Thursday night trail riding in Kirby Park with Valley Cycles

As much as I consider myself a roadie these days, there was a time I loved mountain biking more than anything in the world. And I'm not just talking about riding a bike with knobby wheels around on the street, I'm talking about actually going off-road, through trails in the woods and out into the middle of nowhere. It's been an awfully long time since I've done that.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a new bike shop I discovered called Valley Cycles. Every Thursday night they go out trail riding through Kirby Park, which is only a few blocks from the shop, across the Market Street bridge into Kingston. Last night, I took my bike up to join them and had the time of my life.

The post on Valley Cycle's Facebook page said, "Snow or no, we are riding," so I purchased a pair of wool hiking socks specifically for the event. Along with a headband/ear cover to pull on under my helmet, I was ready. With the temperature dipping into the mid-30s, it certainly wasn't warm out, but I was snug as a bug. It was going to take more than a little bit of cold weather to hold me back!

If a picture says a thousand words, the following video I found online from a previous ride should pretty much cover this blog post, and yet it still wouldn't convey the amount of fun I had last night, nor would it convey the enthusiastic, friendly attitude of the Valley Cycles staff in setting up these rides and introducing them to new riders. Just watch:

There were 15 riders in all, and the sight of headlamps flying through the near-pitch blackness of the woods at night was astonishing. Riding along the river bank, knowing that a slight wrong turn or loss of balance could be the difference between mountain biking and an impromptu swim in the Susquehanna River made the ride that much more exhilarating. But it was the feeling of camaraderie as we tackled steep hills, dips, low-hanging branches and thick brush that made the ride a great time for everyone. And don't think these rides are a young man's game! There was a wide range of ages represented in our group, and several women riders, as well.

As one might expect, the ride wasn't without some consequences. There were a few spills as riders hit nasty sections of the terrain, and I managed to find nearly every puddle of mud along way, slipping and sliding as my thin wheels sank into the softer spots of earth. On one occasion, I bottomed out on a log-over and broke the chain-guard on my front sprocket. If I'd been going a bit faster, I might have been able to get a little more air under the front wheel and cleared the log, but at least the sprocket survived without major damage.

To be honest, I'm surprised my city-hybrid survived at all. I certainly didn't baby it, and though it might have fared better with wider tires, I can't say I had much of a problem getting through the night. I think I held on pretty well, considering this was my first night ride on unfamiliar ground. 

Afterwards, kicking back with a post-ride beer and chowing down on a pasta dinner at the River Street Jazz Cafe while sharing battle stories and war wounds was the best way to finish the night. I'm so totally looking forward to next week!


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