Mountain biking in NYC sounds kind of ridiculous, and calls to mind trying to bunny-hop pigeons in the park versus shredding singletrack in a vast forest. But even if you’re trapped in the concrete jungle that is Manhattan, there are options… and if you have car access or a free weekend day to take a train ride, there are even more rad options.
1. Cunningham Park
Best for: after work adventures
This is the park of choice for those trapped in the city for the summer. A long workday doesn’t seem nearly as bad when you can end it with some time on well-groomed and well-maintained trails. The 358-acre expanse that makes up Cunningham Parkis one of Queen’s best-kept secrets, with a trail system that will have you grinning the second you duck into the woods. Thanks to devoted trailbuilders from NYCMTB and IMBA, the riding here is first class. The park is great for beginners and experts alike, with a host of trails for every ability level. The trails are theoretically one-direction, and it’s specified on the trail maps, but be warned that people don’t always follow the rules. End in Brooklyn for happy hour.
2. Six Mile Run
Best for: weekend day trips, especially if you have a buddy in New Brunswick or Princeton to crash with
This is a personal favorite, and not just because I went to college in New Brunswick and used these trails to learn mountain biking skills (and cyclocross skills). This is one of the farther destinations on the list, but it’s worth it if you’ve already explored all of your other options, or want a change from NYC nightlife. Six Mile Run is in Piscataway, just a stone’s throw from New Brunswick, so by train and bike, it’s a solid two hour journey, though by car, it’s closer to an hour and a half. But for a day of fun in the woods—and an easy way to combine a fun, longer mountain bike ride with miles and miles of amazing towpath if you’re trying to get in a big volume day, this is a great option—especially if you’re going with a friend who is still a beginner mountain biker.
The trails at Six Mile are technical, but more focused on sharp, tight cornering with a few technical bridges and small drops thrown in. A newer rider will enjoy it because it isn’t overly intimidating, and assuming he or she has some basic cycling skills, most sections are completely ride-able. There aren’t many rocks, especially compared to many of the more technical trails in the region, so it’s a great beginner option because you’re less likely to get seriously hurt if you crash.
But before you start thinking that the trails are more for beginners than experts, think again. If you’re a technically skilled mountain biker, these trails are a great test of your handling abilities at speeds you can rarely get to on tech-y trails like those found in Sprain Ridge Park. It’s more like Cunningham Park but faster and less well-traveled: in fact, most mountain bikers refer to it as a secret spot in New Jersey.