It’s just like riding a bike.
Which is to say that it is not like running or skiing. Or sitting at a desk.
If there's one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that no matter how many miles I’ve run or cross-country skied over the winter, switching to road cycling in the spring offers a few challenges. Sure, it seems like it would be an easy transition from a mix of running and sitting at a desk for too many hours a day, to moving your legs in a circular, non-jarring motion.
But in addition to utilizing far different muscles, I’ve found that the onset of spring cycling season offers a number of lessons, especially for those lucky enough to spend that season on Lake Champlain’s Adirondack Coast — a place I call home.
So, for your convenience, I’ve compiled a list of those lessons. And in no particular order, here are my Top 5 Tips for Spring Biking along the Adirondack Coast:
1. Keep your eyes on the road.
This probably goes without saying, but after a long winter, when the buds appear on the trees and the snow-covered fields turn to a lush, green color that contrasts with the deep blue hues of Lake Champlain amidst the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Adirondack High Peaks and Vermont’s Green Mountains, it’s difficult NOT to get caught up in the spectacular views. But for your own safety, remember that you are delicately balanced on a fast-moving object with a very small percentage of a square centimeter of rubber connecting you with the road. You’ll want to stay near that white line and watch for any vehicles, small animals, or cyclists who haven't read these tips and are weaving around in front of you.
2. It’s all uphill from here.
OK, that sounds like a bad thing, but in cycling, it’s actually a bonus. The Lake Champlain Region is distinct from the rest of the Adirondacks because its topography begins at the Lake’s elevation — near sea level. So traveling along any of the terrific Adirondack Coast Bike Loops AWAY from the lake will undoubtedly include some uphill climbs. There are some real doozies. You might want to avoid the steepest climbs in the region, but there are plenty of moderate climbs with awesome scenic vistas to be seen. And, as they say, what goes up, must come down. As a result of the down, I remind you to don your protective eyewear, whether it is sunglasses or clear goggles for the descent!
3. It can be lonely.
One of the Adirondack Coast Bike Loops is called Stony Lonesome, and it is a wonderful ramble on back roads (some dirt, so a cross bike or mountain bike is recommended, though today’s skinny tires can make the trip). Like that loop and its name, the region’s awesome roads are not heavily traveled. It is not unusual to spend a half day riding and not see even one car.* Of course, if you WANT to see more cars, you can stick to primary roads such as Route 22 and 9N.
*Based on anecdotal experience. There is always a chance that the drivers of certain cars could choose to ride on the roads that were paved for their use. Please share the road.
4. I can see Vermont from my house.
The region offers many miles of awesome road biking, but it also represents a large section of the Lake Champlain Bikeways loop that circumnavigates Lake Champlain. So from the Adirondack Coast, one can explore sections of the Bikeway, or ride the whole loop through parts of Quebec and Vermont. Easy connections to Vermont include the bicycle-friendly Lake Champlain Bridge at Crown Point, the Lake Champlain ferry in Essex, or the Ticonderoga cable ferry from Ticonderoga in New York.
5. Bring some cash.
You know that great feeling you get when you take that winter coat out of storage and find a $20 bill in the pocket? Well, I just found a $10 bill in my bike’s little seat bag from last year. I always stuff my phone, an extra tube, and some sort of denomination of cash in my seat bag. It comes in handy when you pass by the many small general stores, or the farm, hot dog, or ice cream stands that can be found along the region’s roadsides. Trust me. You’ll work off the ice cream. But if you don’t bring the cash, you’ll never have the chance.
It seems counterintuitive that I look forward to transitioning from the desk chair in my office to the much more, shall we say, “slight” seat on my road bike. And I won’t get into THAT part of the spring preparation. As they also say, (not sure who “they” are), you just have to get back on that horse.
After all, it’s just like riding a bike. And I’ve got world class roads to ride right here in my back yard!