivvy fun points)

I hope i live with substandard safety equipment (pls don't leak this misconduct to my oem superiors). if i'm wrong and you see me lying in the snow clutching my dollars like scrooge mcduck, just don't let someones dog write his name on my forehead.

Hee Haw the Barista's north shore cousin Blaze said...

How radical are these black diamond NY downhills anyways?

Hows That working out for y'all said...


This comment has been posted without reading the supporting documentation

Paul Heckbert said...

folding bikes can be pretty fast

Dooth said...

I just can't see anything wrong with that Strava message. The glasses?

Anonymous said...

Try Kuhl jeans. They are built for climbing so they have an decent amount of stretch, and are specifically made to not rip the crotch, as you can imagine if you were climbing in them that would be your weak point. They look good too. They only problem is telling people verbally what they are. "These are cool jeans"
I don't work for them or anything, I just wear them.

Schisthead said...

The more I think about this entry, the more I suspect you missed something in Strava's signup or preference pages. You know how all these companies check a million boxes when you sign up, and you have to go opt out of a bunch of them, I bet it had something to do with that.

Or maybe even just accidentally checking that one option you didn't mean to.

Road, MTB, Commuting, Sexy laundry. Something like that.

Skidmark said...

Function and aesthetics get all mixed-up, like the underwear on the Stravagirl.

Matt H said...

Snobbers, I hope you don't habitually ride down Broadway directly to get to Upper Manhattan from Riverdale/Kingsbridge. The elevated-track stanchions separating the main traffic lane from the service lane make the drivers act crazy. My two closest calls on NYC streets have *both* been on that stretch of Broadway, southbound. Both involved drivers in the traffic lineup on Broadway, at a dead stop, deciding they would pull a power merge into the service lane instead without looking to see that I was undertaking in the service lane. :(

Nowadays I jog over to Tibbet or Corlear instead, or up Manhattan College Parkway->Waldo->Riverdale if I want to conquer a little hill. Then 230th->Marble Hill Ave->Terrace View Ave.

tediKresna said...

I believe the marin pine mountain is not making america great again.
Because it is not made in usa.
It is made in sidoarjo, indonesia