Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Riding Along the Shawangunk Carriage Trails (with my new Clement X'Plor USH Tires).
For years, I've been thinking about swapping out my road tires for something better suited to riding on the local carriage roads and today it finally happened. These carriage roads, that weave through both the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park along the Shawangunk Ridge, are stunning artifacts of an earlier time. Built in the 19th century to accommodate the carriage traffic from New York City and elsewhere to this spectacular mountain destination, these roads are carefully maintained today for use by hikers, cyclists, rock climbers and cross-country skiers. While I spend a lot of time riding on the roads over and along the ridge, I've spent precious little time riding on the carriage roads themselves and never with my preferred road bike.
Last year I bought a pair of 35 x 700 Clement X'Plor USH tires to expand the range of surfaces on which I can comfortably ride with my road bike. These Clements are rated highly for gravel grinding and other off-road pursuits so I knew they would be a wise choice for the local carriage roads. It turns out that you need to do more than just buy the tires, though; you actually need to install them to reap the full benefit. Happily, the tires fit perfectly on my white Indy Fab and afford just the right amount of plush traction to instill confidence in a road rider like myself out on the trails.
Now admittedly, these roads are covered with fairly smooth crushed stone, so the riding is not what I'd call technical. Still, with a bright covering of fall leaves, one needs to use some caution so as not to hit a stray rock, stick, root or hole. This afternoon, I pulled out my trusty Shawangunk Trail Companion to map out a route with easy access to my car that would give me a nice introduction to the terrain. I entered at the West Trapps trailhead, a favorite of climbers throughout the Northeast who come to enjoy the dramatic rock climbing along the ridge-line. This afternoon, I began by riding down the Undercliff Trail passing five or six groups of climbers on belay enjoying the cool afternoon.
Upon reaching the end of the Undercliff Trail, I took a left to connect with the Overcliff Trail that climbs gradually and runs parallel to the trail I had just ridden to return to the West Trapps trailhead, but affords a view to the northwest of the full Catskill range in the distance. Once back where I began, I shot out towards neighboring Minnewaska State Park along the trail known as Trapps Road that brought me deeper into the peaceful afternoon forest. I wish there had been enough time to take in the loop out to Lake Awosting, but that will have to wait until another day.
In all, my afternoon was quite enjoyable, filled with peaceful, solitary riding without any cares or cars to consider. While I did not find the gradual slope of the carriage trails terribly challenging (it was hard to raise my heartbeat, in fact), the views and serenity more than made up for the loss. This will surely become a feature of my off-season and recovery riding in the future.