Ah, ‘Shoulder’ Seasons… Those periods where there isn’t enough snow to ski on but it clearly isn’t Winter or Fall or Spring or Summer. So, what to do? Well how about a mountain bike ride?
That’s the choice I made last Sunday. Here in the Northern Whites we had about 2 inches of untracked snow on the ground, it was bright and sunny but a cool 28 degrees F. I Started off of route 2 West of Gorham – about 20 minutes North of Pinkham Notch and rode part of the trail system developed by the Coos County Cycling Club ( https://cooscyclingclub.wordpress.com/ ).
This relatively new (503c) organization has been quietly building a fabulous network of single track on State park and private (Gorham Land Company, Brookfield Power) lands that has an appeal to walkers, trail runners and of course, mountain bikers from all over the Northeast.
I began riding along the ‘Old River Road’ trail towards Moose Brook State Park. I rode for about an hour on various trails in the park then worked my way back towards trails cut on the North Side of Pine Mountain, past an old beaver pond and a few high points with wonderful views of Mts. Madison and Adams, into Bumpus basin and across to the north and east towards the Mahoosucs and Carter Ranges.
Riding through the snow with the crunch of the thawed and refrozen ground underneath made for especially good traction and the temperature kept splashing to a minimum whenever I crossed a drainage or one of the perennial wet patches. Never the less, it was cool and I was especially glad that I put handwarmers into my gloves.
That said, how do you prepare for a shoulder season mountain bike ride? The short answer is essentially the same way you would prepare for a hike in any season — with changes, of course, to your clothing to better deal with the temperature difference. That doesn’t fully answer the question, however. Mountain bike preparation should be approached as you would any outdoor activity. When you hike for example, you (should) pack your “10 Essentials”. I mean, why wouldn’t you? You want a map and compass — because it is entirely possible to get turned around or off course. You certainly want water and a light snack. A repair kit. A whistle. A first aid kit and additional clothing/bivy sack for the unfortunate eventualities such as sudden rain/snow event, or a crash into a stream causing injury that requires you to stay put until help arrives. And lastly, a light. (Believe me, it’s no fun riding single track in the dark.)
My “10 Essential” kit takes up very little space. In fact, it all fits into a medium belt pack with a few items that never change with the seasons. Those bike specific items fit into my small seat pack or on the frame, such as the pump, spare tube, water bottle, Allen wrenches, chain tool, tire lever, etc. Also, in keeping with proper trip planning, leaving an itinerary with someone should also be part of your mountain bike protocol so that if you do crash and fold a wheel or bust a shoulder and are overdue, your friends and family have a clue where to start looking.
Does this seem like overkill? Silly? Maybe on the surface it might, but consider that on a mountain bike, you can travel many times faster than you would when hiking. That means you will get much farther away from roads and help in the event you have to walk, crawl or be carried out. Also, the result of a crash into a stream bed at 15 or 20 miles an hour will have far more serious consequences that stubbing your toe on a root while walking at 2 miles an hour.
Good preparation makes good sense and can make for a much more comfortable, enjoyable and safer back country mountain bike experience and since we are all out there to have fun without being miserable or broken — “Bike Safe”– It’s the right way to do it.
Looking for trail conditions or weather? Check AMC conditions and/or call us at Pinkham Notch. We are available by phone at (603)466-2721 every day from 6:30am to 9:00pm or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To make reservations at AMC Lodges and Huts, please call (603)466-2727, Monday through Saturday, 9am-5pm.