So Much to Explore...
A year ago this week, I started a new job which not only allowed me to continue to work and live in the place that I love, but it has encouraged/nudged/forced (pick your word of choice) me to get out and really explore the Adirondacks from a whole new perspective. Seriously, how cool is it that I have been given the opportunity to play tourist in my own backyard? But this opportunity also came with a rude awakening. In one of the first blogs that I wrote, I talk about the rut that I discovered I was in. With 6-million acres Adirondack Park to explore, I realized that after having three kids, I had become a creature of habit and was only really taking advantage of a very tiny fraction of the lakes, ponds, trails and mountain peaks that were at my disposal. But I tackled that issue head on. I jumped back in my kayak, laced up the hiking boots, and even locked on some cross-country skis for the fist time in years. But still, for every mile of adventure I go on, it seems like I discover another thousand or so I want to explore. So I've decided I'm taking another leap: it's time to get some new wheels so I can cover some serious back-country mileage.
Bike Shopping, Here I Come!
I started by browsing around online to see what was available in the bike world. It has been more than two decades since I have purchased a bike and within a few seconds of Googling the word "bicycle," I was so overwhelmed that I was ready to throw in the towel. First there are model types: mountain bikes, road bikes, cyclocross, hybrid, cruisers, commuters... then there are frame sizes, tire size, gear types, suspensions, and all kinds of terms I've never heard before. So instead of giving up before I even got started, I decided it was time to turn to the experts.
On a warm Friday morning, I took a quick trip to the bike shop in Inlet, NY. As I walked into Pedals & Petals (which is a really cool flower and bike shop combo - if you didn't get that right away from the name) I will admit that the overwhelming sensation hit me again when I saw the huge selection of bikes to choose from. But as quickly as that feeling hit me, it subsided when Ted, the shop owner, approached me to help me with the bike buying process.
Ted was kind enough to answer all of my questions and inform me as to what the difference was between the different bike styles, models, makes, etc. After test riding half a dozen or so different bikes, I found the perfect bike to help me get back on two wheels. Along the way I learned a few tips that I thought I would share with you if you are in the market for a new bike.
5 Things To Know About Buying a Bike
1. Think First
Whether you are new to biking, upgrading from an old bike, or getting back in the saddle for the first time since you were a child, it is good to take some time to think about the kind of riding you intend to do before stepping foot into a bike shop. Knowing what kind of biking you intend on doing is going to definitely help simplify the process. I will admit, when I first started looking at bikes I was gravitating more towards looks and style as opposed to searching for the kind of bike that would best suit the kind of riding that I intended on doing.
Are you planning on riding on paved surfaces, rugged mountain trails, packed dirt roads or bike paths? Are you using the bike to commute, exercise, or for a leisure ride? Knowing what kind of riding you plan on doing will help you save time (for both you and the bike shop) as well as save you from potentially buying the wrong bike for your intended use.
2. Dress for Success
Just like you would dress the part when you are going for a job interview, you should dress the part when you are purchasing the bike. Okay, maybe that is a little bit of an overstatement. You don't need to go out and buy a fancy bike racing outfit, but you will want to wear comfortable clothing and shoes so that you are ready to test ride some bikes.
3. Test DRIVE
Before you buy, I would recommend taking a test ride or two. You wouldn't buy a new vehicle without test riding it, so why should it be any different with a bike? That is one of the perks of visiting a bike shop as opposed to trying to guess the right bike online. The location of Pedals & Petals in Inlet is perfect for test riding the bikes. From testing on the pavement of South Shore Road or sampling its off road capabilities at Fern Park Recreation Area, you can't ask for a better setup for trying them out. While you are test riding, be open to trying a few different makes and models. What you might have thought would be the perfect bike might not fit or ride the way you were hoping. Even if your original choice turns out to be the best, the worst case scenario is that by testing a variety of different bikes, you walk away sure that you have the perfect bike for you.
4. Get the Perfect Fit
Ted was informative, kind & patient with myself and others in the shop while we tested out the different bikes. Not only did he help pick out the right frame size, but each bike that I took for a test ride was adjusted for me before I headed out the door. Once I chose the bike that I was going to purchase, I had a "fit" session in which he fine-tuned the seat height, saddle position, handlebar height & reach. The result: I walked away with a bike that was professionally fit specific to me. This alone was worth making the trip to the bike shop. In the time that I spent online looking for a bike, I ended up reading a variety of horror stories about bike assembly. Not only did I save time, frustration (and probably some unkind words coming out of my mouth), but it was also perfectly adjusted to me without any guess work. To make it even better, I have free adjustments for the next year, so as I progress as a rider, if I feel something needs to be adjusted, all I need to do is pop in and the staff at Pedals & Petals will be there to help me out.
5. Don't Forget to Accessorize!
From water bottle cages, kick stands, and helmets to computers, travel bags and more, the list of available gadgets goes on and on. If you are just getting into biking, you don't need to buy every gizmo and gadget on the planet, but you might want to consider looking for a new helmet (or a first helmet), as well as a water bottle and cage to mount it on your new wheels. Most bike shops, like Pedals & Petals offer a nice discount for the accessories that go along with your new purchase.
Looking to Rent a Bike?
Still unsure what kind of bike you are looking for? Worried that you won't enjoy bike riding as much as you hope to? Maybe you just want to take a bike ride next time you are in the Adirondacks without the hassle of lugging your bike along for the trip. Whatever the reason, Pedals & Petals offers a variety of high quality bike rentals available at very affordable rates. They offer both mountain and road biking options and have bikes to fit every age group in your biking party. Ted was kind enough to show me the models that they rent, and trust me, the quality of these bikes is well beyond anything you would expect to find in a rental bike.
Hit the Trail(s)...
Like many of the other recreation opportunities available in the Adirondacks, when it comes to trail riding, there are miles and miles of opportunities. Talking with the bike shops and the local visitor centers is a great place to start. They will start by asking you what kind of biking you are looking for and what type of rider you are. Then they can help pick a trail to suit your ride style and ability. As I start to look at places to explore with my new wheels, here are some of the top recommendations that I've received:
1. Inlet to Raquette Lake (Uncus Road)
Ted highly recommended the trip from Inlet, NY to Raquette Lake, NY via Uncus Road for beginner riders and families. The 10-mile, low-traffic dirt road makes a great riding surface with very few elevation changes. As you approach Raquette Lake, they recommend that you take the "old dirt road" for a nice finale to the trip (and to avoid the "big hill"). Once you arrive in Raquette Lake, enjoy ice cream from the Raquette Lake Supply Co., have lunch at the Tap Room or even take an afternoon cruise aboard the W.W. Durant. Round trip is 20 miles, or you can leave a vehicle on each end if a 10-mile trip is closer to where you want to start.
2. Speculator Bike Loops
In the Village of Speculator you will find the Speculator "Loop" Mountain Biking Trails. This loop system has two loops, the Inner Loop (or Kunjamuk Loop) which is 7-miles long and takes you over the Kunjamuk River and past the infamous Kunjamuk Cave. The Otter Loop is 14-miles of old logging roads which passes through a variety of dense forest. The trails are known to have some hills and elevation changes.
3. Moose River Plains
In the magnificent Moose River Plains, you will find more than 40 miles of old dirt logging roads which will connect you from Inlet to Indian Lake. The trails through the Moose River Plains are described as "Biker Heaven" and plays host to the annual Black Fly Challenge which will be celebrating its 20th-year of racing on June 13, 2015. This moderate grade trail through the plains is perfect for beginner and intermediate bikers. In addition, the Moose River Plains also offers a variety of other biking trails including paths to Mitchell Ponds, Sly Pond, Beaver Pond and Bear Pond, among others. Check out this map for more details.
4. Moss Lake Loop
Ted informed me that the Moss Lake Loop is one of his favorite trails. The loop around Moss Lake is gentle rolling 2.6 mile double track trail. It is suitable for beginner riders or as the perfect warm up for the advanced cyclist. If you are looking for some great single track riding, from the Moss Lake Loop you can take the trail into Bubb and Sis Lake which will advance your riding to 11 miles along intermediate to difficult trails.
5. Fern Park
In the Town of Inlet, Fern Park Recreation Area offers 25 miles of well maintained mountain biking trails. These single and double track trails offer intermediate and expert riders a variety of loops and elevation changes as you travel down and around Fern Mountain. These trails are recommended for skilled and adventurous riders.
6. Oak Mountain
Now last, but definitely not least, I have one for the adrenaline junkies. If this is you, then the Mountain Biking Park at Oak Mountain in Speculator, NY is the place to check out. On Sundays during the summer, Oak Mountain has their quad-chair lift up and running to get you and your bike to the peak where you can access meticulously maintained trail system and obstacles designed for beginner to expert mountain bikers. After a great day of riding, the Acorn Pub and Eatery in the base lodge will be waiting for you with cold brews and some awesome grub.
Plan Your Own Tour
Now that I have a new bike and have researched some trails, I am more than ready to get some dirt under my tires this summer! But what about you? Are you up for a fun mountain biking adventure in the Adirondacks? As you can see, our corner of the Adirondacks not only has a great mountain biking shop, but we also have a huge supply of trails that are suited for every kind of rider out there. Don't miss out! Book a room or a campsite, then pick a trail or roadway and start riding. After a day on the bike, relax with a good meal, a cold drink and good company at one of the many local restaurants and taverns where you can recharge for what will most likely be another great ride.
- See you on the trails!