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Mountain Biking: Montgomery’s Forgotten Activity

By Evan Zilber l August 20, 2021

Montgomery is not known for its elevation and mountainous terrain. Its mountain biking scene, while niche, is respectable nonetheless. Montgomery is sandwiched between two notable mountain biking trails, Six Mile Run and the Sourlands Preserve.

Evan Zilber at Six Mile Run in Franklin, NJ. Photo credit - Devin Moran

These trails are distinct to say the least: Six Mile is smooth, quick, and jumpy, while the Sourlands Preserve is rocky, raw, and difficult. Mountain bikers articulate these differences through the descriptors, flowy (á la Six Mile) and technical (á la the Sourlands). These trails are more than simply convenient for Montgomery residents. Their unique terrain and individual quirks keep intermediate and advanced riders coming back.

“New Jersey has smaller mountains and less open space,” says Jason Fenton, “but the trails here are pretty amazing considering the terrain we have to work with.” Jason Fenton owns Halters Cycles, Montgomery’s bike shop, and is on the board of the Jersey Off Road Biking Association (JORBA).

JORBA is responsible for the maintenance and features of all New Jersey trail systems, and mountain bikers have them to thank for the quality of their local trails. Although we “Montgomerians” have quality trail options, today’s “overuse [of local trails] is evident at any [Jersey] trail system,” according to Fenton.

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The Coronavirus pandemic fulminated an explosion of the local mountain biking scene, and biking trails have consequently taken “a beating this year.” “We are very clearly in need of more places to ride in New Jersey,” says Fenton, citing the unused 400 acres of open space at the Cherry Brook Preserve as a potential area to build a new Montgomery trail system.

With this recent boom in mountain biking’s popularity, one may wonder why the sport’s presence as an outdoor activity is not more mainstream. Among the reasons that mountain biking is not very popular is the stigma that it’s a dangerous sport.

Rebecca Legato, a Montgomery High School student who graduated last year, said that mountain biking “should be recognized as dangerous and people should take proper precautions like helmets” so as to not get injured. This stigma, while perhaps overblown to non-mountain bikers, rests in truth - mountain bikers are no strangers to injury.

Alexander Clark, a rising junior in Montgomery High School, fractured his thumb while at the lift access downhill bike park, Mountain Creek, in Vernon, New Jersey. When asked to reflect on the risk factor of mountain biking, Clark remarked that “the more risk you put into mountain biking, the more fun you can get out of it.” “Typically, you’ll end up fine,” he said, but he’s “seen a lot of injuries… stitches and broken limbs on the extreme end of it.”

I, like Clark, recently crashed at Mountain Creek, and had to get 21 stitches in my left shin. It may seem odd that mountain bikers continue to mountain bike despite the apparent prevalence of injury among riders. The catalyst for this recklessness may be the common philosophy of those who partake in extreme sports: “anything worth doing has some level of risk,” as said by Jason Fenton.

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This holds true in other characteristically dangerous activities. Calvin Ubanski, a skater and Montgomery student who graduated this year, said that the possibility of “getting hurt in skateboarding is greatly outweighed by the feeling of landing a trick that you’ve been trying for hours or even days.”

The daring nature of some mountain bikers shouldn’t dissuade those who are interested in the sport, however. Individual riders have full discretion over their mountain biking tendencies; whether these tendencies favor flow or tech and whether these tendencies embrace risk or tranquility.


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