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A wild ride

July 18, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Chuck Layton rides his mountain bike Thursdays and Sundays. Sometimes he rides alone, sometimes he rides with friends, and sometimes his 2-year-old Australian cattle dog, Sissy, joins him.

"For me, it's all about fun," Layton said. "It's all about being out in the woods."

Layton, who's been riding since the late 1980s, said there are good trails nearby.

Mountain-biking enthusiasts can set their sights on Tri-State area trails and plenty of others within a day's drive.

Layton can load his bike and Sissy in his truck and head to Greenbrier State Park in Boonsboro for a ride after work at Hub City Sports in Hagerstown. He recently rode in Maryland's 44,000-acre oak-hickory Green Ridge State Forest, which is in eastern Allegany County, about eight miles east of Flintstone, Md., off Interstate 68.

Pennsylvania's Michaux State Forest in Franklin County, Pa., has good riding, Layton said, and the Frederick Watershed, near Gambrill State Park in Frederick County, Md., has 80 miles of trails. "You can ride all the way to Cunningham Falls near Thurmont, Md.

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"Gambrill is an awesome place," said Pete Webber, membership and communications director at the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) based in Boulder, Colo. The park is one of the more challenging systems, he said.

There are good mountain-biking destinations within a few hours' drive from Hagers-town.

Virginia's Shenandoah Valley is wonderful, Webber said.

Thomas Jenkins works at Shenanadoah Bicycling Co. in Harrisonburg, Va. Most trails in the "incredibly scenic and beautiful" George Washington National Forest - nearly 2 million acres of it - are mapped, and a good map is one of the items Jenkins said every rider should have.

It's also important to do as much research and talk to as many people who have ridden a trail as possible.

"Every trail ride is different - every season, every year," Jenkins said.

Frank Maguire works at Mt. Nittany Wheelworks in State College, Pa. The 34-year-old has been riding for 10 years and enjoys the solitude mountain biking provides. It's an opportunity to get in the outdoors.

There are 100 miles of trails in the 5-miles-away 90,000-acre Rothrock State Forest, Maguire said. Among them are 30 miles that have been designated as an "Epic Ride" by IMBA.

The Internet is a rich source of information on mountain-biking destinations resources.

  • IMBA has a list of "Epic Rides" on its Web site at www.imba.com. A sample of the list can lead to some bumpy rides. The Rothrock Ride, south of State College, Pa., is a 30-mile mix of dirt roads and contains the oldest and largest grove of hemlocks in the country. The Southern Traverse, southwest of Harrisonburg, Va., is in the George Washington National Forest. The 32-mile ride has twists, turns, and a smooth, steep, narrow, rough and mossy path. The Gauley Headwaters Epic in Slatyfork, W.Va., is five hours southwest of Washington, D.C., and close to Snowshoe Mountain Resort. The 37-mile ride includes rocky terrain, long descents and water crossings.

  • Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts, at www.more-mtb.org on the Web, has listings, descriptions and directions to nearby riding destinations in Maryland and Virginia.

  • Shenandoah Bicycle Co., at www.shenandoahbicycle.com on the Web, is at 135 South Main St. in Harrisonburg, Va. For more information, call 1-540-437-9000.

  • Mt. Nittany Wheelworks, at www.mtnittanywheelworks.com on the Web, is at 106 Village Drive in State College, Pa., For more information, call 1-814-235-6220.

  • Blackwater Bikes, at www.blackwaterbikes.com on the Web, is on Main Street in Davis, W.Va. For more information, call 1-304-259-5286.

  • Bicycle West Virginia, at www.bicyclewv.com on the Web, has detailed information about mountain-biking events, trails, tours and packages and destinations.
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