Story: Steve CrandallPhotos: Andrew Forgash
If you were to truly do an article, a scene report, on Ithaca, New York, it would most likely consist of causing trouble, bail receipts, smashing bottles, barbecues, beer swilling, lighting off fireworks, some BMX, and a bunch of stupid arguments. You name the topic, and chances are that no one will agree on it. I guess that’s how it is, though. The riders around here are no Spring chickens. Almost everyone that rides in Ithaca has ridden for at least ten years, and some for a lot more than that. All the kids in Ithaca, except for the few young-bloods, work full-time jobs, have bills to pay, and some even have families. Throw a few smart-asses into that equation, and you have a bunch of salty old men with one thing in common: everyone up here loves to ride.
Ithaca is fairly isolated, at least three hours from just about everywhere. It sits at the bottom of the biggest of the Finger Lakes in Central New York, and is primarily a college town. The winters last long up this way, so the summer months have been known to be pretty hectic. From what I can remember, I would say Ithaca has the fewest riders to ever be featured in a magazine as a scene. If there were ever more than a dozen riders in Ithaca at one time, it wasn’t for long. What does that mean? The handful of people that have endured have become some of the best friends I have ever imagined, and the most ridiculous group of degenerates I have ever had the pleasure of being acquainted with.
Rather than bore you with details about lips, landings, handrails, and hot spots, I decided to just give you a brief overview of who rides and what’s going on up here. There are three sets of trails in Ithaca, but don’t expect a map of how to get there, or even an invitation. They are all on private property, and you need a VIP pass to ride or you might get a bottle winged at you. Although under strict regulations, there have been a lot of visitors this year, and it was a great Summer with countless sessions going down at Aaron’s house, F.O.D., and at Kelly Baker’s new trails in the woods. Almost as important as the riding has been the barbecue contingent. More often than not, a grill has been tended to at the end of the day, supplemented with plenty of meat, grilled vegetables, condiments, and refreshments. Regulars and veterans in the VIP lounge include Mike Tag, Kelly and Kim Baker, Steve Crandall, Brock Yoder, and occasionally Jamie “Mulley” Antosh, Andrew Forgash, and a couple of beards. Some of today’s most celebrated BMXers enjoyed access to the VIP lounge this year.
The trail riding legacy around here traces back to the Baker brothers, who have been riding for about 20 years. Their motocross-influenced belligerency has played a big part in the way things have happened in Ithaca. I don’t think I ever saw a tabletop in real life before I met these guys.
The two colleges in Ithaca provide plenty of architecture for street riding, but the law does not look to kindly upon peg grinds and wall-rides. Heavy fines have been paid, and as a result, hit and run sessions are familiar, and more aliases have been given to university police than there are riders in Ithaca. Mike Tag practices his own acts of civil disobedience by destroying every possible ledge, rail, wall, and whatever else he can find. He is by far the one of the most influential riders in the area, which is clear when you see the younger generation around town. The new cement skatepark in Ithaca was finally built after being delayed by the construction of a Carl Sagan Memorial Galaxy Monument, and now provides enough entertainment to have every 11-year-old kid from the projects riding around on ten-speeds and rollerskates.
When the weather isn’t nice, the folks at East Coast Terminal, a new park in Binghamton, are nice enough to let us in a few nights a week. And if you’re lucky, you can take the Big Bear challenge on the way home¿40 ounces in 27 miles. The record is two Big Bears held by Weird Beard, a Summertime Ithaca derelict.
If you are ever lucky enough to visit Ithaca, you might get a chance to hang out at the Chanty, get punched in the face, go riding with the FBM guys, get hit with fireworks, get arrested, fire up the grill, hear some crazy stories from the Baker family, witness “The Phantom,” and maybe see a transvestite riding around on an old Schwinn. Whatever the case, if you get a chance to do any of the shit we probably don’t even realize we’re doing, you’ll probably remember it for a long time.
Random Facts About Ithaca
o FBM headquarters are in Ithaca, and was founded here in 1993.
o Having a handful of riders on the roof of a bar during the rain while people are standing in line to get inside is a bad idea.
o Ithaca is home to the highest waterfall East of the Mississippi River, Taughannock Falls.
o A pitcher of Old Milwaukee cost $5.75 at the Chanticleer.
o A 32-ounce soda costs ten-cents with the purchase of a sandwich atShortstop.
o Ice cream sundaes were invented in Ithaca.
o Tim Dunbar, who was originally from Ithaca, invented the Ollie.
o When “The Last Temptation of Christ” debuted in Ithaca, a priest drove a van through the theater’s wall.
o Gorilla Monsoon holds the record for the fastest pin while wrestling at Ithaca College.
o No episodes of “Night Rider” featuring David Hasselhoff were filmed in Ithaca.
o The maximum fine for a noise ordinance violation in Ithaca is $250.
o The FBM guys aren’t allowed at any parties in Ithaca.
o The album “Speak English or Die” by S.O.D. was recorded in Ithaca.
o No one from Ithaca rides for a mountain bike company or has a sunglass sponsor.
o A bowling ball rolling down a hill can be dangerous.