Bikepacking NYC: Fast and Light
New York City is easy to love and easier to hate, especially for cyclists who call the city that never sleeps home. Yes we are blessed with a plethora of local racing opportunities that may be unmatched anywhere in the country but we are also cursed with too much traffic and far too many miles on the usual training routes across the George Washington Bridge.
At some point it becomes vital to escape the concrete jungle, be it a day trip to the back roads and reservoirs North of the city or an afternoon spent on the mountain bike trails just across the Hudson River in New Jersey. Hell, drive for two hours nearly any direction from NYC and there is usually decent riding to be found, from the Catskills to the Hamptons. But there is something to be said about the sublime ease in packing up a bike, riding past New York City rush hour and hitting open roads en route to a perfect hidden camp spot, just a few miles from New York City.
FAST AND LIGHT
At the opposite end of the bikepacking spectrum from our well planned two day journey up the banks of the Hudson River to Bear Mountain is the fast and light overnight trip from the City, with a lone partner in crime joining in an impromptu ‘fast and light’ journey to a campsite just a few miles out of the city – close enough to grab coffee and breakfast and be back in time for work the next morning.
For this particular journey we once again loaded our race bikes, backs and pockets to the brim before setting out through gridlocked New York City traffic in the direction of the George Washington Bridge. Thankfully unlike our prior bikepacking adventure the weather was cooperative, if slightly warm, during these opening miles.
In the interest of weight savings we left our tent in the city and instead brought our camping hammocks (more on them soon in our gear overview). This turned out to be a blessing given our route called for a long hike down to the banks of the Hudson where we planned to stay for the evening. As usual we were racing the setting sun but managed to reach our destination in time to watch the last remnants of daylight dip below the horizon perched on an old swing by the river.
Then as day gave way to night we assumed the easy rhythm of camping – gathering sticks, starting the campfire, hanging hammocks and relaxing to the sounds of waves in the river and the trickle of the waterfall just behind our campsite. We were just a few short miles from New York City’s bustle and bright lights but had the entire night to ourselves.
At first light we woke as the sun rose over the far side of the Hudson. Eventually I dragged myself from the comfort of my hammock to prepare a pot of pre-coffee. For those not well versed in the notion of pre-coffee, it’s the coffee you enjoy prior to riding to the coffee shop for a proper cup of joe. But since our return to civilization required a steep hike out of our campsite – eating a couple of sausages and veggies sadly didn’t cut much weight – we took a decidedly leisurely pace to the morning on the banks of the Hudson.
Eventually it was time to tackle the inevitable. We loaded our packs, shouldered our bikes, all the while muttering to ourselves it would be good cyclocross training, and began our climb away from the Hudson. Along the way we passed several hikers headed in the opposite direction, mystified by why we would be carrying bikes early in the morning on a hiking trail quite a bit away from any paved roads.
Once we exited the woods we were quickly back on some of our usual trails. We immediately plotted a path to a nearby market for breakfast and more coffee, this time of the iced variety, before we made the return trip back to the concrete jungle of New York City. Despite being weighed down with all manner of camping gear, we couldn’t help but enjoy some spirited sections of the ride as we breezed past cyclists out for an early morning spin with nary a saddle bag to weigh them down.
Thankfully this particular journey concluded on a Saturday morning, meaning we didn’t have to immediately race to the office. Instead we took our time pacing our way through City traffic, marveling at how easily we were able to escape the sound and fury of New York City for peace and quiet on the banks of the Hudson River.