With a swish, cyclists heads down, zipped over the small footbridge across South Lake Tahoe’s Upper Truckee River. Their tires, black and thick with tread, held tight to the firm dirt. Hardly any dust kicked up in their wake.
With the winter’s less-than-average snowfall, this year’s bicycling season is getting off to an early start. Though not all the trails around the lake are open, both bicyclists and bicycle shops are smiling at the prospect of a long season.
“It’s starting a little bit early and we’re pretty happy about that,” said Sierra Ski and Cycle Works owner Gary Bell. “We’re busier than normal for early May.”
Out on the ever-popular Pope-Baldwin Bike Path Saturday, riders whirred by on their way to and from the sunny South Shore beaches. On the North Shore, more and more trails are opening every week.
“They’re becoming more accessible on a daily basis,” said John Percy, co-owner of Olympic Bike Shop in Tahoe City. “There’s actually a fair bit of riding up here right now.”
Employees and customers of Sierra Ski and Cycle Works have been really happy with the conditions, Bell said. The line of bikes waiting for a fix or a tune-up outside his shop is a testament to the eagerness of this year’s crowd.
“Locals are pulling their bikes out and getting going. There’s a lot of tuning and de-winterizing the bikes,” Bell said. “The trails are really good right now. They’re moist. There’s just that early season freshness”
At Olympic Bike Shop, Percy and his employees have been busy with tune-ups, repairs and a lot of people looking for mountain bikes and mountain bike equipment, Percy said.
“Sometimes, there’s a real question of whether it’s worth being open in April. But certainly this year that was not the case,” he said.
Bike rental places on both the North Shore and South Shore have gotten a jump on the season, but not without a few bumps.
“Because of wet, rainy and even snow weather we’re having today, we’re unable to open,” said a message on South Lake Tahoe’s Anderson’s Bicycle Rentals last week. The message went on to say that as soon as the weather comes around, the shop will re-open.
Percy estimates the season is about a month ahead of most years. But there are still plenty of North Shore trails that have yet to open, he added.
“Stanford Rock, for example, you wouldn’t be able to ride right now. That one is still buried at upper elevations,” he said. “There’s still snow along portions of the Rim Trail. You can’t ride continuously from Tahoe City to Brockway Summit.”
Shuttles to and from Lake Tahoe’s famous Flume Trail were slated to start running around Saturday, said Montgomery Patterson, a bike mechanic at Flume Trail Bikes, which operates the shuttles. There’s still some snow on the Flume, but it’s shaping up for the season, Patterson said.
“I rode last week. There’s still a couple snow patches around Marlette Lake,” he said. “You’ve got about a football field length of snow. After that, going up to Spooner it’s pretty good. If you go fast enough you can ride over most of them.”
With the upcoming season, the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association will be back on the trails, digging, tweaking and restoring during their Trail Days. The organization will hold its first event of the year on the South Shore’s Saxon Creek Trail, also known as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, on May 19.
“That’s a good one to start the season off on,” said Ben Fish, a spokesman for TAMBA. “We’ll get some good work done.”