North Lake Tahoe is currently buried in feet upon feet of snow.
Skiers and riders from across the world flock to this corner of California/Nevada to experience the legendary powder days, the glorious sunshine, and the breathtaking views offered by more than a dozen ski resorts.
When you think of North Lake Tahoe, you probably think of skiing, but this region has plenty to offer before the snow even falls- especially mountain biking.
I had never been mountain biking before.
Well, that’s not exactly true. I rode my grandmother’s beat up Schwinn down a very short and rocky hill once when I was a kid. That counts, right?
^Credit: North Lake Tahoe
I arrived at the sun-kissed shores of Incline Village, Nevada on a perfect fall day.
The mountains were looming above me, still green from the towering pine trees with patches of brilliant yellow and orange Aspen leaves changing in the distance.
Mid-October is typically a downtime for Tahoe, but the area felt alive with energy. The sun was shining and temps hovered in the upper-60s.
Families and friends were eating outside to enjoy the warm weather, locals were out walking their dogs, and a buzz about the first snowstorm of the year filled every conversation.
I was nervous.
As I mentioned before, I had never actually been mountain biking, and North Lake Tahoe seemed like an intense place for my first foray into riding a full-suspension bike for the first time.
Thankfully, I was wrong.
I packed up my truck with a Specialized Stumpjumper provided by Tahoe Adventure Company, and set out with my guide for my first day of riding.
I was immediately blown away about how easy it was to access our trail from the Tahoe XC Center near Tahoe City.
In hindsight, it makes sense that mountain biking trails are easy to access in a place like North Lake Tahoe, but I don’t know… I thought we would have to drive a while. That wasn’t the case.
Okay, look. My first mountain biking outing probably wouldn’t be all that exciting for those of you that are experienced riders, and I’m okay with that.
I was thrilled to start with a fairly mellow ride to find my bike legs and get accustomed to handling a bike on rugged terrain.
The highlight was riding a section of the Tahoe Rim Trail with Lake Tahoe’s aqua-marine waters as the backdrop.
I had struggled before reaching the Tahoe Rim Trail.
My inability to acclimate to the altitude caused me to vomit about 30 minutes into our gentle ascent (I know, embarrassing), but I persevered, and I’m damn glad that I did.
We stopped for a moment to soak in the view at the highest point. The trail was literally all downhill from here.
^Image Credit: Long Distance Hiker
I took one deep breath after another while my guide calmly checked his phone as if he just rolled out of bed. Show-off.
Sweat poured down my face, my ass was aching from putting too much weight on my saddle, my wrists and forearms felt like noodles from white-knuckling the handlebars on every slight downhill, and yet- I was at peace.
It was the same peace I find when I’m ski touring.
A calm ran from my toes to my head as I absorbed the energy flowing from the blue waters of the lake in the near distance.
My breath slowed, and my vision widened.
In that moment on the Tahoe Rim Trail, I knew that mountain biking would become an important part of my offseason activities. It was the closest I had felt to touring since the last time I had actually toured.
Both sports require you to work hard to ascend, and reward you with a fast, and significantly more fun, downhill experience.
I think I’m (now) addicted to both.
The ride down to Tahoe XC Center via the Tahoe Rim Trail, Lakeview Ridge Trail, and the Blue Dog Trail was more fun than I could have imagined.
Maneuvering a bike with full suspension at a high speed was exhilarating, and even though I was exhausted following such a brief outing, I wanted more.
It all started to make sense. I had wondered for years why skiers and snowboarders loved mountain biking in the offseason.
I thought it couldn’t be that much different from the stuff that the weird spandex-wearing road cyclists do, but I was wrong.
The experience was rewarding, the exercise was fantastic, the views were outstanding, the feelings I got from being in nature reminded me of skiing, and I simply couldn’t stop smiling as I returned back to my hotel in Incline Village.
Those are all signs of having a fantastic day, right?
Thousands of skiers flock to North Lake Tahoe in the summer for a plethora of reasons, but mountain biking is the main draw.
From experienced riders looking to test their skills on some of the first mountain biking trails ever cut, to beginners (such as myself) looking to get their feet wet, North Lake Tahoe simply delivers.
If you’re a newbie like me, I highly recommend renting a bike from Tahoe Adventure Company and hiring them for a tour.
Their rates are affordable, and you’ll have the comfort of knowing that you’re renting gear from professionals.
If you’re more experienced, whip out Strava, onX, or whatever trail app you use, and go riding. There’re endless opportunities in North Lake Tahoe.
Stay tuned here at Unofficial Networks for more articles about my mountain biking trip to North Lake Tahoe. I’ve got more stories to tell!