Friday, September 25, 2015

Western Greenway - "I can be a mountain bike!"

Western Greenway is a system if trails running around Belmont and a part of Waltham. I'm very familiar with the northern part of the trail (Beaver Brook Reservation, Rock Meadow Area and Lone Tree Hill) - I have visited these places before and I always liked them. I think that's because they offer exactly what I'm looking for in an off-road bicycling within city limits, that is - an empty path with varied surface and elevation that lets me ride over dirt sections at 25km/h (15mph) or fight slowly with some rocky, technical ones. In other words - it's a good workout and lots of fun. The last section of the trail, running downhill towards Pleasant St (Rt 60) is even more exciting but it requires some decent handling skills on a bike like mine. I feel like it wants to tell me "I'm not a mountain bike but I can be one. I really do!". Having said that, if you bring your real MTB on this trail, you will enjoy it too.
Anyway, somehow I have never tried to ride the full length of the Western Greenway. Until today. The weather now is simply awesome for bike riding (low humidity and just the right temperature) so I switched tries in my rig and took it for a ride to Belmont. It turned out that the full length of the Greenway is perfectly passable on a bike like mine. All you need is 35mm wide tires, 1:1 gearing and decent brakes. My bike became a mountain bike, if only for one afternoon.
Some sections were very easy to ride, like the path across Stonehurst Conservation off the Beaver St.
Others, not so much and in places I had to carry or walk my bike. Nevertheless, the good news is that easily 90% of the Greenway can be done on a regular cyclocross (or similar) bicycle.
Another good news - the trail is pretty well marked. Look for the tiny green signs on trees. They will lead you through the area and make sure you won't get lost.
A word of warning though. I don't want to get complains from people who went for a ride and lost their teeth crashing into a tree. It's an off-road trail so at least some mountain biking experience would be useful there. Expect a few tough sections with large boulders, steep declines and very narrow fragments.
Finally, I have to admit that for this ride I went back to the roots. I'm impatiently waiting for the new Clement X'Plor MSO 36mm tubeless tires to show up in stores. Until then, I have to stick to what I have in my storage for this type of riding. And what I have is a pair of Bontrager Jones CXR 34mm tires that came with my bike when I bought it 7 years ago. My bike doesn't usually wear these anymore. They are quite worn and buzzing on pavement. Other than that, these are actually pretty decent tires (light, soft and supple), as long as you don't use them for what they were intended to - cyclocross racing in mud. They are lousy in mud. But on a dry trail Jones CXR work quite well.

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