Web Extra for Dirt Rag #143: Urban Ride Guide

pennypack park dirt ragThe Area: Pennypack Park
Location: Northeast Philadelphia, PA
Informant: John Tannock
Photo credit: John Tannock, www.tannockphotography.com

Part of the Fairmount Park system, Pennypack is named after the Lenni Lenape Iindian word for deep, slow-moving water.

How big is the park?
Frankly, it’s still growing! There are about 18 miles of trail in about 1400 acres of parkland.

What type(s) of trails are there?
There are sections that are fast and flowy as well as a fair bit of tight and twisty. Not as many rock gardens as Wissahickon, in fact most of the trail surfaces are pretty smooth packed dirt. There are an abundance of “logovers” (log piles), though most are easy enough for advanced-novice and intermediate riders to handle. The trickier ones have go-arounds.

Any distinguishing features or especially cool sections?
Pennypack Creek runs down the middle of the park and carved the park’s valley. The singletrack trails run the length of the park on both sides of the creek, including many moderate climbs and descents as the terrain undulates with the smaller side valleys that drain toward the main one. A ride can be an out-and-back along one side of the creek, or a loop using one of many bridges that cross the creek. No matter what your choice, it’s a fun and very picturesque valley to ride in. The fact that you’re completely surrounded with an urban setting is amazing since there’s no sense of that once you descend into the valley. Sweet.

If a rider gets tired and wants to bail, there is an asphalt path that runs the length of the park and is accessible from any trail. For raw beginners, the asphalt trail might be all that’s needed for a pleasant ride. For those with just a touch of experience and wanting to get the feel of dirt and rocks under their tread, there are also equestrian / multi-use (non-motorized only!) trails that run the length of the park on both sides of the creek that are wider.

What local group does trail maintenance there?
The trail work here is, as of yet, not totally official, but there are people working on it. The good news is that mountain biking is not illegal in the park.

Can a rider take public transportation (with a mountain bike) to get there?
Yes. Since the park is intersected by several main roads, a SEPTA bus can be taken to several places in the park.


cleveland Metroparks Ohio and Erie Canal dirt ragThe Area: Cleveland Metroparks Ohio and Erie Canal
Location: Cleveland, OH
Informant: Michael Farley – founder of CAMBA, Todd Thurman
Photo credit: Todd Thurman

This trail, located within the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation, is the only trail open to mountain biking in all of Cleveland’s parks.

How big is the park?
The total length is just less than two miles.

What type(s) of trails are there?
There are two loops: Loop #1 is less than 1/2 mile and is a good beginner section. Loop #2 is more challenging, with ups and downs, swooping turns, and wooden bridges.

Any distinguishing features or especially cool sections?
It’s short, but sweet. Super flowy and smooth. Rides like a pump track and builds your cornering skills.

What local group does trail maintenance there?
The Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) built and maintains the trail.

Can a rider take public transportation (with a mountain bike) to get there?
Absolutely! Bus routes will get you within a mile of the trailhead and and all Cleveland RTA buses are equipped with bike racks


Also Recommended:
Of course, none other than Ray’s MTB Indoor Park, which now has a “dirt room” with indoor dirt jumps.

don valley dirt ragThe Area: The Don Valley
Location: Toronto, On, Canada
Informant: Jason Murray – IMBA Ontario representative
Photo credit: Jeff Monk

Fruit Loop and Training Loop – these are two loops that are a bit more sedate in nature to Party Atmosphere and Catalyst. But the climbs are still pretty steep. Very fun and flowy. Built and maintained by the local underground builders.

Dr. Quads and STD – Dr. Quads is the local “North Shore” trail. There are quite a lot more manmade structures on it. It was intentionally designed and built that way. There are some wet areas it had to get through, so the underground builders decided to add some features all along the trail. I hope we will be able to keep most of them when the City does eventually start to actively manage this trail. STD (what do you think it stands for?) is the return leg of Dr. Quads once you cross one of the Don River’s tributaries. It is fast and flat along the side of said river.

The Flats and the DJs – The Flats is just that a flat, blazing fast and flowy trail along the side of the Don River. It’s main problem is that the surrounding grass gets so high mid-summer that you can’t see oncoming traffic and at 30km/h you have to be careful of collisions. The Flats takes you through the DJs, our local underground built and maintained skills park. It has a few lines of dirt jumps, and a pump track. This is threatened with closure by the City of Toronto (because you have to illegally cross a train track to get to it), but the City is actively looking for more appropriate sites for a skills park.

frick parkThe Area: Frick Park
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Informant: Karen Brooks – Dirt Rag Editor

Legend has it that Frick Park began as a gift from industrialist Henry Clay Frick to his daughter Helen for her debutante party in 1908—she asked for a place for the children of Pittsburgh to be able to enjoy nature. The Frick Art & Historical Center, an attraction for the non-dirt crowd, includes the restored Frick mansion.

How big is the park?
Over the years the City added to the original 151 acres to bring the park to its present size of 561 acres, and now Frick is the largest of Pittsburgh’s city parks. There are approximately 12 miles of singletrack trails packed into this space, plus gravel doubletrack.

What type(s) of trails are there?
The park encompasses the Nine Mile Run creek valley down to the Monongahela River. Classic East Coast tight and twisty trails dominate, with some very narrow sections hemmed in by vines and underbrush, and some other technical sections with roots and rocks. In the past the trails had included many short, steep washed-out chutes that would erode further with every rainstorm, but recent trailwork has replaced most of these with longer switchback sections that are not only sustainable, they’re more fun to ride.

Any distinguishing features or especially cool sections?
Roller Coaster is a trail that lives up to its name with a series of G-out dips. Iron Grate is one of the longest trails, starting at the very top of the park behind the ballfield and going all the way to the bottom at Nine Mile Run, featuring a series of sweet bermed switchbacks along the way made with the help of the IMBA Trail Care Crew. There are a few wooden obstacles sprinkled throughout the park, such as bridges over large downed trees.

What local group does trail maintenance there?
The Pittsburgh Trails Advocacy Group coordinates trail maintenance and hosts regular work days in Frick, as well as all the other parks near the city. PTAG is an arm of Bike Pittsburgh, a bicycle transportation advocacy group—a nice feature, as the groups work together to incorporate mountain biking as part of the overall plan to make Pittsburgh a more bike-friendly place. One example of this is the recent work to link all the City parks with bike lanes.

Can a rider take public transportation (with a mountain bike) to get there?
PAT buses stop several places around the park, at its eastern, northern, and western edges. Not all the buses currently have bike racks, but PAT is working to place them.

www.porcmtbclub.org – The website of the Pittsburgh Offroad Club, which has regular group rides in Frick and other locales around the city.

Also recommended:
Schenley Park is within an easy road ride of Frick; Riverview Park also has nice technical trails.