This past Friday Jason and I had a scheduled vacation day. We took advantage of the nice weather (it seriously felt for most of April that spring would never truly arrive) to bike the York Rail Trail. Last year we biked across the Pennsylvania-Maryland line to continue onto the Torrey C Brown Rail Trail which resulted in a 50 mile round trip ride. Fortunately Jason did not see a need to torture me quite that much on Friday and repeat that ride again.
Normally I enjoy sleeping in on my days off, but we were both awake a little before 7am, the time I usually get out of bed for work. We took advantage of being awake early to get to the trail and get started before the temperatures started to rise. We always depart from Brillhart Station as it has a large parking lot and a port-a-potty.
Heading south the breeze created from biking actually had me slightly chilled, but I knew it would pass with time. While I am a 100% runner I do find that biking provides Jason and I a chance to chat a bit more. Quite often I can’t keep up with his running pace and lose him within the first half mile. When we bike though we’re able to ride side by side for the majority of the trail and talk.
The portion of the trail that runs through Seven Valleys is my favorite as it is the most scenic to me. I love the farmland areas as well as the small town. Jason and I recently put up a new bird feeder and have been having fun identifying new birds, so we put our newly acquired skill to the test spotting birds during the ride. We took breaks at the benches along the way a few times to enjoy some packed snacks as well as stretch our legs.
The toughest part of the trail is just past the town of Glen Rock. Most people think of rail trails as being flat and for the most part the York Rail Trail is, but that particular portion has a decent uphill climb. Having biked it several times I was more mentally prepared for it last Friday. I made it to the top at a faster speed than I ever have in the past. Unfortunately, I forgot that while visually the trail appears to flatten out, it actually continues with a slow, gradual uphill grade. Jason easily pulled ahead of me at that point as his legs seem to never feel pain while bike riding. I was excited when I saw the sign for New Freedom’s town center less than a mile away as I knew we would soon be at the turn around.
The Rail Trail Cafe is one my favorite spots along the trail. Last year the original owner put it up for sale and I was grateful when I read that someone else bought it. We stopped there to enjoy a “Knuckle Sandwich” (bagel with egg, cheese and choice of meat – we went with sausage) and smoothies. Their food is the perfect way to refuel during a long bike ride. After stretching a bit more and using the restrooms we headed back north on the trail.
By that point my quads were quite taxed. It seems that no matter how good of shape I’m in (or think I’m in) going for a long bike ride never fails to tear up my quads. Fortunately the uphill climb from Glen Rock to New Freedom turns into a downhill coast on the way north. Jason had his bike up to 20 mph at one point. Slightly scarred by two bike accidents as a kid, I never enjoy going more than 12 mph as I fear losing control. I know we should buy helmets to wear, but the infrequency with which we bike, and the fact that we don’t bike on the roads, has led us to not do it.
We saw more people on the trail as it was approaching midday. I have determined that runners are much friendlier people than bikers. Anytime I run on the trail I’m greeted with smiles and waves, or at minimum a head nod from other runners. I would say 90-95% of runners do this, even the super fast ones who you can tell are training for something important. Bikers on the other hand tend to ignore us. Those who do say hi are often like Jason and I and just out for a leisurely ride. The ones who ignore us always seem to be in fancy bike clothes and look like they’re biking in a race. I don’t know why this is, but I’m glad I’m a regular runner and not a biker.
I required more stretch breaks on the way back, but felt fine by the time we were finished. Jason had biked ahead of me the last few miles to get back to the car and setup the bike rack to go home. We had biked a little over 31 miles in roughly 5 hours. We finished before the hottest part of the day which was good given my arms were turning slightly pink by the time I got in the car. I always enjoy these bike rides despite the quad pain as I get to see more of the trail than I do when running. I consider it good cross training as well as special time spent connecting with Jason and with nature.
Do you have rail trails in your area? Do you notice a difference in friendliness between runners and bikers?