The bicycle: It’s one of the most efficient means of transportation ever invented and is found nearly everywhere across the planet.
Here on the East End, you’ll see plenty of road bikes, mountain bikes, beach cruisers, fat-tired bikes, BMX bikes and recumbent bikes.
But what those two-wheeled rides all have in common is that they need a place to be ridden safely.
What many locals and visitors might not realize is that Riverhead Town has recently completed trails and lanes that enable cyclists to safely cruise the North Fork’s western end. The trails were completed by the state Department of Transportation in August 2013 using $3.5 million in grants and are available for all to enjoy.
I decided to take a ride along some of them and share the trails’ ups and downs and give a few pointers about making the trip as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Before getting started, I always take a moment to make sure I’m ready. A properly fitting helmet is a must. Eye protection is also a good idea, as are a spare tire tube or repair kit, plenty of water, sunscreen and comfortable, brightly colored clothing. Nowadays, keeping your cellphone handy makes a lot of sense in case of emergency. Bike shops in our area can tune up your bike to make sure you don’t have any unforeseen mechanical difficulties. And, of course, being familiar with the rules of the road is paramount.
Looking at the map available from the Riverhead Alternative Transportation Committee, I decided to begin on the western edge of Riverhead Town in Wading River at Duck Ponds Park. From there, you have two options to get started:
I could cycle out of the hamlet going southeast along North Country Road, then turn south onto Wading River Manor Road and into the wooded seclusion of the Pine Barrens. Here, there are very few houses and even fewer cars. If you decide to go this way, keep a map handy to make sure of your route; it’s easy to get turned around so deep in the woods. The roads here are smooth and rolling. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a deer or a family of wild turkeys around the next bend. Once I met up with the south edge of the town’s Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL), I began to parallel the Peconic River while riding on South River Road, occasionally glimpsing the waterway as the route winds on toward Riverhead.
The other choice is to head east onto North Wading River Road. This is a particularly challenging section of road, as it climbs almost 200 feet through the hills until it meets Hulse Landing Road. Thankfully, it’s shaded by tall trees on both sides of the street. But the climb can be daunting for inexperienced riders and, unfortunately, doesn’t offer much of a view of Long Island Sound. However, after cresting the top, the descent is delightfully speedy. Other cyclists might stop in at Wildwood State Park for a swim or to use the facilities. I followed Hulse Landing Road south to Route 25A, where I turned toward Riverhead and joined up with Route 25 at Grumman Memorial Park. The F-14 Tomcat and A-6 Intruder on display were mocking reminders of the pokey pace of my transportation method of choice that day.
Alternatively, I could have turned east onto Sound Avenue from Hulse Landing Road. A word of caution about cycling on Sound Avenue and, indeed, on any road on the East End: It is imperative that you remain alert to automobile traffic. It is probably safest to assume drivers do not see you and to act accordingly. Sound Avenue, while offering the most direct route from west to east in Riverhead Town — and wonderful vistas of Riverhead’s farmland — does not have the wide shoulders or generous sightlines you’ll find in other sections of the trail system. You will also usually find it crowded with fast-moving cars, especially during the fall harvest season. I recommend that only experienced cyclists use this route. Personally, I avoid it whenever possible.
As I approached downtown Riverhead from the west on Route 25, the bike route made a detour near the entrance to Splish Splash Water Park to the north, onto Manor Road. This diverted me from the busy traffic of Route 58 onto Middle Road. Once again, however, caution is the watchword as Middle Road has become a bypass for the congestion of Old Country Road (Route 58). The route reconnects with Main Street (Route 25) after traveling south on Ostrander Avenue and/or Elton Street. There is the option of traveling farther east on either Main Road (Route 25 again), which has wide shoulders and many shops and attractions, or along Hubbard Avenue/Peconic Bay Boulevard route to the south, which snakes along the coastline of Peconic Bay. This southern route affords glimpses of the beautiful bay. If so inclined, cyclists can explore the dead-end beachfront roads as well as the town beach in South Jamesport.
One of the jewels of the town’s Bike Path program is the north/south route from South Jamesport Beach on Peconic Bay to Iron Pier Beach on Long Island Sound along Manor Lane in Jamesport. Well-marked with signs and sharrows (the painted symbols of a bike on the road surface), this is also the route of the Jamesport Sound-to-Bay 10K, and it travels past acres of farm fields. I particularly enjoy this stretch, as I can push my bike to the limit, hunker down and pedal as fast as I can. Depending on the wind’s direction, the wide-open farmland vistas can be either boon or bane; a tail wind is most welcome, while a head wind makes for a grueling effort. However, I find the views at either end well worth the time.
Becoming familiar with the routes marked and available for cyclists and remembering to always share the roadways can make riding your bicycle in Riverhead Town easier and safer. And once those routes are known, leaving them to explore all Riverhead has to offer becomes a delight for the novice or expert cyclist alike.
Mark Sisson is an avid cyclist from Mattituck who occasionally commutes by bicylce to his job as farm manager at the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.
This story originally appeared in northforker’s 2014 Health & Fitness magazine.