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Tips for riding and recreating at Tahoe.
Descending and Surviving the Sand - Wear a helmet. Unless the descent is very smooth it is best to stand with pedals horizontal. When it gets loose and sandy, pinch the nose of the saddle with your thighs and push forward on the handle bars. This stabilizes the front wheel like no other technique and works wonders in deep sand or loose rocks. Lean the bike and use your hips to turn in sand. Keep the front wheel straight. Keep off the front brake in sandy turns.
Stay relaxed. Maintaining a good safe grip on the bars while keeping loose in the arms and shoulders is hard to do. Your grip can be fairly loose but ready to hold on tight as needed. Speed can be your friend. Bikes are more stable through loose stuff at speed. Your wheels help hold you up. Crashes, however tend to hurt more and cause more damage as speed increases and reactions to obstacles have to be quicker. Use your head.
The farther ahead you can look while descending the faster you can go. Look where you want to go. Staring at big rocks greatly increases your chances of hitting them. On loose rocky descents just avoid the rocks that will stop your front wheel. Don't worry about the rest. As the descent gets steeper maintain your position on the bike. Moving too far back can remove too much weight from the front wheel making for a sketchy descent. Keep pushing the handlebars forward to maintain stability. In twelve years on the National and World Cup circut, I never found a downhill that required getting behind the saddle. It is really hard to move in that position to adjust your weight. On short sketchy sections where breaking does not slow you down, mentally focus on the trail ahead where you know you will slow down. Take a deep breath and you will make it through.
Remember 80% of your braking power comes from the front brake If you are skidding with your back wheel chances are that you are not using the front brake effectively and not looking ahead far enough. Learn to use your front brake smoothly and effectively. Brake before the corner and then let the wheels roll through the corner.
Wear a helmet.
Communication - Cell phones are iffy from the backcountry. Do not rely on one to save you in an emergency. The closest pay phone is at the bathroom in the parking lot where you parked at the Spooner picnic area or at Sand harbor.
Injuries - You are at a remote site and help may not be able to get to you quickly. Emergency help may take an hour or more after they are contacted. Be careful. Let others know where you are going and when you plan to return. At least leave a note in your car.
Wild animals - The Spooner back country is home to many large animals. Bears, coyotes and cats (big cats) to name a few. Give animals plenty of room and make a fair amount of noise when moving through the woods. If you unexpectedly encounter one that may know you are not the top of the food chain, back away slowly and choose another path. They want to stay away from you if they can. Give them the chance to do so. Do not run away or turn your back. Turning your back and running can trigger the predator response in the animal. You may not want to experience that particular bit of the wild kingdom. If you see one walking past on a moonlight night from the dormer window, count yourself lucky as it is rare that they are seen. Keep small children close to the cabin when playing. Even though this may scare you, keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings and you will be just fine. We have never had a problem with animals vs people at Spooner. Please do not feed any animals, ever!
Storms - Mountain weather in the Tahoe area is usually quite nice. Sometimes summer thunder storms pop up. When using the back country avoid ridge tops when thunder storms are brewing. Small puffy clouds in the morning can grow to dangerous electrical storm cells in an hour or two. If you escape the lightning but get soaked, keep in mind that a late afternoon rain storm can drop the air temperature 20-30 degrees and that without proper clothing hypothermia can still be a threat in August in the high country. Not only will you be wet and the temperature colder, you may have been delayed an hour or so in your days trek. A wet, cold night out in a cotton t-shirt will be a long one at best. Always take a light shell. The best advise is to stay aware of the sky during the day and know the quickest way back to the cabin and about how far away you are time and fitness wise. Historically it has snowed every month of the year in the mountains around Tahoe. These storms usually do not drop much and the intense summer sun melts snow quickly. Again, watch the sky and leave plenty of time to complete your trek.
Altitude - If you are from low elevation, here are a few things to keep in mind. You parked your car at 7,000 and went up from there. Take the pace a bit slower than at home. Start any effort much slower than you are accustomed to. Give yourself fifteen minutes for your breathing to catch up with the what is usually perceived as an easy effort in your legs. Drink plenty of water. The humidity is very low here unless you are dodging thunder storms. That pounding headache at the end of the day might go away with enough water (beer does not count although your headache might go away for a while. It will return with a vengeance.).