Riding High: Catskills Collective of New York
Will Ross, October 6, 2017
The heaving and seemingly endless human activity of Manhattan makes it easy to presume that the entire state of New York is devoid of real nature and landscape. Drift upstream along the Hudson and the picture pretty quickly begins to look very different. Drive or take the Empire State Amtrak a dozen miles north out of Manhattan and the congestion of city almost willingly gives way to dramatic terrain covered in thick forest.
It’s this background that cyclists Russell Gonzales and Paul Livornese want to bring to the attention of New Yorkers with the Catskills Collective. A ride out of the city in the direction of Bear Mountain isn’t too bad, but start a few miles north of this turnaround point and your entire ride is made up of beautiful climbs and quiet roads. At least this is how Paul and Russell see it – why compromise?
The pair make a robust combination, with the tall bike mechanic and Rapha Cycling guide, Russell, wearing all the hair aged twenty years younger than his graphic designer and musician business partner, Paul. But the two represent the broad appeal of cycling and were able to converge over a business venture this summer in the form of Catskills Collective and drive-lodge-feed-guide operation around a property deep in the woods 120 miles north of New York City.
A weekend with Russell and Paul begins in downtown Manhattan where guests are collected in a 8-person sprinter vehicle capable of taking both rider and ride for the 2-hour drive to the property. The drive is broken by dinner in the woods before guests bed down for a big ride on Saturday.
For cyclists who prefer to place an emphasis on proper riding over luxe sleeping quarters, the Catskills is just the right balance. Rooms can be booked for individuals, pairs or groups, with options being $500, $475 and $375 respectively.
Breakfast is no minor event, with Paul stepping in with blueberry pancakes and proper coffee. The day’s riding isn’t supported, so guests are told to fuel up at least until the mid-morning break. Though the idea is for the group of eight to ride together, the founders are capable guides and know the roads well enough to suggest where and when Strava segments can be chased.
Returning to the comfortable cabin is an option for those looking for an afternoon on the couch, but the more ambitious can continue riding or else head out on a trail run or lake swim. An evening meal on the Saturday is a chance to recollect the day’s routes and think about how to repeat it all again the following day.
This is the tempo of a weekend in the Catskills, with days wide open for as much or as little riding as possible. But with such cosy quarters, wholesome food and empassioned company, a weekend with the Catskills Collective will likely stand out above the rest.
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