Remember to Remember


JORBA: Director
A conversation going on in the Berms Jumps Flow thread inspired me to dig up an old interview with Wally Tunison, the elder statesman of MTB advocacy in New Jersey. Rather than muck up that thread with words, here it is in it's entirety. I am slightly embarrassed by the writing skills on display, and a bit more by the overuse of my story, or "I", showing up in the text. That aside, Wally's story is one that bears repeating. This is reposted from JORBA's "The Dirt", 2008

My first recollection of the name Wally Tunison was in the pages of some magazine in the early nineties; something about a race at Allaire State Park. The race inexplicably drew the big names in mountain bike racing to my home state. I had been to Allaire a few times, but had always found it to be a bit too sandy for my liking. The Coast Guard soon took me away from New Jersey. I occasionally found myself home from North Carolina and riding those sandy Allaire trails, pleasantly surprised, wondering which trails Johnny Tomac, Tinker Jaurez and the other pro riders of the day rode. I also wondered what brought them to this sleepy little New Jersey State Park.

In 2005 the Coast Guard shipped me back to NJ after 14 years away. Rediscovering Allaire’s trail system was an awesome experience, one could hardly recognize the old trails, and a lot of new singletrack was there to explore. One weekday afternoon out of pure curiosity I set out to visit Wally’s shop. I had to finally meet the person behind all of the races. I heard from some locals that he also saved Allaire from a bike ban. After getting incredibly lost (a passion of mine) I found the Bicycle Hub of Marlboro. I introduced myself and before I knew it we were chatting about advocacy, trails, the Henry Hudson Bike Path and the Allaire Trail User’s Group. I found Wally to be passionate about these and many other issues. He exuded a genuine love for the sport and lifestyle that we all share. I left the shop with great respect for Wally, and with a renewed desire to give back to the trails in New Jersey.

Sometime later I found myself volunteering with JORBA and pitching and listening to ideas at a board meeting on behalf of the newly created Development Committee. We had opened official membership, and things were really starting to steamroll. We had so many good ideas coming from around the room that I couldn’t keep up on my notepad. Wally had remained silent for a majority of the meeting. Prior to closing, Wally announced to the board that we should “Remember to Remember”. He gave a short explanation alluding to the past success and failures of advocacy groups in the state and the meeting ended. I didn’t realize the genius behind his comment until much later.

A few years after walking into the Bicycle Hub for the first time I was again lost in Central New Jersey, this time to ask Wally if I could interview him for The Dirt. We set a date and met at a Diner near his hometown at a time most people are sleeping. Within minutes of sitting down, it quickly dawned on me that the list of questions I jotted onto a legal pad the night before would be useless. Wally has a way of weaving stories that captivates a listener. I was also quite surprised to learn that advocacy and mountain bike riding in New Jersey were born as twins.

I was born in August 1969. Sometime during that historic summer, Wally Tunison was a 14 year old kid on a mission. He had tinkered together a mini bike out of scrap awning pipes from his grandmother’s backyard in Long Branch. He enlisted the help of a pipefitter neighbor to make the frame and help weld scavenged parts from a 20” monkey bike, namely the bars and stem. The engine was procured from a retired lawn cutting behemoth. The brakes were simply “cons”, Converse style shoes. Wally is quick to add “style” as his were Kmart copies of Converse. He wore out a lot of shoes that summer. Eventually he wore out the DIY mini bike too, but not before riding every trail he knew in Monmouth County. Christmas brought a big surprise, a real mini bike from Montgomery Wards.

Wally fell in love with the woods around Monmouth County and with two wheels. Never satisfied with the status quo, Wally decided that Monmouth County needed new trails for mini bikes. In 1970 he decided to write the NJ Department of Motor Vehicles asking for them. The letter was forwarded to Congressman James Howard, who was often dubbed “Mr. Highway Safety”, or as Wally describes “A great champion of Transportation in our state.” The response from Representative Howard arrived in June 1970, “Thank you for contacting me for your interest in mini bike trails. I wish I could be of assistance to you…..” The late congressman explained that there had been some hearings regarding opposition to mini bikes, but that no laws were currently in place to prohibit his riding anywhere he pleased. Despite the letter, Wally had a feeling that his days in the woods were numbered. The local police were always running the kids out, law or no law. In Wally’s words “they would hassle you and make you feel 2 inches tall, I didn’t like it.” An advocate was made. He still has that letter. His mom always said that when you get a letter from someone well known that you should keep it.

By 1971 The Japanese motorcycle revolution had brought reliable motorcycles to the states and Wally scored a Suzuki TM125, the first in the state. He was becoming serious about his riding. By 1975 he was riding one of the first mono shock bike’s built by Yamaha. He was racing motocross for a few years now, and advanced through the classes on the Yamaha. Racing was a blast for Wally, and motocross was hugely popular.

With the motocross boom the opposition to motorized use was also on the rise. The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) was in the process of creating the first “New Jersey Trails Plan”. Up until that point a plan didn’t exist. Trails came and went, and people from many different groups enjoyed them. Though no policy existed for trail use, Wally had the impression that the DEP was ignoring them.

Wally helped out a bit with the State’s first advocacy group, “Trails for New Jersey” and learned a lot about advocacy and politics. This original coalition of trail users formed for the purpose of providing and maintaining trails. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? He “didn’t get too active” with the coalition, but he was exposed to the politics behind advocacy. “I realized that there was more to it, that you could go to those in charge and make your wants and needs known.”

In 1982 Wally was an accomplished enduro racer, but it wasn’t paying the bills. Unsatisfied with his current employment, he was referred by a friend to Tony “Ducky” Schiavo of the Peddler Bike Shop in Long Branch. It was one of the first “pro shops” in the area. Wally was referred by the friend because he could “sell snow to Eskimos and fix anything”. They couldn’t agree on a salary so Wally took a job working air conditioning and heating. The heat of a Rumson attic quickly changed his mind about the bike business and salary offer. He went back to the peddler to strike a deal and was hired as Shop Manager without any managerial or cycling experience.

There was only one mountain bike on the showroom floor hidden among the sea of ten speeds, cruisers and BMX bikes; a Univega Alpina Ultima. Very soon after his hiring, Wally sold the Univega to a customer looking for a way to travel the sandy trails of South Jersey to track lost children and wounded animals. Tom Brown was not only the first MTB customer of Wally’s; he went on to become one of America's most renowned trackers and wilderness survival experts. See for more info on Mr. Brown.

The Univega sale sparked more interest in mountain bikes at the Peddler. Wally started selling a few of the beautiful “Fat Chance” bike by Chris Chance, but bought himself a Jamis Dakota for a more affordable $310. He was starting to get hooked on these bikes that looked so much like the motorcycles that he grew up with. There were still very few mountain bikes around or people to ride with. Wally recalls Teddy Parsons and Al Lebrect riding Hartshorne Woods before he picked up his Dakota and started riding the trails that he used to ride with his mini bike.

Wally soon caught wind of a race “put on by Chris Frost up north”. His competitive nature took over, and he decided to host a race down in his neck of the woods. In January 1984 he held his first “Super Series” Race at Hartshorne Woods.

The race was held in a long forgotten pine forest area of the park. The temperature was 7 degrees, there was snow on the ground, and the racers used paper plates to display entry numbers. The surveyors tape was so frozen that Wally had to keep it in his armpits between taping out sections of the course so the tape wouldn’t break while he was tying it. The atmosphere was one of pure fun; a bunch of folks in the woods freezing their butts off and loving every minute of it.

The race went off and Wally was taking in the sites. The course was a small enough loop that you could see the whole loop. Much to Wally’s surprise, Park Superintendent Ed Orr strolled up mid-race with Lee Homyock, the Regional Supervisor of the Monmouth County Park System. Ed says, “Hey what’s going on?” “Oh we are just riding.” He wasn’t sure what to think about the 15 or so lunatics on bicycles out in the woods that day. As Wally puts it “they were quite cool about it all” and the race continued. A friendship was born that cold winter day and Ed became one of Wally’s best biking buddies. They went on to do much of the early trail maintenance in Hartshorne. The early sessions were annual events held in February! They also installed the first “yield triangles” in the park. Wally was instrumental in forming Monmouth County’s volunteer program and exposed many of the area’s first mountain bike riders to volunteerism. The advocate was reaching maturity.

News at the Peddler had arrived that the General Corporation, a local company that built mopeds, was looking to break in to the bicycle business. Laws had changed requiring moped riders to be licensed, and seemingly overnight the moped business was dying. Wally was invited to the CEO’s house in Deal, NJ and the General Race Team was formed. Wally was hired on as the sport class local racer and bike tester. By this time Wally had purchased Ducky’s Fat Chance bike to race, and retired his Jamis. He decided to peel the Fat Chance stickers off and display General stickers. Many pro riders of the day followed suit. Early pictures of John Tomac clearly show that his Mongoose race bike is a Fat Chance.

A little known BMX racer was hired by General at the National level. He was getting tired of BMX racing and wanted to branch out into the growing mountain bike scene. General promoted a combo BMX/MTB race dubbed the “Formula Series” specifically for this rider. The course was set in parking lots with tight turns, jumps and features very similar to supermoto. The racers name was Tinker Juarez. Their early days on the team would lead to a long standing relationship that drew Tinker, the McCormick brothers, John Tomac, National Cyclocross Champion Paul Curly and many other national pros to Allaire for the annual race.

I asked Wally why he left The Peddler to open his own shop and if the split was amicable. “I realized that it was important for me to move forward. People who are not moving forward are by definition stagnant. Unless you make a decision to move yourself forward you will all of your life become stagnant. Stagnancy is a virus. The split was certainly amicable. Ducky was a big help with the launch of the Bicycle Hub, and I spent months looking for a location that would not compete. “

He started the Bicycle Hub with his oldest racing buddy Jeff Rosenberg. They were standing around a keg at a motorcycle picnic and Wally made the pitch. “Want to open a shop?” “Sure.” Jeff called Wally on Monday, asking “were you serious” Wally said “I am really not sure. Give me a few weeks” He was hesitant to bring the idea up to Ducky for fear of hurting the relationship. A few weeks later he was in Colorado on a motorcycle trip. Standing on the top of a ridge facing the crisp blue Colorado day, he looked across the valley and heard the screech of a raptor, possibly a bald eagle. He had his decision, inspired by the independence of the bird.

Jeff and Wally signed a lease on March 1, 1994. “Our 1st customer was a woman who saw a helmet marked $29.99. She said, ‘That’s too high, I can get it for 10 bucks at Jamesway.’ Jeff and I looked at each other in frozen fear. We came to find out that Jamesway was going out of business, but we were humbled. You can either give up, or go to work. So we went to work.”

In addition to bringing the big named pro riders to New Jersey and promoting the Allaire race for 20 years, Wally has dedicated his life to advocacy. When user conflicts threatened to close the multi-use trails in Allaire State Park, Wally was there to speak for all user groups. He formed the Allaire Trail User’s Group (ATUG), bringing together Mountain Bikers, Equestrians, Hikers and Trail Runners to speak as a unified voice to the park staff. They performed the first volunteer trail maintenance at the park, providing a much needed and welcomed service. Most importantly, they were able to convince the park that the diverse user groups were capable of working together as a team. The park has remained open and flourished. ATUG stands today as a model JORBA Chapter and a testament to the power of unity among trail users.

Long before ATUG was adopted as a JORBA Chapter, Wally helped start the NJ Cycling Conservation Club (NJCCC). The idea was proposed on a ride home in Wally's van after a really good mountain bike ride. He and friend Gretchen Tupy were discussing New Jersey’s need for an organized statewide effort to conserve cycling. They thought "If we don't do something soon, people will try to label the Mountain Bike as an intrusion into the parks and forests. The first "pre-JORBA" state organization was born, conceived in the van of a lifelong advocate. Sarah Frost started JORBA after being exposed to NJCCC. She had a conversation with Wally stating “that it should be more than what it was”. Sarah “took the ball and ran with it” says Wally with pride.

His accomplishments as an advocate in New Jersey and around the country are astonishing:

  • President and Founder of the New Jersey Cycling Conservation Club
  • Co-Founder of Monmouth Heritage Trail, Inc., a public advocacy group founded to establish and provide on-going public support for The Henry Hudson Trail.
  • Past State Representative for the International Mountain Bicycle Association (IMBA)
  • Official for races activities with the National Off Road Bicycle Association (NORBA)
  • National Commissar with the Federation Internationale du Amateur Cyclisma (FIAC)
  • Representative for mountain biking interests on the New Jersey Trails Council
  • Member NJORV (off-road vehicle) Sub-Committee under the New Jersey Trails Council
  • Corridor Study for the Mid-Atlantic States as commissioned by the National Parks and Conservation Association
  • In-service Instructor for mountain bicycling to the NJ DEP, Division of Parks and Forestry Mountain Bicycle Mounted Ranger Patrol program
  • Past Bicycle Test Editor for the east coast monthly publication "Trail Rider Magazine"
  • Past regular column contributor to the magazine "Dirt Rag"
“FLASH! As of July 1st, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Parks and Forestry will receive a 12.3 million dollar cut in their budget. That means 5-10 of the state’s parks closing full or part time. In addition, 225 state parks workers and ranger stand a chance of losing their jobs. NOW IS THE TIME to approach your local state park and get their attention! They are now desperately in need of volunteers..” “….they will be more inclined to listen to your needs as a mountain biker if you are there to help them.”

“The great mountain bike debate continues. While New Jersey currently has a law on the books that prohibits mountain bikes from all hiking trails in state parks and forest, the question of just what is a hiking trail remains unanswered.”

“ a result of a meeting between Tunison and Frank Giudotti, and assistant director of Parks and Forests, the state has agreed to let mountain bikes use multi-use areas.”

“..The state has decided to go forward with a plan to establish mountain bike patrols in one park in each region of the state. Great said Tunison, can we give you some bikes? ‘Of course’ said the state.”

The above quotes are taken from Dirt Rag magazine back in 1991. When you read them did the issues seem like current day New Jersey’s news? Remember to remember indeed.


JORBA: Director
Random Wally photos to follow. All courtesy of Wally.

Fitting Governor Christine Todd Whitman on a MTB before going for a ride

Riding a long gone skinny @ Hartshorne on the cover of a moto magazine, 1987

1997, the 7th IMBA lifetime member. They never really made good on this.
General test Rider, late 80's

With Tinker @ MTB nats, date unclear


JORBA: Director
Check out the blurb re: custom derailleur guard. Winter racing @ Hartshorne was the first ever MTB race series in NJ. MBW mention another treat.

"Working Together" - Think Equestrians and Mountain bikers can get along? We have been since 1987 in Allaire State Park thanks in no small part to Wally's leadership and guidance


Wally was a great asset to advocacy in New Jersey, I say was because he stepped back to let others take over. As someone who knows first hand, Wally is a great recruiter and even railroaded me into advocacy! Lol Always the mentor, we owe so much to Wally for his years of having our backs.


Well-Known Member
Team MTBNJ Halter's
Wally still comes out from time to time to work on trails at Hartshorne. He's got some great story's about the early days of mtbing at Allaire and Hartshorne.

Mtbing was a struggle for acceptance in the beginning and it came from guys like Wally, and his grass roots organization/movement.

Everyone who mtbs in NJ should be a Jorba member and volunteer at their local park for trail maintenance 2-3x/yr.

Brian, @knobbyhead , Wally, Larry. You young guys could learn from these tough old dudes, come on out. ;)

Battery Trail Sept 14.jpg


Well-Known Member
Great article @KenS - thank you for posting it and the pictures. Crazy how far back mtn biking and trail advocacy goes in NJ. I got my first MTB in 1988 and thought that was the early days and there was Wally running a race at Hartshorne in 1984!

Cool to hear Teddy Parson's name. If it's the same guy, he was a lawyer out of Red Bank and lived right near Hartshorne and was buddies with my father-in-law. I remember going for a ride with him back in the 90's and he barely rode any trails and just trucked thru the brush haha. I never knew he went that far back in NJ Mtn bike history.

@pooriggy all those points are so damn true. I couldn't make that TM with Wally, Knobby, Larry and Brian but IIRC it was an unbearably hot day especially with no shade!


Well-Known Member
Oh man, the Allaire races with the sprint to the bikes in the bowl! Always freezing cold too. I did my first Cat 2 (whatever it was called then - Sport?) there. "I can't believe how fast these guys are!" I had no idea MTB royalty showed up at one time.

Randomly, I had my first - and last, that sh*t is disgusting - Red Bull at one of them.

Wally showed up for years at the Monmouth County World Championships too. The young man who took over The Bicycle Hub continued the tradition until the park system shut down the race.

Oh, I just thought of a funny (to me?) Wally story. We were all lined up at a race somewhere in North Jersey. Wally was giving an advocacy speech, reminding us to respect the woods, etc. Meanwhile, the Peddler crew were running late on their pre-ride. Right in the middle of his impassioned speech, Walter Matejovic came bombing down a hill off-piste to try to make the start and crashed his brains out in front of all of us. Wally turned around. "THAT, is the kind of crap I'm talking about!"

Thanks @KenS !
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