Exclusive: 2013 Heavy Pedal Tour–Northstar (Lake Tahoe)

The ride report from the High Sierras

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Words by Natty and Trey
Photos by Devon Balet

After our last stop in Utah at Canyons Bike Park, we set off on a weeklong side trip to the big island of Hawaii. Upon our return from the tropical paradise, we set our sights on the sunny oasis known as California. With only three stops left on the tour, we were determined to make the best of the time we had left on our summer adventure. Always prepared for a ton of mountain biking, we also kept our gear bags ready for whatever else may come our way. In the case of Northstar’s bike park, we had some free time to explore Lake Tahoe, as the bike park was only open Friday through Sunday during the month of September.

Tops on our list was finding the infamous ‘rooster rock,’ a 40-foot granite boulder jump into the frigid, crystal clear waters of the largest alpine lake in North America. Also, no visit to Lake Tahoe would be complete without a rock jump and swim at Sand Harbor State Park on the Nevada side of the lake. Needless to say, we made the most of our time away from bike-park riding.

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Northstar has a lively village scene, especially on weekends. We wandered around, stopped in at a pizza joint for a slice (or three, in Trey’s case). The memory is a bit blurred, but for some reason we ended up spending the rest of the night at a sushi bar in the village. We were busy looking for ginger ale to mix with Devon’s whiskey, and we were told that we would find it at Mikuni Sushi. Somewhere in the mix, we had forgotten our purpose for seeking out the sushi bar, sat down, and began ordering spicy tuna hand rolls and sake.

We were busy gorging ourselves when a group of guys walked in to the restaurant. They were all about our age (30ish) in polo golf shirts and Bermuda shorts. A very strange Mexican standoff started between team Heavy Pedal Tour and the golf shirt guys. Sarcastic comments were exchanged. It went something like this: “Nice mustache,” said the golfer, and “Nice shirt,” replied the mountain biker. Trey started the stare down, and Natty tried to climb under the table, as she is more of a flight than fight person. No one in our group is really sure how it all went down, but by the end of the night, we went from potential throw down to throwing back sake bombs with our new best friends from the golf & country club.

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Since we couldn’t convince the golfers to ride bikes with us on the mountain the next day, we had big plans to school them on the miniature golf course in the village. Priorities and time constraints, however, overruled the miniature golf challenge. Besides, the bike park was open, and word was that the newly redesigned Gypsy Trail was worth riding a hundred times over! Dedicated, as we are, to our jobs, our goal was to ride Gypsy until we had it completely dialed.

The trail crew has done an amazing job with wood features galore and incredible rockwork. At one point, the trail splits with three options depending on your level of risk versus reward. Our crew must have a low self-preservation instinct because we always seem to be drawn toward the more advanced line. I have to say, it is good to have options if your crew of riders are not all of the same skill level. The only bummer is that Gypsy doesn’t flow all the way down to the base of the mountain. Hopefully, by next year they can make it happen. We’ll be back!

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LiveWire, a signature trail at Northstar, is fully irrigated from top to bottom. It’s a must-do, advanced flow/jump trail. However, if tech-gnar is your middle name, then Northstar has got you covered with steep, chunky, downhill goodness too! Rider be warned, the terrain is usually super dry and dusty with silt bomb holes waiting to swallow your front wheel. The two-wheel drift is a must-have skill when pinning it on the trails at Northstar. Take a digger here, and you’ll end up corndogged! (Corndog: adv. covered in silt, usually after a crash)

After a day of riding and in complete exhaustion, Natty took Dude out for his nightly walk, when all of a sudden, she and Dude came face to face with a giant bear! The way she tells the story, the bear must have been at least 300 pounds. Natty is accustomed to seeing bears from many years of riding in Canada at Whistler Bike Park, but there was something about seeing a bear in California that had her a little freaked out. At the time, she was on the phone with her mom and began spouting profanities in her mom’s ear before hauling ass back to the condo with a story to tell.

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Within reach of the San Francisco Bay Area, Reno, and Lake Tahoe, Northstar is a gem in the high Sierras that offers boundless recreational opportunities. We’re so thankful that we had some free time to explore the area. There are adventures to be had around ever corner. Hawaii was fun, but we’re submitting Lake Tahoe as our vote for our next, big family trip. With close proximity to international airports, consistently good weather, a multitude of excellent accommodation choices, and good restaurants, how can you go wrong with a visit to Northstar?

Natty’s Favorite: Gypsy

Trey’s Favorite: Gypsy and the Rooster Rock jump into Lake Tahoe.

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