The NY Rail Trail along the eastern boundary of the state is surprisingly unfamiliar to cyclists, even the
locals, perhaps because a Google search serves it up in three distinct sections (see links below). You must cobble together the full map: the Putnam County Trail, the North County Trail and the South County Trail. Bottom line, you can now ride from Brewster to the Bronx, 40 miles on a bike path that is wide open to high speed cycling and unencumbered by dog walkers or roller bladers. What a sanctuary from 104 degree July temps in deep shaded forest and with a breeze accompanying views of the reservoirs. Local delis, gelato stands and bike shops can be found at road crossings and short distances from the path in towns along the way.
I parked my car at Yorktown Cycles. Tom the shop owner took time from his service floor to review his past experience with Terry gear; “What happened to your Ride Like a Girl jerseys?”, he asked. “Biker Chick is taking over.” Tom understands how to sell to women and his shop shows it. Well Tom, they are back for 2012!
From Yorktown Heights, I rode south to the junction of Rte 134 and 100. Following Rte 100 north to Seven Bridges Rd and Main St., I cruised into Mt Kisco stopping at Bicycle World. Eric the shop owner was also busy on the service floor but briefly asked about Georgena as if inquiring about an old friend. The cooler full of energy drinks suggested I was not the only one riding by his well-merchandised shop.
Straying from the trail, I ventured from Mt Kisco along Rte 117 to Chappaqua. Westchester County roads, like the Taconic Parkway, are infrastructure of the 18th century; carriage roads with no shoulders, tight hilly curves and open gullied drainage make cycling hazardous. However, the difficult tangent was so worth the effort when I found Will and Paul at Julio’s Bicycles. These are fun loving, but knowledgeable bike guys
who put you at ease to ask questions that might expose your lack of experience. Every bike (and related customer) is their friend. With 21 years in business and a great variety of everything but Trek and Specialized, including a basement full of vintage bikes (they showed me a Terry Classic with the 24 inch front wheel), Will and Paul inspire you to make this your bike shop for life.
I returned north the way I came and pushed 13 miles north of Yorktown Heights to Carmel where I found Village Bikes of Putnam at another ideal trailhead location for parking. Tim and his wife Sue work two jobs, but their shop is their lives’ passion. Tim proudly reveals that the business has grown, without interruption, in each of its 15 years – affirmation that success comes when you do what you love to do.
The final leg of my 67 mile ride, 13 miles from Carmel back to my car in Yorktown Heights, revealed an interesting feature of NY geography that explains the colonial aqueduct system feeding New York City. Although the ride north on the Rail Trail is imperceptibly uphill, the return south is noticeably and relentlessly downhill – a great way to cool down as the evening temps finally dipped below 100 degrees.
LINKS TO TRAIL MAPS: