Photos by Joe Cruz
Most people wouldn’t think of NYC as a place to ride gravel. It’s more known for honking horns, loud subway trains, cafés, and pizza spots. You would be surprised to know just 16 miles northwest outside the city are New Jersey and New York mixed terrain and gravel trails ready to explore. These trails are a hidden gem for NYC’s gravel scene and the ‘backyard’ for city dwellers – a place for ideas and wonder.
The Hudson Gravel Ride is a 59-mile loop from NYC around the Hudson River, passing through New Jersey. Many cyclists in NYC know 9W and River Road, it’s one of the backbones of NYC cycling. This route takes a left turn after the Alpine Rd climb and into the woods for a proper off-road baptism for newcomers. The ride can take anywhere from 3.5 to 5 hours depending on skill level, size of your group and any mechanicals.
The inspiration for the ride started during COVID-19 here in the city. I mapped out the Hudson Gravel Ride when wanting to discover new roads and seek bikepacking and adventure cycling opportunities. Once I had a route, I wanted to share the route with others to build community and introduce more people to the joys of gravel riding. After launching 2 successful group rides I was excited to launch the 3rd on May 15th. I was fortunate to have my friend and cycling adventurist Joe Cruz come out to join in on the fun and contribute photos for the story from the ride.
We all met at the Monkey Cup, a Venezuelan-owned café on 118th street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd, where the ride starts and ends. It was a pleasant surprise to see so many people show up for the ride and was psyched to see how the ride has grown. Just the beginning of Spring and 2 rides in, the adventure cyclists and gravel rider shell has been cracked open.
Once you leave NYC over the George Washington Bridge there is a choice of riding on the popular River Road route or Route 9W. We took the scenic adventure route on River Road but before that, we stop to take in a view and say goodbye to NYC.
It would be hard not to stop to take in the amazing views of the George Washington Bridge. It’s one of the first lookouts and an opportunity for a group photo.
Shortly after the oohh’s & ahhh’s we began to meander our way outside of the city lines for a transition onto rolling tarmac with the Hudson River flowing downstream.
After our 9W Market stop, we jumped right into gear and onto gravel just a few hundred yards away leading us up and over the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge and down on to the fast dirt tracks of the OCA trail.
One of my favorite trails is the OCA. Not just because it’s accessible to NYC, but because of its ebb and flow before entering the city. It passes through neighborhoods each giving you a different experience before ending in Yonkers, which in it of itself is its own cultural cluster.
The ride ends back in Harlem and was a great time to grab a coffee at Monkey Cup, chat about all things bikes and our favorite parts of the ride. The Hudson Gravel Ride was first an adventure to take me out of the city that later turned into something that I could share with the community and introduce more people to gravel riding. My passion is being off-road and the more people I can get to join me – the better.