Twenty-one years now, we’ve been spending a weekend with like-minded cyclists at Allegany State Park in southwest New York State … and yes, the spelling is correct.
Like-minded you ask? Certainly, if you like tandem mountain bikes, climbing and descending steep hills, sometimes at night, and maybe twisting through the woods on skinny trails just a bit too fast. And if you like campfires, foodfests, and perhaps a bit of beer to go with the raucous conversation that inevitably surfaces amongst an international crowd of tandem mountain bikers, you too might want to consider joining the fringe.
We arrive Friday afternoon and take possession of the keys to Camp Allegany, the group camp near the Red House Lake. While Karen gets some of the kitchen tasks underway, I head up the hill into the trails to survey a new singletrack that WNYMBA has developed. The Pugsley is called for this detail which starts with a hike-a-bike straight up the Bova ski hill to reach the Ridge Run Trail and the new lean-to built to replace the one we’ve watched disintegrate over the years.
Near the top of the ridge, I found the exit point of the new singletrack and began riding it uphill .. the reverse (wrong) direction. It’s a tough trail in that direction, and doable on a fatbike, but I make note to advise the crew that on tandems, it’s best to stick to the plan of doing it in the clockwise direction.
I return to the camp by reversing down the Ridge, and taking the racecourse switchbacks down the ski hill, where I’m very thankful for fat tires and disk brakes on (nearly) impossibly tight and steep hairpins.
After the crowd starts to arrive and the first evening meal is packed away, a group ride around the lake follows, at night with high intensity lights blazing and freezing the local deer herds in their tracks.
Saturday morning, the riding starts in earnest with the group climbing up into the Art Rosco trail system and the split where some head up straight up the Patterson Trail,
and a few adventurous but uninformed teams try to navigate the Snowsnake Trail. I received no reports of misadventures from the Patterson contingent, but those of us who elected the alternate route were all stopped in our tracks at least once each by the steep and unexpectedly sloppy-wet trail conditions. In dry years, most of the gang can complete Snowsnake without a hitch, but when wet like this year, pushing up past the mud bogs required feet on the ground and a lot of expended calories.
We arrived a bit late at the access road to the traditional “Stone Tower” lunch stop just as the Patterson group was returning from their lunch. Not surprisingly, they tired of waiting for us in the cold.
Here again, another split of the crew is in the works, and three of seven tandem teams decide to try the new singletrack at the opposite end of the ridge: Anthony and Katie on a full-suspended Ventana ECdM,
Karen and myself on “The Grinch” (another ECdM), and Chris and Vanessa on an UN-suspended Rodriguez with drop bars, no less. Katie and Chris are daughter and son respectively of Anthony, they are both fine adventurers and athletes, and Chris captained the rigid Rodriguez through the singletrack with amazing skill. Vanessa’s trust in Chris was tested, but remained intact at the end of the ride!
Saturday’s night ride saw a similar group of three tandem teams plus Katie on a single tackle the long hill-climb and return descent of the Patterson Trail. Karen and I love this part of the weekend … the night rides! Especially the downhill, again with headlights blazing. A 45 minute road climb resulting in a 20 minute dirt trail downhill, complete with mud, rocks, wet leaves and a couple sweeping corners is too much fun to resist.
Sunday, most everyone goes along for a gentle ride off-campus. We head out the west entrance of the park, cross the freeway, and go exploring into Seneca Nation reservation land along the Allegheny River
and yes, THIS spelling is also correct. It’s a gentle change of pace as we twiddle along down the abandoned Old Route 17, now a crumbling remains of the original route to Pennsylvania before the construction of the Kinzua dam and the interstate.
We had a gorgeous view of the river as we crossed on an old bridge, and we had a nice lunch break on a dead end path before turning back toward camp.
Another crew split. Three of the seven remaining teams (we started the morning with 11 bikes) took the wet alternate back toward the park … a wooded double-track that was nearly as much water as dirt. We got wet feet and muddy bikes but no one took a bath this year.
Back in the park that evening, we had our third food-fest of the weekend and our second warm and toasty campfire.
Monday morning saw the last of the weekend leftovers coming out and starting to disappear. Dessert for breakfast was not uncommon, but just as well … we needed fuel for the last bit of riding before breaking camp and heading home. Some of the group did a lake loop and some went to Thunder Rocks. Mark and Lynn joined Team Grinch for a gentle cruise to the top via Patterson Trail where we split. Karen and I took a nice ride alone back to camp via the Ridge Run. The ridge is beautiful this time of year with the fall colors exploding in the park. We paused for a moment to soak in the fall colors before heading down to the connection leading to the Bova ski hill.
I took the opportunity to test the new brakes by heading straight down the ski slope! Even with the weight and inertia of a tandem team, the new Avid BB7’s were able to bring us to a complete stop half way down the mountain without the slightest fade or squeal … or doing an endo. TEST PASSED, we are ready to take the Grinch out west again next summer and loaded for touring —>> Canada section of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route!