By Nick Light
In celebration of National Bike Month, here’s a tale of “one of those days” on the road bike. It’s a day worth sharing, the discovery of another similar day being reason enough to continue riding.
First of all, I grew up in the Adirondack Mountain region of northern New York, where locals either embrace nature, go crazy or leave. In the winter (November to April), that means skiing and snowboarding at the local mountain, which for me and my friends was Whiteface, near the world-famous town of Lake Placid.
One side of the mountain has the ski resort on it, while the other has a narrow and breathtaking switchback road to an observatory at the top. That’s the road I wanted to climb on my road bike one summer weekend.
So, as we mountain folk are inclined to do, I told my buddy we were going for a ride the next day, and to be ready to leave the house at an ungodly early hour. It’s not worth living up in the mountains if you can’t beat the crowds and catch the sunrise. I followed the unwritten code of early morning adventures, arriving with two cups of strong coffee in my cupholders and some driving music to help us greet the day.
The drive was about a half hour. Having driven this route hundreds of times before, including in the snow, dark and basically asleep, my buddy knew where we were headed almost instantly. The sun rose just before we pulled over on the road and unloaded our bikes. We nodded to the guy sweeping around the “TO THE SUMMIT” sign, and took off up the mountain.
It was painful. The road climbs 2,300 vertical feet in five miles. We each did our best Tour de France impressions, going way too fast for short periods of time, acting way stronger than we were, burning up our quads and laughing all the way. It was a hot day, but we climbed up into the clouds, where droplets stuck to our arm hairs and cooled us down. It smelled like a Christmas tree the whole way up, and not one car passed us. Each switchback framed the incredible view right up to the summit, which came faster than we thought it would.
And the way back down was scary. Descending on a road bike is a tricky game: Go too fast, and you’ll overshoot a corner. Use your breaks too much, and you’ll heat your rim and pop your tire. But we made it back down, where we devoured greasy diner food before most people were even out of bed.
I hope you’ll chase your own kind of day like this on the bike for National Bike Month. I know I will. Safe riding, and remember to keep the rubber side down.
The Whiteface Road. Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/art/