11.08.13 // Fall Mountain Biking in Truckee, CA

Written by Cheryl Carmo

We were smack in the middle of a torrential rain storm in mid-September driving from the Bay Area to Truckee. We had thoughts of turning back, but we knew that if we took it easy and drove safely, the one-day storm would pass and we would be in a mountain biking wonderland covered with blue skies, incomparable scenery and epic conditions. At the Donner Summit, we encountered the first snow dusting of the season. This was my weekend-warrior adventure that I won through Tahoe Mountain Guides on Facebook, and I was determined to make my mark in the mountain biking world. It was certainly an adventure to remember.

Bob Starks of Tahoe Mountain Guides had contacted us in advance to talk about our abilities and bicycling background to help him determine the best way to introduce us to the tour and enhance our mountain biking experience. We consider ourselves recreational riders and enjoy cycling bike paths on our hybrids along the Monterey Peninsula, Napa Valley, and the trails of Mt. Diablo. Mountain biking is quite different from path and road biking, and we embraced the notion of trying it for the first time with a guide. It was also important to let Bob know that I am a three-year breast cancer survivor. Although I’ve done some riding for therapy and recreation, I’m not back to my pre-treatment ability. The experts at Tahoe Mountain Guides consider everything when setting up an individualized tour. We really appreciated having our own personal, expert mountain bike guide. The idea was to pedal along at our own pace, enjoy the trails, soak up the scenery, and gain a better understanding of mountain bike safety and etiquette.

Upon checking in at the Truckee Hotel, we received our TMG package which included two nights with breakfast, dinner for two, and two days of bike tours with bike rentals. We were pleasantly surprised that we were also in the midst of the Ironman Lake Tahoe Triathlon. After a fabulous dinner Saturday night at Pianeta, we rested for our ride. On Sunday morning, the Ironman Triathlon set up early, so we had our oatmeal, bagel and coffee outside and watched the first cyclists race through. Then it was time to check in with Bob at TMG around 10:00 am at Cycle Paths, a local bike shop on River Road. We had our gear, helmets and water bottles, along with the items I always carry in my pocket when riding: driver’s license, cash, credit card and medical card. Bob selected the Rocky Mountain bikes for us, so we test rode them and we were ready to go. The bikes were loaded on the vehicle and we headed to Fire Road #06, Sawtooth Trail, one of the local favorites, that loops around about nine miles. We leisurely rolled out on the fire road while Bob explained what to expect as far as terrain, scenery, and the trails. We came across a number of other riders and hikers out enjoying the powder-like conditions that the rain storm had created.

We stopped for breaks as needed and shared experiences. We felt pretty good and challenged ourselves to single-track technical terrain. Whenever I reached a section that was a bit intimidating, he suggested that I walk my bike through it. There was no pressure to ride through single-track or rock areas where I didn’t feel comfortable. We reached a point on the crest of the trail that opened up to a spectacular view overlooking the Truckee River Canyon. The fresh air and aromas of the forest pine were good for the soul.


From the trail overlooking Truckee Canyon. Squaw Valley in the background.


Cheryl and Denny pose for a quick photo op.

The ride was exhilarating, and we looped around the trailheads and switchbacks as we navigated rocky patches. I was somewhat apprehensive in the beginning, but soon gained confidence. Bob was there with support and encouragement, and offered helpful tips to make our ride fun and enjoyable. We rode for a couple of hours before venturing back. I was really looking forward to making plans for Monday’s ride. It had warmed up, so I peeled off my lightweight jacket and tied it around my waist. The staging area was about 500 yards away. The trail flattened out and, as I balanced to get momentum, I felt my jacket hook the seat and I lost steadiness. I wasn’t going very fast as I began to fall to my right and, as I tried to gain control, it was too late. I’ve taken spills before and thought, okay, just go with it.

When I got up to shake it off, I immediately noticed something wrong with my right hand. Of course, Denny and Bob immediately came to my rescue. I took off my riding glove only to see that my wrist bones were not aligned and my hand wouldn’t move. I said, “I think I broke it.” Bob and Denny totally kept their composure. I did, too, considering. Another benefit to riding with an experienced guide like Bob is that he’s a certified Emergency Medical Technician. He was prepared and had me secured in a sling in no time. I was okay, except for a bruised ego and a broken wrist. I didn’t panic and knew we had to get to the car and to the ER. Luckily, we didn’t have too far to walk to the truck. ID and medical card – check.

We got to the hotel within a few minutes, and in the heart of downtown the Ironman competition was still going on. There were a million thoughts racing through my head. Upon arrival at the Tahoe Forest Hospital, they took me in immediately. Thanks to the ER doctor and hospital staff, I won’t need surgery. It was late afternoon on Sunday when we finished up in ER and traffic would be bumper-to-bumper heading home. Since we had another night reserved at the hotel, I decided to make the best of it and stay. My cast was secure, I had painkillers, and it was a good opportunity to decompress.

Before heading home on Monday, we checked in with Bob at Tahoe Mountain Guides to say goodbye and let him know I’d be okay. We didn’t get in our second day of mountain biking, but we’ll be back next year to make it up. Accidents and injuries happen. I’m hooked on mountain biking and will get back in the saddle. However, I did learn a lesson: avoid loose clothing while mountain biking.

Fall (or maybe I should say autumn) in the Sierras is a fabulous time to experience the mountain trails. Safe riding!

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