Fat tire biking up Whiteface Memorial Highway

I’ve only fat tire biked once before and it wasn't for long. I’ve been feeling a little adventurous lately and it occurred to me that I needed to give fat tire biking another chance. But who said you need to take it easy when learning a new sport? Let's take it from the top, literally.

I decided that it would be a wonderful and very adventurous idea to fat tire bike the toll road, through the snow, all the way to the top of Whiteface Mountain, and then ride the fat tire bike all the way down! It’s a steep five mile bike up, and a spectacular ride down. At least that was the hope. I’ve skied this several times in the winter as a kid and seeing how I have been too lazy to get my cross-country skis out of the shed yet, I thought, "why not fat tire bike it?" I stopped by Placid Planet Bicycles in Lake Placid to pick up the fat tire bike rental. High Peaks Cyclery also has a bunch of fat tire bike rentals in Lake Placid.

I called up a couple friends and they said they would meet me at the toll house gate the next morning. I managed to get a bit of sleep the previous night; however, the morning of I woke up earlier than usual, anxious for the big climb ahead. I’m not sure what it is about winter sports, but I always have this fear that I’m going to be way too cold, possibly freeze, and be unable to complete the adventure. I’m also not in as great of shape as I was this summer. I’m pretty new to this whole winter sports thing.

The first and potentially the hardest task of the day was figuring out how to dress appropriately for the cold. When I got up the thermometer read just 18 degrees in Lake Placid — I knew it would read a lot colder up on the mountain. I love a good challenge and a bit of a dare-devil adventure, and this was definitely going to be one for me. I knew I had winter boots, gloves, and a hat. I just had to figure out what else I could throw together. I don't have snow pants quite yet so I threw on some thick, warm gym pants underneath my rain pants. I also put on a moisture wicking workout shirt along with another athletic sweatshirt underneath my puffy jacket. To top it off I wore my pink winter shell. No cotton anywhere! I was bundled up and ready for this mountain.

With my fat tire bike squished into the back of my car I was off to the mountain with the heat blasting. It seemed like the sun was trying to break through — but it wasn’t getting any warmer. I just watched as my car thermometer continued to drop even further as the car climbed its way up the Veterans' Memorial Highway towards the toll house.

At the toll house, I parked the car and waited for my friends to arrive. I could hear the wind howling against my car. I remember thinking, “What in the world have I gotten myself into?” And, "if I actually did this, my hot chocolate at the end of the day is going to be the best and warmest hot chocolate I have ever had."

This day was filled with high expectations and I was going to power through it. With that, I opened the door and began to get my bike out of the car and all my things ready. After that I jumped back into the car to warm back up, expecting my friends to arrive at any moment.

Not too long after, one of my friends showed up and decided to ski instead of bike with us. When my other friend arrived I helped her unload her bike, as we all acknowledged how cold it was. We walked our bikes to the other side of the gate where we found ourselves quickly immersed in a couple feet of snow. Unsure if we would be able to bike up the toll road, we got on our bikes and began to pedal up the road. A few seconds later we both hadn’t made it an inch. Our back tires were spinning out.

At this point, the next five miles began to seem almost impossible to ride up, so we began to walk our bikes forward. The wind was whipping the snow across the road. I’m sure glad I was wearing my new buff to help keep the wind off my face. Talking was out of the question. I was only a couple feet in front of my friend and could barely hear anything she said over the wind.

Parts of the road were really deep with snow drifts, others were only semi-bikeable as the snow was slightly more packed down. It took a while to hike up out of site of the toll house. By this point, I realized that I was a lot warmer than I had anticipated. It was a slow and steady trek to reach the half-way mark, and here we decided that we weren’t going to push to the top of the mountain. Usually there would be a spectacular view of the Adirondacks where we stopped, however it was all clouded over with the sun trying really hard to break through. We felt pretty good about how far we had come, and at that point we had quite a distance to fat tire bike down. It was going to be a very interesting and exciting ride.

We hopped on our bikes and began to roll down the mountain. We both picked up speed fairly quickly. We immediately realized this ride would largely consist of a balancing act as the bikes would go in and out of the high snow drifts. The snow kept throwing us around and we were careful not to turn the wheel to one direction too quickly. Honestly, I was having a blast! I crashed a couple of times accidentally — and maybe once on purpose. On purpose? Let me explain... Crashing didn't hurt one bit! You had time to slowly ditch the bike and land in huge piles of powdery snow. How often do you get to wipe out into a whiteout! Again, I’m a bit of a daredevil.

Overall we made it to the bottom safe and sound. Although my hands were a bit cold, I would do it again. Next time I plan on going all the way to the top of the toll road. I think I’ll also go when I can get more of a view.

To end this adventure off we drove back down the mountain into the heart of Wilmington. We had gotten up so early that it was just near lunchtime by the time we got out. Hungry after our morning adventure, we stopped at the River View Cafe at High Falls Gorge on the way home to snatch an order of delicious wings.

 

Author:
Emilee Hazelden

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