This past Thursday, I was at our Sterling Machine operation in Lynn, MA. After work, I drove over to Harold Parker State Forest in Andover to meet up with the North Shore NEMBA crew for the Thursday Night Ride. Including me, the group was 12. It was a beautiful late May evening that was hot and muggy. We rode until dusk. I captured the route on my GPS.
The weekly ride is billed “intermediate.” I wasn’t looking for anything more than some guidance and new trails, so that was fine. There was a fair amount of standing around, but I was cool with that, with the only exception being the mosquitoes. We waited for everyone. Bob Ganley was our host and we saw parts of Harold Parker, the Ward Reservation, and several other land trust/conservation properties. Sections were part of the Bay Circuit Trail which is getting a lot of marketing thanks to a partnership between the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Trustees of Reservations. We even got to go up the historic Boston Hill, where there used to be a ski area. The view east to Boston and beyond was fantastic and we had a good look at the skyline despite the haze.
The descent off of Boston Hill was a highlight. There was fresh-cut trails with beautiful flowing switchbacks and some great bridges. It was just rough enough to keep you honest. I learned that Harold Parker has more than 30 miles of trails that are mountain bike friendly, but we only saw a small amount. They say it takes four Thursday rides (about two hours long) to cover all of the trails when you focus on them. However, this week, Bob took us to several other trail systems in town. I plan to return, though I was encouraged to bring my full suspension bike next time.
Well, I don’t have one. This ride featured 11 other riders, and everyone was riding a full suspension. Some even sported body armor (knee, shin, and elbow guards). I was un-phased because my goal is to always stay on my bike. I only fell once, and it happened to be off of a bog bridge. Thankfully, it was on a dry section. 50 feet up the trail, it would have been a two foot fall into some serious muck. There were several cool sections of bridges over this bog.
This was a throwback ride for me. I rarely get on group rides, whether they are on road or off-road. This was old school with many long time riders, which was great to see. Full transparency: I was heckled multiple times…and I loved it. Don’t shy away from this ride. It was all good-natured ribbing with the quality of trails and true trail ethic in mind. Several of these dudes were hard-core trail maintainers and builders. Erosion and trail health was at the top of their minds.
The worst attacks came after I ended up in front on one section of trail late in the ride. I didn’t know what was coming around a bend (I think everyone assumed I should have) and instead of going over a tree (obstacle) in the trail, I went around it. That caused much consternation and several rebukes, including these gems: “No shortcuts” and “Don’t take the pu%#y line.” I bit my lip, but was thinking, right on! Way to welcome the new guy!
I took it all in stride and managed to clear all of the other trail obstacles despite riding my Seven Sola SL 29er rigid singlespeed. I’ll return to the ride, and it will be on the same bike. The rocks and roots don’t bother me. I made sure that I didn’t mention my upcoming half Ironman. That would have likely resulted in even harsher criticism! I was already drawing looks for my color coordinated Lycra kit. Like I said, don’t let any of this dissuade you from joining this crew on an upcoming Thursday night. It was a great ride on some great trails!