Join in the Fun – MTBNJ Group Ride at Stephens State Park

-by Chris Brawley

This past Saturday, close to 40 people got together to mountain bike Stephens State Park at 9am. The fact that this many people showed up on a cold, windy February morning, with temperatures in the teens is a testament to the fact that mountain biking is fun and being able to come together as a community is something we value.

Looking around at the group before the ride, I saw all ages, men and women, well mostly men, but we encourage more women to come out. We break into smaller groups to accommodate a pace that folks are most comfortable with. Mountain biking is something that brings us together, that and the need to feel connected with those around us.

It’s this connection with others that has been the most fulfilling for me over the last 10 yrs of mountain biking. In this time I’ve made close friends and met many folks in the biking world willing to offer their time and help. This feeling is something we as a team and myself personally would like to share with the rest of the mountain bike community. Offering monthly group rides gives folks a chance to ride different trails, meet new people and feel connected to a group.

As group ride coordinator for MTBNJ.COM, I enjoy organizing monthly rides, I’ve often said that my fondest memories are those early group rides I would go on, the people I met made me want to get more involved in the sport and kept me coming back for more.

Finally I’d like to say one of the best joys is showing up to a group ride and seeing a lot of people. Join us on our next ride in late March at Sterling, spread the word, bring a friend. Stay tuned for details.


The Legal South Mountain, in Phoenix, Arizona.

January in New Jersey. I can think of many places I’d rather be in the winter. While I didn’t actively seek a place to go this past January, and really this winter has not been especially cold nor snowy, I was given the opportunity to go to Arizona for a work trip. They really didn’t need to ask me twice on this one. I was all-in, ready to go. Where do I sign up?

When I inquired about Phoenix I was told one thing: Check out South Mountain. Not to be confused with the park in NJ that’s illegal for bikes, this South Mountain is legal, and in fact, very friendly towards bikes. If you’re in New Jersey, it’s admittedly a bit of a haul. But if you’re in Phoenix, it’s actually inside the city limits. Now, I don’t exactly know what’s going on with the city border on the southwest side of the image there, but you can see from the city map that the park sits within the borders of the city.

South Mountain sits fully within Phoenix city limits.

If interested, you can read all about the park here. I’m not going to repeat the information on this post, but the one thing I’ll restate is this – South Mountain Park is the biggest municipal park in the United States.

If you plan to go, a useful link to start with is the Trailforks page, found here. The image below is what the trail system looks like from 10,000 feet. I make a note here that the blacks are legit blacks, and the reds are legit reds. There is no dumbing down of the rating system in this park. Do not ride the red trails unless you are well-aware of what you’re getting into.

The trail system at a glance:

Navigation by the Trailforks app is highly recommended.

Now you have a lay of the land from a high-level view. For the most part, you’re going to want to focus on the right 60% of the map. I didn’t explore the left side, but I did read several reports that said it’s not the best stuff to ride. Specifically, I will list out some of the trails I rode at the end of each section, with a brief comment on each.

I ended up riding the park 2 different days, the first with D on Sunday, January 20, 2019 and the second solo on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. I leave those 2 posts as links to my own travel blog which you can find here. I describe both of the rides below, with a different view than you will find in my personal travel blog posts. The first ride is a more general one, which probably shows much of what the park has to offer, yet still nets you some climbing and a great view at the midway point. The second is a pretty moderate start, a brutal hike-a-bike, then an incredibly fun 30 minute downhill run.

Day 1: The Helipad Out & Back

The plan for day 1 was to start by renting some 5010s (review coming soon) from Cactus Adventures. Cactus is a bike rental “shop” that sets up a trailer in the upper right corner of the Trailforks map above. It was incredibly convenient and they were extremely friendly both times I interacted with them. Once we got the bikes, the idea was to figure out what to do for the day. Brian set us up on the bikes, then gave us a map and a suggestion for a ride that would take us to what he called the helipad. He rode with us out to the trailhead, then took our picture as we got ready to set sail for the day. Behind us you can see the petroglyphs which is why he suggested this spot for the picture.

D & Norm get ready to hit the trails but stop for a quick photo op first.

We started on Desert Classic which would take us all the way along the southern edge of the spine of the hill, which runs down the middle of South Mountain. This is a great way to get your groove on, see the landscape, and enjoy the crap out of where you are, specifically not New Jersey in the winter. The trail is nothing technical and you can truck along at whatever pace you like.

While it is not especially remarkable, it’s hard not to love where you are when you see stuff like this for miles:

You are no longer in New Jersey.

We kept on this trail until we took a short detour on another trail called Secret, which is clearly not secret as it is both well-ridden, and marked on the map. It was here we joined up with 5 other guys that would eventually lead us up to the Helipad that Brian told us about.

Secret took us to Corona Conn, then we went down Corona de Loma to link back up with Desert Classic. From there we hit DC Ray Conn briefly, which took us to Helipad, the last trail to the top. That sounds like more trails than it really is. What you need to know is Desert Classic, Secret, and Helipad. Then we dropped back down Helipad and took Desert Classic the whole way back.

Helipad was a bit of a climb to the top, which apparently is (or was), as you might guess, a helipad. One of the guys who led us up there said that this is where they fly in the helicopters when they have to launch rescue missions out here. It’s probably as good an explanation as any. Here’s what you earn by enduring this climb to the top. One tired girl and an awesome view (BYO Girl):

At the top of the helipad.

We took a break at the top, then dropped back down Helipad, took the connector to Desert Classic, then made our way back to the trailhead where we started. Since we had a little time to spare on our rental, we decided to take an alternate route back and rode Beverley Canyon to an alternate parking lot and took a side route to the rental spot.

In all, this loop gave us a little bit of everything with the exception of a true black/red expert level technical trail. If you are trying to get a good ride to take in the sights but won’t leave you feeling like you went through a meat grinder, this is a great route for you.

Strava link
Miles: 20.44
Elevation: 2037
Time: 2:24:55

Here’s what the Strava map looks like, you’ll need to click the link to see the images in the map below:

The Strava map from day 1.

And here is what the elevation profile ends up looking like. As you can see, it’s a general climb up the whole way out. We didn’t realize this until we started heading back, at which point everything seemed easier.

The elevation profile from day 1.

Here’s a list of the trails ridden, with links to the Trailforks page for that trail:



Finally, what couples ride would be complete without a picture from the top?

Selfie time!

Day 2: The National Loop

The second ride in South Mountain came 3 days after this first ride, and I was going to be doing it alone since D had gone home the night before. I considered doing the same ride we had done already but I wanted to see what was up top, so I did a little research and found a reasonable loop that might be a little technical in spots. When I picked up the bike, the same exact one from 3 days ago, the owner Jennifer said it was a decent loop, but that I should edit the end as some of the downhills were brutal-hard. Since I was going to be alone I erred on the side of caution and followed her advice.

I started out the same way we had gone Sunday, but instead of taking Secret or Helipad, I kept going on Desert Classic all the way to Telegraph Pass. It was a nice ride out, which took about an hour and was a great way to warm myself up for the day. Here we are looking from the bottom.

At the end of Desert Classic, looking up at Telegraph Hill.

Telegraph Pass is one of those red trails that is red in theory only. It should probably be ultraviolet or plaid. Nobody on Earth could ride up this, and it would take someone on par with Jeff Lenosky to ride it down. Even carrying my bike up at a few points was an effort. It goes straight up the hill and serves as a way to get up to the good stuff as directly as possible. As difficult as it was, in less than 15 minutes I was done with it.

From the top down, it just doesn’t look that rough. But it is.

Looking down from Telegraph Pass.

From there I took the pavement to the Buena Vista Lookout, which would pretty much be the high point of the ride. Here is the view from the top, the city down below. For the remainder of the ride I would get glimpses of this, which is incredibly unique:

At the top of National, the high point of the day.

From here it would be a downhill run all the way back to the same alternate parking lot from Sunday. First I hopped out on National which was technical from the start. The plan was to ride this first half before taking an alternate trail down, though part of me was deliberating if I should take National all the way, ignoring the advice I was given at the start of the day. After a short while on this, it was clear that if this was the easier part, the hard part would be brutal. There was 1 spot on this trail that I had to get off and walk. I stuck with the original plan.

I split off National and hopped on the Mormon Loop, which was lots of fun. At the end of this I grabbed Javalina to the end of the downhill run, then made my way back to the rental parking lot. The second half of this ride was wall-to-wall smiles, save for the parts I wasn’t sure how in the world to get down the rocky bits. But even then, this run was a blast.

Strava link
Miles: 20.47
Elevation: 2388
Time: 2:18:07

Compared to Sunday, this ride was .03 miles longer, but only 350 feet more vertical. It’s just that all of the vertical comes at the same time. Over the course of 2-3 miles, you add up a large part of that 2388 feet. In all, I rode just about 6 minutes less than 3 days prior. So in the end, these 2 rides are very similar statistically speaking, but very different profiles.

Here is the Strava map. This time you don’t need to click as all the images from this map are embedded in this article. You can see here how the ride skirts the bottom of that spine, then sneaks through a lower point in the ridge, then goes along the north edge of the spine. The route here is ridden clockwise:

The Strava map from day 2.

And the elevation profile. As you can see, you more or less go up for 14 miles, then down for about 5. The wall at mile 11 was the real kicker.

Elevation profile from day 2.

And the list of trails ridden:

  • Desert Classic – solid intermediate trail for almost anyone
  • Telegraph Pass – this is a functional hiking trail that connects point A and B
  • Road – look out your door, it’s just pavement
  • National – possibly the gem of the park, but more advanced than anything else
  • Mormon Loop – intermediate fun as anything
  • Javalina – also intermediate fun, longer of the last 2 I believe

In all, South Mountain was a great place to spend a few days while we were out here. If I ever go back to Phoenix, I will absolutely rent bikes again from Jennifer and Cactus Adventures, then take them to this same park and ride these same trails, then maybe explore some new ones. It was great getting away to a totally new terrain, and it makes me want to check out more of what the American Southwest has to offer, like maybe Sedona next winter.

If you have a chance to come out here, you should jump at the opportunity. I wouldn’t put Phoenix in my top 10 list of places to live. But if you’re here, I would put this park at the top of the top 10 things to do in Phoenix.

MTBNJ Secures First Ever Food Vendor for Short Track Series

Sunday, February 3, 2019

For immediate release, or whenever we get to it.

Today marks an exciting day in the history of both the MTBNJ Short Track series (yet to be named for the 2019 edition) as well as the New Jersey-based chili scene, and especially the MTBNJ Short Track chili scene. Mountain Man Chili has signed an exclusive deal to be the sole (and perhaps soul, depending on how spicy it is) vendor for the 2019 MTBNJ Short Track series (still yet to be named).

Details of the deal are yet to be announced, but it is believed to be in the neighborhood of $2.5 million (give or take $2.5 million). It is still unclear who will be paying whom.

Mountain Man Chili front-man Mike Moskowitz and MTBNJ front-man Norm Zurawski hooked up last week and worked out the deal, not unlike David Bowie and Freddy Mercury did when they created the hit song Under Pressure, that will see the 2 orgs come together in what can only be seen as an Unprecedented Merging of Awesome (UMA).

This epic UMA will be the 1st ever official event for Mountain Man Chili, which coincides with the 38th event ever put on by MTBNJ. When asked, MTBNJ’s race promoter Norm said, “We’re really looking forward to having Mike & his crew out here for the series. It’s always good to have another participant out here and, I mean, any form of heat is a good thing. Plus it’s really awesome that Mike said I can have free chili at each event.”

When asked for comment, Moskowitz replied, “Huh? Who said anything about free chili?” He later ceded that he might give the series promoter a dollar off. “Regardless, we’re really excited to get out there and share our chili with everyone.”

More details on Mountain Man Chili and founder Mike Moskowitz can be found below.

On Mountain Man Chili

Brand new company (and tested by many extensively)) developed off of a 2nd place win at a local Chili contest this past January. I have been making the same recipe from scratch for years, and by the encouragement of my wife and friends we formed a small company. Attending small venues for the perfect finish after a day outdoors. A homemade mixture off flavors that are sweat and spicy without being over the top.

On Founder Mike Moskowitz

Art Director by trade, mountain biker for life! I ride locally in the West Milford area, having Wawayanda, Ringwood, Jungle Habitat and Sterling as my stomping ground. I have been racing for Team Town Cycle for over a decade and to say hello, just look somewhere in the middle of the pack. In addition I am one of the coaches on the NICA HIGHLANDS COMPOSITE RACE TEAM. BEST TIMES EVER! Watching these kids race is better than racing myself. My son Austin who is also a MTB racer, finished second in his class last year for our team. He also races the Eastern States Cup in Enduro, and is looking to ride collegiately for Lees-McCrea in two years. This isn’t a large company, so most proceeds go for bike parts.

On Chili After the Ride

We will be setting up a small tent with large advertising…12oz cup for $6. with some extras available. I will plan to serve between 60-70 people. If I need to adjust we can figure that out.

Short Track Race Dates

  • March 3: Short Track #1 (Allamuchy BSA)
  • March 10: Short Track #2 (Allamuchy BSA)
  • March 17: Short Track #3 (Allamuchy BSA)

2019 MTBNJ Race Dates

Here is a list if preliminary 2019 race dates. At this time, 4 of the 5 dates are set in stone, and by stone I mean sort of a softer stone like soapstone. We are still waiting to hear back on the Stewart date but for right now, we are reasonably sure that this is our set.

  • March 3. Short Track #1 (Allamuchy BSA)
  • March 10: Short Track #2 (Allamuchy BSA)
  • March 17: Short Track #3 (Allamuchy BSA)
  • April 28: H2H Mooch Madness (Allamuchy BSA)
  • May 11: H2H Poison Ivy Mousetrap (Stewart)

Stay tuned for Bikereg links to come!

The MTBNJ Blog Arrives!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…we once had another blog where we tried to post things that were especially pertinent to the community. That was in 2013 and since then, things have changed but one things remains constant: MTBNJ keeps doing things and creating content. Well once again, we’re going to try to maintain a blog.

So what will we cover here?

  1. The weekly “what’s going on” post
  2. Group ride announcements
  3. Race recaps from the team members
  4. MTBNJ hosted race schedules/notifications/recaps
  5. Product reviews
  6. Podcasts
  7. Various other team announcements

So what is this meant to do? We’ve had some commentary that announcing these on the message board makes it hard to pick the information out the sea of discussion. So we decided to move forward with this as a way to address that.

How Do I Use This?

There are different ways you can use this. For instance, you can do nothing and keep watching the Facebook posts or by reading the message board. You can come back now & again and check the blog. Or you can setup an RSS reader as an extension to your Chrome browser.

Wait, how do I do that?

First you’ll want to install this extension to Chrome:

Next, you may want to create an account so you can save any RSS feeds you save. Whether or not you do, the last step is to add some RSS items to your feed. Here are 2 to get you started:


And that’s it. Now wait for the content to flood in. Or trickle. In any event, this may help you pick some of the key items out from the flood of information you get on the message board. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message!

See you on the trails!