Mountain bikers let loose at Northstar | SierraSun.com

Mountain bikers let loose at Northstar

Paul Raymore, Sierra Sun
Josh Miller/Sierra SunNorthstar offers a wide variety of terrain for mountain bike enthusiasts.
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Dan Warren and Kyle Crezee have become two of the luckiest guys in town. Warren and Crezee, the Ski Patrol and Race Services directors at Northstar-At-Tahoe during the wintertime, have found year-round employment at the resort.

Warren is the Mountain Bike Park manager, and Crezee is the Race Services director, and they’re having just as much fun on the mountain this summer.

The resort, which opened its mountain bike park a week ago, boasts an expanded lineup of mountain bike terrain suitable for riders of all levels and, considering the sport, attitudes.

New this year is an entire section of terrain dedicated to downhill/freeride enthusiasts ” mountain bikers who enjoy negotiating big drops, gnarly rocks and a series of man-made obstacles including wooden ladders and ramps.

“What’s we’ve done this season is we’ve dedicated staff to making features on the mountain,” Warren said. “Ladders and jumps and stairs made out of wood planks and platforms.”

To keep riders within their comfort zone, Northstar rates its trails using the same system it uses for ski runs during the winter: green trails are relatively easy, blue trails are for intermediate riders, black trails are quite challenging, and the double black diamond runs are downright scary in places and are favored by downhill experts on specially built bicycles.

The variety of terrain ” over 100 miles of single track and fire roads ” means that everyone can find something they will enjoy. And according to Warren, the resort plans to continue expanding their intermediate and beginner offerings throughout the summer.

The riders who showed up for opening day seemed to appreciate the changes Northstar has made.

Carnelian Bay resident Dan Finn brought his downhill gear out to the resort to check out the new trails.

“It’s fun. A good time, and you don’t have to climb,” Finn said, adding “There’s some scary stuff. They have a good range of pretty much everything.”

Finn was just one of what Warren considered a good crowd of riders for their first day of the season.

“This is a good first day. A lot of excitement, a lot of people having a good time. So we think it’s going to be a very successful season for us,” he said. “We don’t have real projections for numbers [of riders] yet, but we definitely expect that there will be more people this season than we’ve had in the past. Especially with the addition of the new features, and the quality of the trails improves every year.”

Crezee and his crew of park building/maintenance personnel are responsible for many of the new features riders at Northstar’s downhill/freeride park can expect to see this year, and he described how they go about deciding what to build at the resort:

“The first thing we do is come out and walk the terrain ” scope it out and figure out what would be cool as a rider. Our whole crew is comprised of nothing but riders so it’s cool. We come out here, figure out where we want to go, what we want to do, and say ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we did this?’ And then from there we figure out how to build it,” he said. “We make sure we’re going to build it in a safe spot and that it is structurally sound so it can be ridden all summer and not be falling apart on people.”

According to Warren, the crew’s hard work seems to by paying off in satisfied customers, with riders from all over Northern California and Nevada coming up to Northstar to try out the new terrain.

“We really listen to our customers and try to give them what they’re asking for,” Warren said. “That’s really a changing target, so we just need to keep our ears open and make sure we’re providing what’s going to be most enjoyable for people.”

Northstar’s Mountain Bike Park is open Sun. – Fri. from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sat. from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lift tickets cost between $20 – $33 for adults and $14 – $20 for children ages 9 – 12. For more information, call (530) 562-2268, or visit http://www.northstarattahoe.com.

– Shimano came out with new STI XT shifters that integrate the shifting mechanism into the brake lever (much like newer road bike brake/shifter combinations). Employees at The Back Country were skeptical of the new technology at first but quickly grew to appreciate the new system.

– Front suspension forks with “Stable Platform Valving” which can differentiate between ground-caused compression and compression that results from pedaling. These smart shocks don’t soak up a rider’s pedaling effort while still absorbing the shock caused by bumps, rocks and other obstacles. The new Jamis XLT 2.0 bike has SPV shocks on both the front and the rear.

– Disc brakes, while not new, now come standard on most high-end mountain bikes these days. “Disc brakes will make almost everyone a faster rider,” according to Jake Otsuka, a mechanic at The Back Country.

– Virtual Pivot Point technology can be found in Santa Cruz and Intense brand bicycles this year. The VPP system eliminates pedal feedback during big hits to the rear shock, making pedaling smoother over all sorts of terrain.

– Increasingly popular with local riders this year are the new class of “Freeride” mountain bikes – dual-suspension bikes that offer bigger shocks for downhill performance in a package that can still be ridden cross-country. These bikes typically offer between five and six inches of travel in the front and rear shocks, but are not as heavy as the true “downhill” bikes on the market.

Check for:

– Sloppy/slow shifting which might indicate the need to adjust derailleurs and/or shifters.

– Any knocking or creaking noises coming from your bike frame or suspension.

– Brakes that don’t work well. Disc brake pads need to be replaced periodically (every season if you ride 4-5 times per week according to Back Country mechanics).

– Cracks in tire sidewalls. Tires wear out over time and cracks in the sidewall can indicate it’s time to get a new set.

Lube:

– Chain – every two or three rides but be sure not to use too much as over lubrication leads to dirt build-up. Also clean your chain of dirt build-up

– Fork oil – most forks have some kind of oil in them, and most oil should be changed after every 100 hours of riding (especially with the dusty conditions in this area).

– Easy: Emigrant Trail. Drive north on state Route 89 north for approximately 4 miles out of Truckee to the “Donner Camp” picnic area. Park and get on your bike there. The Emigrant Trail is an 11 mile out-and-back ride (22 miles round trip) on single track that ends up at Stampede Reservoir. The first 2 miles of the ride is slightly more difficult and can be avoided by driving farther on Highway 89 to a dirt parking lot just past the Prosser Creek bridge and starting from there. You’ll see a lot of riders on this trail early in the season because the snow melts quickly and the trail is rideable earlier than most in the area.

– Intermediate: The Western States Trail(s). Drive or ride south on state Route 89 toward past Squaw Valley until you see signs for the Western States Trail. Ride east up the difficult uphill section until you get to the top of the hill. From here you have almost unlimited options for loops, descents to Tahoe City or Truckee, and even the option to ride all the way to Brockway Summit. Bring a lunch and plenty of water and you could spend all day riding single track in the area between Truckee, Tahoe City and Kings Beach.

– Difficult: Hole in the Ground. A ride many locals consider their all time favorite, riders experience a little bit of everything on this 20-mile loop including fire roads, switchbacks, creek crossings, granite rock and smooth single track. From Truckee, drive westbound on Interstate 80 to the Soda Springs/Sugar Bowl exit and take an immediate right. Park just past the fire station. Ride on the road back over I-80 on Donner Pass Road towards Sugar Bowl. Pass the blinking yellow light and turn left onto the dirt road by the “Snow Study Laboratory” sign. Follow the dirt road to the Boreal Ski Area parking lot, ride to the far end of the lot, underneath I-80, and begin climbing the steep paved road north of the highway. The road soon turns to dirt. Continue climbing the dirt road, avoiding a turnoff to the left and then one to the right. In approximately one mile, turn left at the signed trailhead for the Hole in the Ground trail. You’ll climb steep switchbacks to Andesite Peak, from which you’ll get a beautiful view of Castle Peak. From the top, the ride becomes a challenging test of your skills in all conditions, taking riders through woods, meadows and fields of granite boulders. Stay on the trail and avoid roads marked “private property” and you’ll find your way back to your car via a mix of single track and dirt roads. The ride should last anywhere from 2 hours to all day and riders should bring a snack and plenty of water.