#ECRT 2017: Plattekill
3 Aug 2017
Back in 2014, while on our last pilgrimage to the Northeast, we considered making a visit to Plattekill Bike Park in Roxbury, New York. But, we ultimately decided against making a visit, due to the numerous conflicting opinions as to whether or not we would like the riding at Plattekill. It’s like “Surfing plates”, was a common phrase we heard to describe the style of riding, at this steep-faced mountain. This year, however, we decided to checkout the trails for ourselves and formulate our own opinions. Although skeptical, we knew ahead of time what we were getting ourselves into. With the Eastern States Cup Downhill race happening on the same weekend, we figured, why not make a trip and find out just how gnarly we could get—and give our downhill bikes a real challenge!
The best way for us to explain our expectations leading up to our first visit to Plattekill, is to first describe the love-hate relationship that park riders have with their trails. There were two pictures clearly painted for us. Those riders with strong opinions about “Platty” generally fall into one of these two groups: Rider group (#1) is a fanatic, diehard, gnar gnar gnar Platty or DIE, all-the-while explaining, with a twinkle in their eyes, how sheets of rock break off and travel down the mountain with you as you ride. They typically follow up with, “Platty is where I learned how to mountain bike”, and they are proud of it! Rider group (#2) despises the trails with equal passion. They say things like, “I’ll never go back there, don’t waist your time, you’ll hate it!” So, with this much hearsay, we had a pretty good feeling things were going to be really interesting and tough. Questions arose in our heads like, should we wear ACL braces? Do we have good enough health insurance? (Yes, thanks to Obama!)
The drive up the rural mountain road is rolling, but the final haul up to the parking lot had positioned us just high enough to grab a second bar of data from a local cell tower. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday. It seemed like weeks had passed without functioning data on our phones, and we were desperate for social media interactions. After a quick stretch of our legs, we took-in the face of the mountain for the first time. Plattekill isn’t a tall mountain, but the vertical face is visibly STEEP! Anyone can see just how vertiginous the mountain is while standing at the base. It might have the most vertical appearance that we have ever seen at a bike park. We decided to go live on Facebook to show off that we had finally made it to Platty!
Plattekill Bike Park is only open a total of 8 days this summer. This is the first year they are not fully operational. They have two functioning chairlifts for biking trails, but only one lift was running while we were there. We’re not sure if that’s because it was a race weekend, or if they are no longer running the other half of the mountain (more on that later). Our first morning, we watched as racers arrived and set up camp or slowly put on their gear, waiting for the chairlift to start running. Saturday was practice-day for the racers. A red sprinter van pulled in right next to us and we met Chris and Lindsay, a couple who are also on a bike park road trip and living out of their van. Lucky us! It was finally time to gear up and check out the trails that we had been hearing about for so many years. Plattekill has a couple of top-to-bottom green trails, which we figured would be a good start to our day. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what happened. Somehow, on our first run, we managed to find ourselves on a black diamond trail, straight down the mountain...so much for a warm up lap! There we were, amongst the huge boulders, with their thinly sliced, horizontal striations, making them look like a dense chocolate-layered cake! We could see right away that the rocks were very delicate. They are loose and break away very easily. Everything that we had been hearing, about how the rocks move underneath you, is true! We can definitely see why riders who love it there are so passionate about it; it is truly a unique and beautiful crumbling mountain. And, it definitely takes a special kind of riding style to stay upright on your bike. “Surfing rocks”, should definitely be taken literally. This bike park is not about the flow. It’s steep and technical. Not for modern day mountain bikers who prefer purpose built trails. Plattekill is an old school, fall-line, super tech mountain. That’s why there’s a divide amongst riders, and to each their own. Mountain biking should make you happy. As for us, we like it all!! Gnar, yep! Flow, yep! Trails with both – double yep!!
It’s hard to know really—what does the future hold for Plattekill? Half the bike park had not been maintained at all for riding this season, as Natty discovered when she made the pedal-traverse over to the other side of the mountain. These defunct trails would normally be served by the “triple-chairlift”. Her foray to this dark-side of the mountain only led her to trails with 8-inch deep debris and trees down everywhere. In the Platty’s defense, they weren’t running the “triple-chairlift”...that should had clued us in. We spoke with a rider who has been riding at Platty for 20+ years. His comments came with great sadness as he said; “Platty is putting the final nails in the coffin”. Plattekill does not have a dedicated trail crew. From what we understand, they typically have volunteer days and offer up lift tickets in return for the work that is done. As for the downhill race, we heard it was the most technical trail in Plattekill history—this, according to racers who have competed in many races there in the past. As spectators, it definitely looked technical and steep to us. The mountain is riddled with old racecourses. Knowing a local, who would be willing to show you around, would definitely make navigating the mountain a more fruitful and efficient experience.
We came, we saw, we surfed the rocks. No regrets on making this trip. But, heed our warning; if you don’t like steep gnar you’re not going to like it here. But if loose tech is your jam, then you better get to Plattekill sooner than later!
(1st place 50+ - Ernie Reale our very gracious host)
Want more? Check out our last stop Mountain Creek Bike Park.
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