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Active Outdoors

Active Outdoors: Fall for biking

When the fall colors are on, a quiet dirt road (like this one in the White Mountain National Forest) is a wonderful place to ride. Don't put your bike away until snow flies!

When the fall colors are on, a quiet dirt road (like this one in the White Mountain National Forest) is a wonderful place to ride. Don't put your bike away until snow flies!

Here’s an Active Outdoors household hint for you: All that yard and garden work you normally do on these lovely, crisp autumn days can wait. Go biking instead! The leaves will still be there to rake in the spring. Now through the quiet days of early November are a fabulous time to get out and explore the world on a bicycle.

My sweetheart Marilyn and I ride a lot together on a tandem bike. That cooperative effort is one of the things that defines our marriage. But for all that, we aren’t “serious” bikers. You’ll never see us in team colors riding in a peloton in a road bike race or passing others on a narrow singletrack while mountain biking. Instead, we ride for fun, exercise and the shared experience of getting outside. In other words, we bike for the pure joy of it – which is exactly why most people ride bikes.

We have been completely obsessed with biking since our ferry-and-bike journey on and around Saguenay Fjord V(saguenaylacsaintjean.ca/en) in Quebec in late August. Perhaps that’s because we had saved our wedding money and scrimped on Christmas and birthday presents for several years and bought ourselves a brand new Co-Motion “Java” tandem (co-motion.com). This is the first brand new bike that either of us have owned in more than 30 years. No wonder we’re excited! The beautiful fall weather makes using it even more enticing.

We’ve been biking around the neighborhood every chance we’ve gotten just to keep our riding legs under us, and this weekend we plan to do a 20-mile ride around Lake Sunapee. We want to get that ride in before leaf-peepers choke the roads.

In October, we’re hoping to get in two bike-centered getaways.

First, we’re heading
w-a-a--a-y downeast in Maine to explore Washington County. While we’re there, we plan to do a lot of biking (exploremaine.org/bike/downeast/washington-downeast.shtml) and perhaps even cross into Canada and pedal on Campobello Island. It’s a quiet time of year, so our plans can be flexible – we’re looking forward to it.

We’ve also been invited along as “guinea pigs” to paddle our kayaks and camp on Cobscook Bay on a trip guided by the students from the Adventure Recreation and Tourism program at Washington County Community College. These are the young men and women who will teach and guide you on your future Active Outdoors getaways – can’t wait to see them in action! I suspect this is going to be a wonderful place for either a guided kayak trip or an on-your-own adventure. I’ll let you know.

Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

October Cape getaway

The other bike-centered trip we have planned is to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard in October. The Cape and Islands are a wonderful (mostly flat!) place to ride bikes, especially after most of the tourists leave. We’ve been encouraging all the various lodging properties we’ve stayed with to do more with cyclists and bike tourists. We were there in June and spent a night in the marvelous Woods Hole Inn, where owner Beth Colt told us she was one step ahead of us. They’d already held a guided and supported “Shining Sea Bike Tour” of Falmouth and Martha’s Vineyard, with two days of group riding and two overnights.

When she told us she was repeating it Oct. 18-20, we signed up. The program starts on Friday night with a wine-and-cheese reception and a night in either the Woods Hole Inn (woodsholeinn.com) or Captain’s Manor (captainsmanorinn.com), both very upscale and comfy. After breakfast on Saturday, we’ll tour the Shining Sea Bikeway and other parts of Falmouth, with the afternoon free to relax or ride more on our own, and lobster tacos that evening. On Sunday morning, another great breakfast, then the group takes a ferry out to Martha’s Vineyard and explores the bike paths there before heading home that afternoon.

What this really is, is a quiet October getaway on the Cape, with wonderful places to stay, and some fun, easy biking thrown in. Care to join us? More info at whoodsholeinn.com/2013/08/05/bike-tour-of-falmouth-and-marthas-vineyard.

The magic number?

Fall is a wonderful time of year to shop for a new bike, and if you are considering something other than a racing/road bike, you owe it to yourself to consider the new crop of “29ers” out there. A 29er has wheels the same diameter as a road bike, but will take fatter tires for riding on rougher roads and trails.

Last fall, I bought a used Specialized 29er to replace the 26-inch mountain bike I had been riding. It was a revelation. Though the new bike was somewhat heavier and less agile than the bike I’d been riding, I was able to easily ride places I’d never been able to ride before. The bigger tires roll over obstacles almost effortlessly.

Marilyn and I had been riding an older Burley Samba tandem bicycle with 26-inch tires, which we found to be much more comfortable and versatile than any tandem with narrow road tires. We had been talking for years about upgrading. My experience with the 29er opened my eyes, and when Co-Motion brought out the new Java (the first tandem 29er), we committed. It too has been a revelation. It came with fat, 2-inch-wide, off-road tires, but we swapped those out for slimmer Kenda Kwick Tendril 700x38 tires. It’s much faster on the road than our old 26-inch tandem, and even more comfortable on the dirt roads and gravel or stone-dust bike paths we love to ride.

If you like to ride on something other than paved roads, try test-riding a 29er this fall.

Free forest

On Saturday, Sept. 28, the U.S. Forest Service is waiving many fees (like parking) in recognition of National Public Lands Day at hundreds of recreation sites nationwide. The White Mountain and Green Mountain National Forests are waiving most day-use fees. Fees will remain in effect for overnight camping, cabin rentals, permits, reservations and activities offered by concessionaires.

(Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.)

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