When you try to ride road bikes in NYC, it often leads to frustration, with just a hint of potential danger. Between cars on the regular streets and a ton of cyclists trying to train in the small areas that they do have, it’s a minefield. So it’s almost strange that the sport you can do and enjoy the most amount of quiet and solitude in the city is mountain biking. Yup, there’s mountain biking, and it’s not that far away.
What Makes It Great
Alley Pond park is one of New York’s true gems. It’s buried right in the middle of Queens, and while it should bring people in hordes to enjoy everything it offers, it remains relatively quiet, even on weekends. Sure, there are plenty of families there having picnics, but they’re nowhere near as loud as the crowds in Central Park.
It’s also a rad park because the trails bring in all kinds of mountain bikers. From a teenager on a beat-up 15-year-old hardtail to a fully-kitted out pro on this year’s newest Specialized to a rider making it hard on herself by rolling in on her cyclocross bike, all kinds of riders make their way into the shady, wooded trails. On the trails, you’ll find a wide range of open spaces: from dense forests to open fields to ponds to saltwater and freshwater wetlands, Alley Pond Park is home to a huge range of mini-ecosystems. If you’re on a leisurely ride, it’s fun to take some time to check out the different areas.
The trails are all short, and none of them are well mapped out, but that adds to the adventure, and the possibility of always finding a new route, every time you ride. And for those new to mountain biking, it breeds a certain sense of security, knowing that you’re never far off the beaten path. If you want to add in road intervals, the entrance to the park provides enough of a hill to go hard, or the Vanderbilt Motorway nearby is an easy spot to get in a straight and hard effort.
Personal favorite Alley Pond Park Moment? Last time I was riding the trails, I came into an open field and spotted a bike on the ground. I looked over, and realized that he was standing in the middle of the field, flying a remote control helicopter that he’d brought in a backpack. Impressive.
Who is Going to Love It
While most of the trails are on the shorter side, don't be fooled into thinking it's just for beginners. Just about any kind of rider can find something to do here.
If you’re looking for a longer ride, there’s a 2.5-mile bike path that will connect you into some more amazing trails at the nearby mountain bike classic, Cunningham Park. The path is part of the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway from Bayside to Prospect Park and Coney Island, so you can make a big day out of it if you’re really hoping to get in some serious mileage.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To get to Alley Pond Park, take the 7 Subway to Main Street and then ride to the park or take the Q12 bus to Northern Boulevard. If you do decide to drive, there’s a fairly large free parking lot, but if you take the trouble to drive, make sure you check out Cunningham Park on the same trip!