Aidan Kinsley & Lisa Zippo riding the Hardy Road Trail in Willmington, NY, a Fats in the Cats recommendation.
With the Catskills, the Gunks, and nearby Berkshires and Adirondacks, and an expanding network of connected rail trails, this area is no stranger to mountain biking. And May is the month for getting started (or restarted) with it.
“I’ve been all over the country with my bike,” says Christian Favata, who went to the cyclo-cross nationals last year in Texas. “We live in the best area for riding.” Favata runs TRT Bicycles
in Rosendale, a full service bike shop that offers an a la carte guide service for customized rides. He finds that, when people get on their bike, they see the area totally differently. “People can live here their whole life, driving around in a car. But on a bike, you see a different point of view.”
Racers in the kids' race at the Williams Lake Classic
TRT presents the Williams Lake Classic on May 24th
, the first race in the NY State MTB Series
. Formed in 2008 by five local and independent race promoters who pooled their efforts into reviving the series, the NY State MTB Series is now a grassroots organization that prides itself on designing fun, yet challenging race courses, which run May through September. Each race is presented by a different mountain bike org or shop in the Hudson Valley. There are kids’ races (Williams Lake Classic’s is huge with 30-40 kids involved last year), guided group rides for all skill sets, and a World Cup.
Overlook Mountain Bicycles
, another full service shop in Woodstock, hosts the series' all-terrain challenge on August 23rd at Belleayre Mountain
. For owner Billy Denter, cycling was his first form of independence, and now he's sharing the love by developing relationships with young riders who come into the shop. Helping parents get their kids their first bike is pure joy, he says. "And we're going to take care of them as they grow." With customers pulling from Albany to Brooklyn, they’ve been seeing a hearty increase in the past two years of eco-tourism: riding, hiking and exploring in the area. "There’s a nice percolation happening.”
Denter says what’s largely underrated in the Hudson Valley cycling scene is the social component. That’s why everyone who works at Overlook Mountain Bicycles is approachable, friendly, and passionate about cycling. (They’re even all parents.) They organize two group rides each week on Thursdays and Saturdays
, along with women-specific rides and ones based on age and ability. The shop’s also a space to hang out where people can develop their own groups to ride. Says Denter, “I think bike shops can be the community’s epicenter for cycling, and that’s what I want to be.”
But, he adds, the skill set needed to enjoy the area’s off road opportunities can pose a hurdle for new riders. “If you don’t have a mentor or parent who’s into it, it can be hard to make that jump.” He points to Fats in the Cats
, a nonprofit cycling advocacy organization, which builds and maintains bike trails in Ulster and Dutchess Counties, and also participates in public policy decisions that impact public cycling opportunities in the region.
May 16th is the 8th Fats in the Cats Bike Swap, where from 10a-2p, the New Paltz Middle School
parking lot fills up with bikes. Inside, vendors sell everything bike-related from clothing to tires and tubes. If you have old bike equipment, you can bring it in to swap or sell. They’ll take donations and, depending on condition, fix it up to get ready for sale, or use it for parts. There’s usually a huge selection of last season's mountain bikes that local shops want to unload for a sweet price, and it’s a great place to purchase kids’ bike, which, even used, are often like new since kids outgrow them before wearing them out.
The Bike Swap is free to attend, and sales result in an 80% profit for vendors with a 20% donation to Fats in the Cats. Last year, they raised $4000 after expenses. They use it for their Charity Bikes for Kids program, a December holiday ride where they deliver 30 gift bikes along with toys to Kingston families in need.
Fats in the Cats also serves as a meeting spot where people can connect to organize kids’ rides, ask questions, or meet other cyclists using the forum on their website
or through their Facebook page
. They have a Tuesday night beginner ride at various locations
, which has mostly been adults, but is open to everyone. It costs $30/year
, which gets you a joint membership with Fats in the Cats and IMBA
. There’s also a family-oriented, potluck gathering each fall called Fatsgiving.
Like it? Contact Jodi Petrozak at (845) 338-3810 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the YMCA’s Mountain Bike camp. And check out NICA, which focuses on developing high school-aged riders.