Cyclists find plenty of trails in Shore area

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 08/1/06


The magic is in the maps, and Tom Ayers owns a collection that would make amateur cartographers blush. Each one outlines a different set of roads, a different group of trails, a different selection of the paths that wind through rural New Jersey. A cyclist for 35 years, he rarely repeats a ride, varying his routes on a daily basis. Some of his favorite trails are located out in western Monmouth County. He often drives down to the Manasquan Reservoir, parks his car, and leads a group of 10 or 15 out toward Imlaystown. "The nice part about it out there is the fact that there are so many roads," Ayers said. "We have almost an infinite number of options." Ayers, owner of Tom's Atlantic Cyclery in Atlantic Highlands and director of the 3-D Racing Team, is one of thousands of Shore-area residents who own bicycles. Local cyclists don't mind boasting that this area offers some of the best trails in the state.

"I think Monmouth County is at the lead-ing edge of cycling opportunities for the recreational public," said Wally Tunison, owner of the Bicycle Hub in Marlboro. "Compared to where we were as little as five years ago, we are on an upward surge of not only recreational cycling opportunities, but good opportunities for mountain bike trails." Tunison, like most riders, loves open space. It's a big reason why western Monmouth County is so seductive for those who spend their free time searching for the perfect ride. "The American recreational public is deciding that the car has had it's time," Tunison said, "and the cycling opportunities and walking possibilities should be given fair play."

Some favor paved trails, the kind you would find on a ride out on Sandy Hook or a trip up and down the Henry Hudson trail. Some would rather navigate over a more challenging surface. Jim Jablonski, president of the Ocean County-based East Coast Bicycle Club, loves coming down a trail, finding a tree, a log, or some other obstacle in his way. It only makes the ride more enjoyable. "Most of the trails around here tend to be better in the winter," Jablonski said. "The ground tends to be firmer. I like Lebanon State Forest. That's a good place to ride. I like Allaire State Park. That's another good place to ride." Jablonski is a big fan of the white trail in Lebanon State Forest. Several trails there are marked by white, red and blue blazes. Following those markers will take you on loops around the park. "There are a lot of trails that aren't marked," Jablonski said. "You can go for miles and miles if want to. You can connect one to another, make as big a loop as you want to." He got back into cycling in 1990, when his brother was getting rid of one of his old bikes. Jablonski has added a few bikes to his stable since then, but still uses the steel-frame road bike that got him back into riding.

Unlike Jablonski, 64-year-old Doug Mitchell has been riding since he was a teenager. Mitchell, one of the officers of the Atlantic Bicycle Club, said cycling offers the young and the old a low-impact form of exercise.
"It's a sport you can get into at just about any age and you can keep going with it until the day you die," Mitchell said. "There are no age limits at all." His club leaves the Allenwood section of Wall almost every Sunday morning and heads west. Mitchell thinks there are several qualities that make for a good trail. "It has to be wide enough to accommodate a number of people," Mitchell said. "It can't be too narrow. The fewer interactions with traffic, the better. And the scenery sometimes . . . especially the ones out on Sandy Hook and Allaire."

Michael Schiavo, owner of the Peddler in Long Branch, rode 42 miles on July 20, a trip that took him through the Manasquan Inlet. If and when he can, he gravitates toward the beach. "I like ocean routes in the morning," Schiavo said. "You can go through Belmar, Spring Lake, and that's nice as long as it's early enough. If you catch it later, there's cars, traffic." There are plenty of places to ride in these parts. Sometimes it's more fun to put the maps away, ignore the trail markers, and just ride.

"It's very intriguing to go out and explore," Ayers said.