It was the kind of weekend that I never wanted to end.
I love bikes, and I Iove riding them. It consumes me 24/7, which isn’t a bad thing but it can make life difficult at times. Especially when you’re trying to balance time with family and responsibilities, and I’ll be damned if that’s not one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Anyway, let’s get into the kind of weekend I live for.
After work on Friday I headed out for a cross country ride in the Lehigh Valley. The sun was shining, the temperature was perfect, and the trails were begging to be ridden, and I was ready to meet that request. My local trails have an amazing mix of technical rock, fast downhill, sweeping corners, and tight single-track. Everything you could ask for in XC trails, as long as you’re willing to work for it. You’re welcome to all the fun you can handle; you simply just have to climb to get it.
As I leave the parking lot I’m feeling good and having fun. I run into some friends and we chat a little before moving on to our own rides. Many people, myself included like to ride in a certain direction or have a planned loop. Today’s ride allows me to ride as many different trails as possible, and still have a lot of varied terrain. My ride finishes with a long switchback downhill to the lot. My ride may have ended but the weekend has just begun.
I wake Saturday morning excited knowing it’s going to be an awesome day. It will be non-stop fun on two wheels with friends both new and old. I head to Bethlehem to do the Cutters bike shop Saturday morning road ride. All my life I’ve been labeled as a “downhiller” which has always amused me, especially now since I do more road riding than anything. I’ve always believed in labeling myself nothing more than a “cyclist”. My passion is with all bikes and all styles of riding. We leave the shop around 9:00 and we are blessed with a gorgeous day. The ride will travel around the backside of Bethlehem and through the Hellertown/Emmaus area. Road riding is such a free and invigorating feeling, minus the occasional car that gets too close. We get back to the shop around noon and put in a little over 41 miles. What can be deceiving about this area is that even though your mileage might be low, you can still do a ton of climbing, and I like climbing. After the ride I quickly change and head to New Jersey for the Alexandria Pump Track Jam.
This would be the fourth annual Alexandria Pump Track Jam and I can proudly say I’ve been a part of every one. It’s an assortment of riders of all ages, and bikes of all kinds. Everyone has come together with the goal of supporting the track and having a good time. Year after year I notice more and more mountain bikers coming to the event. Seeing this takes me back to a time where we were the odd balls at dirt jumps and BMX tracks.
In my early days of riding and racing I had my mountain bike and my BMX bike. At this point in time they were entirely different types of riding, and mountain bikes weren’t being designed for jumping, and you certainly didn’t see them at any dirt jump spots. Eventually with the racing format of slalom we started taking bikes that were a size smaller than normal and used them for jumping. They were still a regular mountain bike, but smaller and easier to handle. My good buddy Jay Dejesus was around for my early days of dirt jumping on a mountain bike, and I’m sure he could share a good story or two about some of our adventures. As time passed and bikes got better geometries and parts specs I decided not to ride my BMX bike anymore and focus primarily on the mountain bike for all airborne activities. This also eliminated the awkwardness of constantly transitioning from one bike back to the other. Anyway, the point of my story is too convey what a wonderful feeling I had when I realized just how far the sport of mountain biking has come and just how far it’s evolved. Its acceptance in this realm of dirt and air is no longer an issue but a normality and I can proudly say it’s a sport I’ve been a part of and watched grow right from the beginning.
The turnout for the Pump track jam was incredible, and people seemed to keep showing up all day long. Even with a crowd this large the track and its other lines were being safely ridden and without any complications. People young, old, big and small, were making this small area of land a riding playground. Laughter and cheers were heard constantly throughout the day and the dust clouds continued to rise and fall. Packing up my gear for the day it was hard to believe another year had come and gone. As I made my way out I scanned through the large crowds wondering how this small piece of land would be able to hold an even bigger and better jam next year. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Yay, one more day left of riding. Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, time to ride bikes! Today’s plan was to head to Blue Mountain Bike Park for a day of downhilling. Blue Mountain has reopened the doors to biking this season after taking a few years off. What I love about riding here is the trails and the soil. Riding here is about bike control and knowing how to read a trail and pick lines. Each run can challenge you and your abilities. We spend the day mixing up most of the trails the mountain has to offer. They made a great decision all these years in keeping the old jumps that were located near the base of the mountain as it makes a great way to end each run. Being their first year back in the game after a short hiatus I hope they decide to stick with it and make progress as the summer continues. I feel the mountain has endless potential and the ability to be one of the East Coast's largest bike parks. Throughout the day more and more familiar faces show up and the parking lot slowly begins to fill. The day ends with everyone in one piece and ready for next weekend to roll around so we can come back.
A weekend filled with riding a different bike each day, yep that’s pretty much as perfect as they get to me. Riding different bikes only makes you a better, well-rounded rider with a quiver of skills at your disposal. I feel blessed that my friends all share the same passion for riding styles as I do; it's what makes weekends like this possible. Hopefully there will be one in my future again very soon.