Last week this news article came out: MDC Ordered to Pay $2.9million to Injured Bicyclist
A few minutes later I read this: Lawsuit Verdict May Shut MDC Reservoirs to Cyclists
For those of you readers (wait, people read this?) that do not live near me... The MDC is the Metropolitan District Company. Aka: the water company. They have a reservoir a few short miles from my house. This reservoir, commonly referred to as the West Hartford Reservoir, contains many biking and hiking trails that many Hartford County residents utilize. I have been riding in this reservoir since before I moved to Connecticut. My first experiences riding here were back in 2000 when I was still in college and had friends living in West Hartford. When I moved to Connecticut in 2004 the only area in the Hartford region I was familiar with was this reservoir and the town of West Hartford. Naturally, I decided to call this place my home and found my current house.
With rumors circulating (and they are only rumors at this point) that I may lose the privilege of riding some great trails [where I can pedal to from my driveway] I have become quite bothered.
From the looks of it, I am not the only one that is upset by this decision: Uh Oh, the Mountain Bike Gods are Very Angry
The more I read about this recent verdict the more we, as the public, do not know the whole story. Some articles I have read say that the bicyclist was 'racing their friends down the mountain after dark' and came in contact with a motor vehicle gate, consequently causing spinal damage. This all occurred back in 2003.
Other articles discuss Municipalities & Recreational Use Statutes which, supposedly, relieve the MDC of legal consequences should someone hurt themselves when partaking in extracurricular activities such as bicycling. I also know there are signs everything stating it is illegal to be riding there after dusk.
If you are one of the few individuals that actually partake in that website called Facebook, please join this group
. A group of individuals against the verdict and in favor for MDC not
to pay any money.
I have not paid much more attention to this issue beyond those few articles I have read. Am I overreacting that we may lose the ability to ride in the reservoir? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Either way, I decided my riding time this weekend was better spent exploring the reservoir some more. I have not been there since I took my Superfly for its inaugural ride
in early April.
Weather was looking great for Sunday so that was my day to ride. Temps in the 70s I think. Sunny and blue skies all day. Wind was low. I went out around 12:30pm to ridt the Superfly around the reservoir. Now, a loop around the reservoir on, mostly, singletrack around the perimeter could take me around an hour if I've got a good pace going. This ride started off great but not even 10minutes into my ride on the trail I was met with frustration.
Obstacles that are easily ridden have giant, and I mean 3ft wide, bypasses going around them. These were not present about a month ago. This happens to me all the time. I ride the reservoir every few weeks and find bypasses everywhere. I then spend time out of my ride to block off said bypasses so we can keep the trails from getting wider and keep a certain level of difficulty associated with them. It is a pet peeve of mine and, I guess, my way of giving back to the trails I ride.
I decided to start climbing up to the ridgeline from the Rt44 parking lot. Up first was a rocky pseudo doubletrack ascent (or descent depending on how you look at it). At the apex of this very short climb there are some big rocks. I immediately noticed a worn out path around them off to my right (I was climbing up). I kept on moving and cleared this rock section and got to the top of the climb (a few feet beyond the rocks). Then stopped and took a second look at what appeared to be a 'bypass' around the rocks.
"You've got to be kidding me!" I said to myself and immediately decided that said bypass should not exist. My justification: "If I can ride up the rocks on my singlespeed then everyone can ride up them on bikes with one gear or many gears. If you can't, then walk. That is how I learned to ride this stuff." I then spent the next fifteen minutes finding fallen trees to cover up and block this bypass.
This picture highlights the rocky section on the left and the bypass, on the right, which I just finished covering up. I rode towards it in both directions to make sure the bypass can be seen as 'non-existent' from someone riding along.
Now that I was happy for doing my good deed for the day, and slowly making my frustrations disappear, I got back on the bike and kept on climbing the next section of the trail. Not even 100ft later I encounter another bypass, around a fallen tree that has been there for years. "Hmm. This was not here a month ago and surely was not here a year or two ago. Come on people! Ride over the damn tree. Smaller trees were already placed as a 'ramp' to help you get over it. Oh, I get it.. You can't ride over the tree because it is on an uphill climb. So you'll ride around it going up the hill and then ride over it coming down. You lazy bastard. Ride over it in both directions."
Oh yeah, I cleared it no problem riding uphill on my singlespeed. And then cleared the next rocky section immediately thereafter before coming to the next 'landing' where the trail flattened out.
Off the bike and time to close off the bypass. Same justification as before. "If I can ride it on my singlespeed you can ride it on your geared bike. If not, keep trying or walk over it."
You can see the fallen tree in the middle-to-the-right of this picture above. The bypass was on the left which, as this picture shows, I covered up. It is more pronounced from the other direction (coming down the mtn).
Now I was on my kick where I was going to close off all bypasses. I typically see a bunch of them along the ridgeline because the ridgeline is quite technical and people like to 'cop out' of the 'good' lines as I come to call them. Lucky for me I did not see any other obvious 'bypasses' and the rest of my ride continued smoothly.
My plan was to do a few laps around the perimeter but I wound up zig-zagging in and amongst the middle whilst also riding some of the perimeter trails. There is a long (long by Hartford standards) gravel fireroad climb over near the south end. I did a few repeats up that climb. I also found some seldom ridden doubletrack (in the middle areas) and even some new singletrack that I've never seen (over by the dikes on the north side) so I explored those.
Somewhere between the three and four hour mark Ginger was able to meet up with me and we got a nice ride in together. She recorded it with her telephone (motorola droid).
Here is the loop we did (click on image):
Took us just inside of two hours and we covered just inside of ten miles with 1800ft of elevation gain. A nice way to end my afternoon of riding and a great ride by Ginger. She practiced her posture and breathing while climbing. Tested her courage on the descents and even rode over most of the fallen trees we encountered. A great afternoon and a total of around five and a half hours on the bike.
I hope to ride here again soon. I hope I'll be able to.