Underexposed EP3 – Wilmington, Delaware

Underexposed is a monthly series dedicated to showcasing trails around North America that fly under the proverbial radar for most riders. PEARL iZUMi athlete Brice Shirbach has seen firsthand what sweat equity can mean among mountain bikers and its impact on the places we call home, and with this series will look to help open eyes and shift our attention to some of the brilliant riding that exists in places both unexpected and unheard of.

The State of Delaware holds a handful of superlatives among the United States. It was the first of the 13 original colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution. It is the second smallest state in the country next to Rhode Island. It is the sixth least populous, while also being the sixth most densely populated. It has the lowest mean elevation of any state in the nation, with the highest point found at Ebright Azimuth, a scant 450 feet above sea level. It’s reasonable to assume that while Delaware might lay claim to some interesting factoids, one thing it probably doesn’t show up on is your “must ride” list.

Tucked away in a crowded but somewhat anonymous corner of the mid-Atlantic, Delaware is well known for a few things, and bikes aren’t really among them. However, that is not to say that it shouldn’t be on your to-do list. Quite the opposite. Northern Delaware alone is home to a slew of top-notch trail networks, including White Clay-Middle Run, Iron Hill, and Fair Hill. My personal favorite among them is Brandywine, a beautiful stretch of old-growth forest in North Wilmington that straddles the PA State Line, and is split between Brandywine Creek State Park, and the First State National Monument.

The terrain at Brandywine is varied, with close to 300 vertical feet of elevation from its highest point to its lowest. While there are some sections where the organics in the topsoil are bountiful, the defining characteristic of the trails here would be the rocks and roots that call this place home. It might not be ideal for beginners, but for intermediate riders and up, it’s a veritable playground where nature has done most of the work. There are groups around including the Delaware Trail Spinners and the up and coming Brandywine Mountain Bike Collective who are developing relationships with land managers, as well as a burgeoning volunteer scene as more and more people begin to recognize the kind of resource that Brandywine represents in what is an otherwise overcrowded and over-developed corner of the country.

There’s a small sign marking the aforementioned high point in the state. I know because it sits at the entrance to my neighborhood. Here’s the thing: I would never go so far as to say that the trails at Brandywine are world-class, or are even particularly destination-worthy, whatever that means. You won’t find a massive jump line, or steep and deep backcountry, or even much in the way of wide-corridor flow trails. My job is such that I get to experience any and all of that throughout the year. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love where I live, or love being able to pedal down the street and onto these trails. Not at all. True story: after my wife gave birth to our second child, we realized that our modest townhome wasn’t going to cut it. We needed to move, but we weren’t looking to move far. After taking some time to look at a fairly sizable radius in the region, we decided on North Wilmington. Of course, there were a number of boxes we needed to check as a young and growing family, but I’ll let you take a guess at what the deciding factor was. Here’s a hint: the bike lanes run from my neighborhood right to them.

a map of the trails for the Brandywine area on Trailforks.com
action photos of Brice riding the trails in the Brandywine system
action photos of Brice riding the trails in the Brandywine system
photo of Brice posing for a portrait as the sun sets on the trails in the Brandywine system
action photos of Brice riding the trails in the Brandywine system deep in a forest
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Brice has been riding bikes professionally and sharing his adventures with others for close to a decade. He cut his teeth racing and riding up and down the east coast, and considers himself fortunate to explore some of the best trails and communities on the planet as a career. Brice produces content for Pinkbike.com, as well as many of his sponsors and partners, including PEARL iZUMi, Pivot Cycles, Maxxis Tires, and others. His greatest joy can be found at home in the form of his wife, Megan, and two boys, Logan and Henry.

PEARL iZUMi Athlete

3 thoughts on “Underexposed EP3 – Wilmington, Delaware

  1. I enjoyed your article about Brandywine keep up the good work. If you do a piece about Fair Hill , i am willing to provide you with 28 years of mt bike history. I am a former trail spinner and a Trail Tech at Fair Hill for 14 years.

  2. Nice job. I live in Fair Hill MD and would rate the trail system there as amazing. I ride there with my 26 year old son 3-4 days a week. We are also lucky to be able to be in White Clay Creek in Newark within a ten minute bike ride. I’m spoiled. Don’t even own a bike rack.

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