NEW YORK — Dirt roads and wild forest trails in New York City?
Believe it or not, for the past several years fans of mountain biking have been able to get their adrenaline rush on isolated urban trails that are free of cars and pedestrians.
All that's needed is a bike with wide, knobby-tread tires and suspension (at least in the front), according to Dawson Smith of the New York City Mountain Bike Association.
The Parks Department has laid out trails in Manhattan, Staten Island and Queens — and they offer a bone-jarring experience, bikers say.
“Can you believe that there is an actual mountain bike trail in Manhattan?” said Smith, referring to a 3-mile route along rocky cliffs in Highbridge Park.
DNAinfo New York checked out several of the city's trails, a bike park in Brooklyn and stores around the city that offer mountain bike rentals, classes and group rides.
Cunningham Park in Oakland Gardens, Queens — Ideal for Beginners
The park, with a trailhead at 210th Street and 67th Avenue (about 30 minutes from the 179th Street station on the F line), offers 6 1/2 miles of diverse trails, including routes for beginners, intermediate and experts.
“It’s great for first-timers,” said Karolina Lopez, 31, of Bushwick, who comes to the trail — which has numerous markers indicating levels of difficulty — about twice a month.
But the park also includes a dirt jump park with a pump track — a continuous loop of berms and mounds.
“It can also be very challenging,” Lopez said. “Some trails have a lot of quick turns and obstacles. The trails are also very tight and lead through dense bushes.”
Cesar Ramirez, 36, of Oakland Gardens, comes to Cunningham Park every day and rides on the trail for experienced bikers.
“It’s very technical,” he said. “There are many obstacles and jumps.”
The trails in the park are maintained by members of Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists (CLIMB).
Highbridge Park in Washington Heights — Great For Practicing Skills at All Levels of Experience
Highbridge Park, located on Fort George Hill in Washington Heights, offers 3 miles of very diverse routes.
There is also a freeride trail that includes drops and berms and a dirt jump park with a pump track, which makes it a good place to develop skills at all levels.
Riders traverse cliffs and rocks along a route that can be quite challenging and technical.
“There is 150 feet of vertical elevation [in Highbridge Park], which is very rare for New York City,” said Smith, adding the park “offers a little bit of everything, from a simple beginner loop to some very challenging climbs and a very challenging downhill section.”
Located near the Dyckman Street Station on the number 1 train, the trail is easily accessible via public transportation.
“It’s the only place in Manhattan where you can do off-road biking,” said Alex Zirakparvar, 31, who lives in Washington Heights and comes to the park on a regular basis.
Wolfe’s Pond Park in Tottenville, Staten Island — Make a Day Of It
The park offers 4 miles of trails that are laid out around ponds and a beach. It has both easy trails for inexperienced bikers as well as steep climbs for more advanced enthusiasts.
“The best part is that you can have an awesome ride and then you can sit by the ocean,” Smith said. “It’s a very unique thing to get it all together in one park setting.”
Some portions of the shore are still being rebuilt after being damaged during Hurricane Sandy, Smith said.
Smith also suggested that bikers travel from Wolfe's Pond Park to Conference House Park, located about 3 1/2 miles away. It's the spot where Benjamin Franklin negotiated with the British in 1776.
“It’s a wonderful place,” said Smith about Wolfe’s Pond Park. “Make a day trip out of it. Do your planning. Pack a lunch. Go for a ride and then enjoy sitting by the ocean.”
Brooklyn Bike Park in Williamsburg — Perfect to Get Comfortable
The jump park located at 329 Kent Ave. between South 3rd and 4th streets offers a variety of obstacles, including climbs, rocks and logs.
“This is what we are recommending for first-timers if they want to go and check it out and just get comfortable riding the bike,” Smith said.
The park rents mountain bikes and BMX bikes (free of charge for kids under 5 and senior citizens; for kids 5 to 10 years old it’s $5, from 11 to 15 years old it’s $10; 16 and older it’s $15 for the day).
The park was built on private property. Because there are plans to develop the land, the group is currently looking for a new place to relocate the park, Smith said.
Experts say that bikers, no matter how experienced, should not go on trails alone. “If something happens to you, no one will know,” Smith said.
Trips for Kids Metro New York organizes free trips for families in Cunningham Park.
Peak Bicycle Pro Shop in Douglaston also leads group rides on Sundays at 8:30 a.m. in Cunningham Park. Groups ride on advanced trails but at an intermediate pace.
Bike Rentals and Classes
Several bike shops offer rentals and classes in mountain biking. REI in SoHo takes participants to Lewis Morris County Park in New Jersey. A 6-hour class costs $65 for members and $85 for non-members (helmet and mountain bike are provided).
Peak Bicycle Pro Shop in Douglaston rents bicycles ($10 per hour or $50 for 24 hours) and organizes trips to Cunningham Park.
Tread Bike Shop at 250 Dyckman St. in Washington Heights also offers bike rentals ($8 per hour and $40 for 24 hours).