Old timey mountain biking

I live again in the small New England town where I first started mountain biking. Sometimes I ride the same tracks that I did back then, but usually not, those abandoned 19th century woods roads, gravely erosion creeks, 4-wheeler arteries receded into invisibility. The technology, the speeds, our skills, most of all our expectations about the aesthetic dimensions of riding: all have changed.

The other day on a lark, wondering after Old Florida Road, up out of the valley to Savoy, Massachusetts. It’s on topo’s but encouragingly or ominously ends on google maps, Ed and Bruce reacted with gamely shrugs.

From Atlas of Berkshire County, Barnes & Farnham, 1904. Old Florida Road in upper right hand corner

It was as much fun as I’ve had riding locally in a long while. Unalloyed nostalgia, sure, but not for the road itself, which I’d never been on, but for the style of riding. Misty, wet, rocky, forgotten trail, laughing as we tested our low speed skills over lips and water rounded stones — remember when they called it trialsin’? — up on to quartz veined granite, mud and persistent clouds of mosquitoes conspiring with waning daylight to hint that we shouldn’t dally. The historical density of New England signposts the passage of time with cemeteries, foundations, tiny dams or orange iron culverts.

Over pints we lament our myopia in neglecting these old school pleasures.