A Mountain Biker Is OMAC Honoree

He was 60 pounds heavier about 20 years ago
When Dan Farnham is not going to mountains to mountain-bike, he does so on the some 25 miles of trails in Montauk’s Hither Hills. Jack Graves

Dan Farnham, who recently was named as the Old Montauk Athletic Club’s male athlete of the year, winces when you repeat to him Caroline Cashin’s declaration that he is the best mountain biker out here.

“A few guys I know have much better technical skills than I do,” he said during a recent conversation at his house in Montauk, “though I’m very good at climbing. . . . You can say I’m a good road biker with moderate mountain biking skills. . . .”

What he would like to say, the 59-year-old commercial fisherman said, is that anyone so inclined can become fit. 

“Sue and I were getting to the magic point — I was about 60 pounds heavier then — and we wanted to change our lifestyles. We were both in our early 40s and decided to give each other bicycles for Christmas. She got me a mountain bike; I got her a hybrid. A group of us, Mike Fallon, Kevin McGuire, Dave Aripotch, and Danny Boerem, the electrician, would ride in Hither Hills every Sunday morning at 8. We ride 13 miles in Mike Bahel’s Serpent’s Back duathlon, but there are probably 25 miles of trails if you add it all up.”

“I’ve done a lot of road riding too. The key is not to go through East Hampton, to stay on the back roads. I’ll go four to five hours sometimes, down the Napeague stretch early in the morning to Napeague Meadow Road and cut up through Amagansett, Springs, and Northwest to Sag Harbor, and then back, cutting across 27 to Further Lane. . . .”

“I don’t win these races, you know. 

. . . I’ve done half-marathons, and Turkey Trots, and triathlons . . . I just don’t win them.”

“Yes,” his wife said from the office, “you’ve won some. You won [Ed Cashin and David Lys’s] Tour of the Shore. . . .”

“Actually, Sue’s right. We kayaked across Napeague Harbor and then mountain-biked in the Walking Dunes and ran four miles. It was a local race, a lot of fun. They don’t do it anymore.”

When pressed, he acknowledged that he did usually finish near the top in endurance events, though not so much in triathlons. “I’m a really good biker and my run is good, but I’m a crummy swimmer,” he said with a smile. “For me, as I said, it’s really been about fitness. As soon as you leave Long Island there will always be somebody who’s going to kick your ass.”

Mountain bikes, of course, are made for mountains, and Farnham has gone to them — in South Africa, British Columbia, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Pennsylvania. . . .

For stage races, such as the Cape Epic in Cape Town and its environs, which he and Caroline Cashin did in 2015, one had to train seriously, he said, in order to be up to the grueling challenge.

Cashin said the Cape Epic was the hardest thing she’d ever done aside from giving birth. 

“We averaged 60 miles and 7,000 feet of climbing per day — 500 miles in all,” Farnham said. “All off-road. I thought it would be a great way to see South Africa, but all I saw was the back of Caroline’s wheels. . . . You had to stay together, within two minutes of each other, and you had to be within the time cutoffs, otherwise you were DQ’d. Twenty percent of the entries don’t finish in that kind of event. There are a bunch of premier mountain bike races and the Cape Epic is one of them.”

Probably the toughest stage race he’d done, said the interviewee, was the TransRockies seven-day race in British Columbia, which he did with Marty Ross, who’s since moved to New Zealand, in 2011. “Sinead [FitzGibbon] and Dennis [Loebs] did it too. There were roots and rocks and up to 10,000 feet elevation, up above the tree line . . . in the sleet and the snow. Africa was grueling, never-ending, but it didn’t have the exciting trails that the TransRockies did.”

Asked if he’d fallen in that race, he said he may have, “but nothing broke. One thing: If you mountain-bike, you will fall. Everybody does, though I might fall more than others,” Farnham said with a laugh.

More recently, he competed in the 2018 world single-speed mountain bike championships with Ed Cashin, a good friend of his, in Bend, Ore. “I said Ed finished a minute ahead of me on that list I gave to OMAC, but we came in together. It took the timer, who was putting the times down on a sheet of plywood, a minute before he got to my name. . . . There were 650 people in that race. Ed and I finished around 100th. We got lost for 15 minutes. If you’re following the guy in front of you and he’s not paying attention, that’s what happens.” 

For years, Farnham, a native of Newfoundland who came out from Massapequa Park to fish in Montauk at the age of 18, would alternately longline for tilefish 100 miles or so offshore for 10 days and stay onshore for 10, a routine that worked out quite well, he and his wife agreed, when it came to parenting their three children.

Aside from the 72-foot Kimberly — named after the Farnhams’ elder daughter — which serves as Paddle 4 Humanity’s support boat each August on the popular Montauk-to-Block Island paddle, he owns — one of them with a partner — two draggers in New Bedford, Mass., that go for squid and whiting and scup. The Farnhams’ son, Daniel, works with him, Kimberly now lives in Oakland, Calif., and another daughter, Megan Marie, after whom one of the New Bedford draggers is named, lives in Chicago.

Farnham is on Paddlers 4 Humanity’s board of directors, work that he finds very satisfying, along with its founder, Fred Doss, Ed Cashin, Lars Svanberg, Emily Hammond, Harvey O’Brien, Heather Saskas, and Jeff Neubauer. 

“Our focus is on the well-being of children. We help fund mental health work, robotics, the I-Tri program, suicide prevention, food pantries, the high school’s Build-On projects . . . all kinds of stuff, including mobile dental care for children upstate. Just about all the money we raise — we raised $160,000 this year — comes from the Block Island paddle. . . . It used to be kayaks mixed in with a few prone paddleboards, but now most of them are stand-up paddleboards. It’s 13 to 14 miles as the crow flies, but by the end of the day, because of the tides, you will have gone 18 miles.”

He had, he said in reply to a question, stand-up paddleboarded to Block Island with friends, and paddled periodically around Lake Montauk, setting off from his front yard. “It takes an hour and 20 minutes.”

Back to OMAC’s citation, Farnham said, “When I look in the mirror I don’t see an athlete, but a normal person who goes out and does something. . . . But, yeah, it was nice to get the award.”