West Hurley Burly Mountain Bike Race opens a new trail

Jeremy Swift

Jeremy Swift learned to ride and race mountain bikes on local trails and decided it would be great to have a trail to ride on right in his backyard. Ten months ago he began constructing the trail in the woods and abandoned quarry in back of his house in West Hurley, assisted by master trail builder Tim Quilty. It has now become officially sanctioned as Race No. 5 in the USA Cycling-sanctioned New York State Mountain bike Championship Series. The race, which Swift has nicknamed the West Hurley Burly Backyard World Championship, will be held on August 25, with up to 200 mountain-biking racers in various classes participating.

In preparation for the race, Swift is putting the finishing touches on the 3.5-mile-long regular trail and shorter “prologue” trail, which all the bicylists will ride on first, and he’s pleased: it’s not only more challenging than the usual “criteria course on dirt” — which are typically located at large resorts — but will also enable riders and their fans to experience the beauty of nature and the woods.

Swift has been racing 18 years — he is ranked third in the state’s single-speed expert class (a smaller class representing “the last level of masochism,” thanks to the fact that the riders must rely on a single gear) — so he knows what makes a good trail. This one, which snakes through forest and an abandoned quarry, is more like an obstacle course. Its elevation is less than half that of the track at Windham, to cite one example, which climbs 850 feet, but takes just as long to race, thanks to the narrowness of the course and its many twists and turns, Swift said.

The beginner and intermediate racers will do one lap, while more advanced racers will ride multiple laps, Swift said. Each class might have from three to 30 people; Swift has capped the contestants to 200 and said he needs at least 130 “for the race not to be fiscally frightening.” Registration is $35. (To register, visit https://www.bikereg.com/Net/19184.)

The beginning and intermediate races begin at 10 a.m., followed by a kids’ race at 10:30 a.m. and expert and professional races around 12:30 p.m. The fastest man and woman of the day will be crowned the Backyard World Champions and receive commemorative Championship belts. Friends, family members and other fans can observe the carnage from the several logging trails that intersect the trail.

“We expect the race to attract participants from throughout the Catskills and Hudson Valley as well as from the metro New York and New Jersey region,” said Swift. “In addition to aspiring to build a top-shelf sporting event to challenge and excite participants and entertain spectators, we’re hoping that the event is both a showcase of the beauty and culture of the area and a valuable contribution to the mountain biking and racing scene that has given me so much over the last 18 years.”

Quilty will call the race, serving as emcee. There will also be live music and food available from Yum Yum On Wheels. H. Houst & Son Hardware will provide a pavilion tent with tables and chairs for dining comfortably in the August heat. Swift said the sponsorship support of Clockwork Construction Inc. was key to the trail’s completion; owner Ben Williams is a New York State licensed contractor who also happens to be one of the fastest semi-pro mountain-bike racers in the state. Swift is also grateful to his landlord, Steve Hakim, who owns the 70-acre property and gave him the green light for the trail. Will Swift himself, who makes a living working as a framer but hopes some day to be organizing events full time, be hitting the trail? “I harbor a fantasy I’ll be racing, but that’ll happen only if there are enough volunteers” to cover the event. The race is rain or shine.

The West Hurley Burly Backyard Championship will be held August 25 in West Hurley starting at 10 a.m. More info about the NYS Series is available at https://www.nysmtbseries.com/. The event also has a FB page featuring photo and video of the course, https://www.facebook.com/TheWestHurleyBurlyBackyardWorldChampionship. Interested participants can register to race at https://www.bikereg.com/Net/19184.

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