Wake County

Triangle cyclists go off-road at Lake Crabtree

Triangle Off-Road Cyclists annual festival at Lake Crabtree Park

See video clips from the festival at Lake Crabtree Park on Sunday, June 21, 2015 in Raleigh, N.C. Video by Staff Photojournalist Jill Knight/jhknight@newsobserver.com
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See video clips from the festival at Lake Crabtree Park on Sunday, June 21, 2015 in Raleigh, N.C. Video by Staff Photojournalist Jill Knight/jhknight@newsobserver.com

The Triangle has no mountains to boast of, but that doesn’t stop the region’s thriving cult of mountain bikers from seeking new peaks to conquer. On Sunday, more than 140 off-road cyclists claimed their little slice of two-wheeled heaven in Wake County – the joy of pedaling along the tangled, twisty trails of Lake Crabtree County Park.

The annual festival sponsored by Triangle Off Road Cyclists celebrates the popular outdoor sport, and features time trials, skills clinics and other feats of dexterity. The Morrisville park is also well-suited for casual family rides through the nearly 300 shaded acres of woodland that is becoming widely known as a natural habitat for knobby tires, shock absorbers and clicking gears.

“The festival is for the mountain biking community to get together and have fun,” said David Houskeeper, president of the club known as TORC.

Sunday’s festival also featured the grand opening of new trails, plus newly-restored single-tracks that had been chewed up by years of stump-jumping, slope-surfing and wipe-outs. The two-month restoration and expansion project, covered by a $87,627 grant from the Federal Recreational Trails Program, has extended the spaghetti-like maze of trails here to nine miles.

The Triangle is a hot spot for off-road cycling, and serious riders can get their pedaling fix navigating more than 100 miles at area trail parks. The centrally located Lake Crabtree County Park features some of the most favored riding terrain in the region, attracting more than 100,000 cyclists a year, said park manager Drew Cade.

Attesting to the growing importance of mountain biking trails as a public amenity is land-swap legislation pending in the state legislature that would annex Lake Crabtree County Park to Umstead State Park. The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority owns the Lake Crabtree park, so the proposal could save the prized trails from the potential threat of bulldozers and cement mixers.

Mixing with the children, sneaker-clad dads and gray-haired riders on Sunday were cyclists who have tested their mettle on some of the toughest off-road trails in the world. Nick Hatley of Raleigh, a 37-year-old operations manager for a security alarm company was decked out in skin-tight cycling attire and intently focused.

“When I ride, I just like to go fast,” he said. “And this thing is purely built for speed,” he said of his $7,500 ultra-light bike.

Debbie Hage of Cary rides six days a week, sometimes logging six hours in a single day. Hage, 49, a physical therapist, has been off-road cycling in Vietnam, Peru and Italy, and will next ride the French Alps in August.

“I’m not hard-core or high-level, but I’ll get out and do just about everything,” she said. “I’m trying to stay as young as I can for as long as I can.”

Murawski: 919-829-8932

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