Contributed by Scott Schools
Contributed by Nate Evans
Bob invited me on this ride just the week before. Pending looming weather or recent illness, I needed to get out for a good old fashioned urban mountain bike ride. Christmas Eve morning it was, so I needed to get everything else for the next day taken care of before I clipped in. I never got a sense for how long this annual ride had been going on, maybe 10 years or so, but I liked the idea. Organizer Phil Kennedy greeted riders as they parked along Bellona and unloaded their mountain bikes. Phil started this ride as a way of spreading good Christmas cheer to the citizens of Baltimore while touring the city by mountain bike. “It’s so much easier to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to someone when you’re riding a bike. Kinda hard to do while sitting in a car.” Phil also used this ride to show suburban mountain bikers some great parts of the city, while hitting some fun mtb spots along the way.”
It was just above 30 degrees when we left Rodgers Forge heading south under a crisp sunrise. The pack of 11 riders past the beautiful homes of Bellona-Gittings, through The (very quiet) Orchards and over towards Bryn Mawr. There was next to no one driving on the roads this Christmas Eve morning which allowed for some aggressive flexibility with the pace of our ride. Being that we were all on fat tires allowed for even more flexibility! With knobby tires in the city, the range of riding increases exponentially. Don’t have to worry about curbs, potholes, cobbles, tree trips, gulleys, roots, rocks or bricks. Applying trail techniques definitely made crossing the footbridge over the old Ma & Pa Railroad line a lot more fun, with jumps at both ends…once you’re through the bollards. We cut through Gilman and hit the single track gem of north Baltimore – the Stony Run Trail. This is also part of the former Ma & Pa Railroad which rolled through here until 1963. Through JHU and across to see the new Druid tree sculptures at the lake.
Criss-crossing through Reservoir Hill, we took a group shot on a boat at Eutaw & Lanvale, then headed across Presstman to Sandtown-Winchester. There were no shortages of “Merry Christmases and “Good Mornings” exchanged as we rode. “I’ve never had anyone give me a hard time on these rides,” Phil shared. ”Everyone is so friendly! 99% of the people as quick to strike up a conversation, and the other 1% just ignores ya.” West Baltimore has a stereotype to overcome, and bike rides help erode that stereotype. As I’ve been biking west of MLK more lately with upcoming projects, I’ve come to really appreciate this side of town. Not only are residents incredibly friendly, but among the gridded streets and parks, are some beautiful houses and just really cool places. We spun to one of those spots, Union Square, for our next stop, then across SoWeBo to Pigtown via Carey Street. Heading across downtown, traffic was not an issue this morning. We were keeping speed with the limited auto traffic on Pratt, then caught the morning sun on the water at Morgan Stanley. This spot has a lot of cool urban obstacles to ride for all ages. Typically, this place would be busy with pedestrian traffic, but today the ramps, stairs and tight turns were all ours for the riding & jumping in both directions.
From here, we headed up Caroline Street to the ‘crib’, ‘rendezvous’ …I never figured out what ‘the Big Stop’ at the end was all about. Stories of Christmas Eve Rides’ Past all centered on the Festivus Maximus end of the ride (well, until home). We rolled up to the northwest corner of Greenmount & Chase. As legend has it, years ago, this annual ride swung by this quiet little pocket park to find a party already in progress. Riders hung with the locals and called in gin reinforcements from across the street at Sunrise Grocery Store. It was such a good time that this tradition repeated annually on Christmas Eve morning. Such was not the case this year. The Homewood Village Elders Garden is a classic urban social space complete with veranda, assorted grills, picnic tables and spot a pot – a low-budget space with all the amenities. I can see why the ride stops here. This would be a great place to end any bike party.
The local bike economy has thrived over the past few years in Baltimore. In four short years, several new bike shops and bike unique businesses have sprung up. This doesn’t account for all the unpublicized bike businesses around the city. Here on the 800 block of East Chase Street, you can find all kinds of bikes. This rowhome has it all. From Johnston Square to Charles North, we stopped by Graffiti Alley to between Maryland & Howard (Watch the glass!) and one last stop at Round Falls before we headed back to Bellona. Merry Christmas Everyone!
Not letting a little winter weather deter a good time, Baltimore Bike Party presents the Holiday Hangover Ride on December 28th at 7pm. Hopefully, there’ll be some new bikes from Christmas out on the ride. Check out the Facebook event page for developing details.
This Friday, the last Friday Morning Ride ever happens. Well, if the Mayans are correct then its the last one ever. If the zombie apocalypse must be postponed, then it will only be the last Friday Morning Ride of 2012. Mayan and Gregorian calendars aside, the natural calendar makes this the Winter Solstice – the first day of winter with the least daylight of the year. Dress for cold weather!
The route is in development, but it won’t be the same-old, same-old ride. While the typical Fri AM ride follows trails or waterfront, this one promises to be more of an urban exploration excursion. Details are available at Meetup
The December 2012 version of the Family Bike Party enjoyed a short, but fun ride through Hampden. The ride started at the Wyman Park on the east end of 34th Street, where kids played while parents attached trailers. The weather was unseasonably warm which was awesome. The group of 20 rolled along Beech Avenue, Tudor Arms and over 37th Street to Hickory. The slow speed of the motor vehicle traffic greatly inhibited the progress of the Family Bike Party along the Avenue. Onlookers were amazed that small children could actually ride with traffic on the streets of Baltimore. Coasting down Chestnut Avenue, the Bike Party ended on 34th Street under the Christmas/Holiday/Seasonal lights.
Thanks to Penny Troutner for watching parked bikes at 34th Street
Mark your calendar for January 15th, 16th & 17th, 2013 when Baltimore will be conducting its 3rd wintertime bike counts. Baltimore experienced a 137% increase in winter bike commuting from 2011 to 2012. These counts will continue to monitor the level of cycling. Volunteers are needed to brave the elements this January and tbulate bike traffic at:
- Guilford & Mt. Royal Avenues
- Pratt Street & Market Place
- Falls Road & Maryland Avenue
- Aliceanna & Boston Streets and
- Keswick Avenue & Wyman Park Drive
Count times will be from 7:30 to 9:30 am and 4:00 to 6:00 pm.
SIGN UP HERE to verify Baltimore’s 2013 wintertime bicycle traffic!
The Baltimore Family Bike Party is heading to North Baltimore this Saturday for a fun ride around Wyman Park and Hampden ending with a visit to the famous Miracle on 34th Street. This ride is a bit hillier than the recent Patterson Park and Riverside Park Bike Parties but, as always, we welcome everyone from toddlers in bike seats to young teens on two wheels for this family-friendly community ride!
Meet at the Wyman Park Playground, 3510 Beech Avenue (just north of 34th Street) at 4pm. Be sure to bring lights as the ride will end just after dark.
Visit the Facebook event page
At its December 2012 meeting, after considering a large amount of membership input collected through various means and indicating clear and overwhelming support by the club’s membership, and in accordance with Club rules, the board approved by a vote of 9 to 1 (with 2 abstentions) to enter into a contract with International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) for MORE to become an IMBA Chapter Club.
This decision was not reached in haste. Initial discussions between MORE and IMBA began almost two years ago. In that time, MORE doubled its membership, doubled its sponsorship and contributed over 6000 volunteer hours annually. With a geographical reach from northern Virginia to the Little Gunpowder River, MORE maintains 41 trail systems and 300 miles of trails. Because of this success, MORE experienced growth pains as all this volunteer work was performed by 7% of the members. Becoming an IMBA chapter club provides MORE assistance from the national organization.
Benefits of the chapter program include:
- Joint memberships for MORE and IMBA (join one, join both)
- Online membership tools streamlined
- MORE maintains autonomy, it’s 501c3 and leadership selection
- MORE maintains all funds raised locally
- IMBA/SRAM will fund a full-time staff person dedicated to MORE operations
MORE will become one of 118 IMBA chapters including other Maryland clubs like the Delaware Trail Spinners, Eastern Shore IMBA and Southern Maryland Mountain Biking.
“MORE has recently experienced rapid growth and great successes,” says MORE president Dave Ferraro. “This partnership with IMBA will allow the organization to better serve our membership and provide increased opportunities for sustainable, multi-use trail systems in our region. Thanks to our members, sponsors and land management partners as we are looking to a bright future for MORE.”
Councilwoman Cathy Bevins is looking for a district representative for the Baltimore County Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee. This committee was created by the County Council in February 2011, in recognition of the need to develop dialogue on a variety of transportation-related issues affecting the County. The Commission consists of 11 voluntary members, one from each council district, appointed by their respective Council Member, and four at-large members appointed by the County Executive.
The current 6th district position is vacant, and Councilwoman Bevins is looking to appoint another qualified representative who lives in the sixth district (from Parkville, Overlea, Linover, White Marsh, Middle River, Essex) to fill the vacancy. Committee members serve three year terms and the Committee meets quarterly and as needed throughout the year.
More information on the Pedestrian Bicycle Advisory Committe, click here