An Adk Mountain Biking Love Affair

Whether out for a joy ride or training for the Leadville 100 in Leadville, Colorado, Dustin exudes passion for biking, life, and music with every breath. We're sure that you'll grab your bike and head for the 'dacks after spending time with Dustin and his Area Adk feature story.

Dustin DeLuke

I live just outside the Capital Region of New York State and the Adirondacks are my go-to destination for mountain biking close to home. My wife and I started mountain biking in the early 90's around Charlton where I grew up. It's super rural and I had to ride my bike a mile just to get to my neighbor's house. Even before I knew what mountain biking was I spent most of my time riding my bike through the woods and fields. Perfect conditioning for a life in the saddle.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would build BMX-type dirt tracks through the woods, over rocks and logs and then race each other on them. Then one day one of my buddies showed up with this weird, hybrid, BMX, geared bike type thingy. I fell in love immediately. It was perfect for the type of riding we were already doing; we just didn't call it mountain biking yet.

The first time I went biking in the Adirondacks, well ... she would be a hard one to forget. It was Sleeping Beauty on the southeast side of Lake George. I was about 13 and had been "mountain biking" for about a year. My brother-in-law was always telling me that he and his friends went riding a lot, and offered to take me out some time. Whatever his reason for picking a trail in the Lake George area, it rocked my world.

Up to this point, I had been riding whatever trail or Jeep road I could find around my house. But this? This was real mountain biking, the kind that required real endurance, mental strength and a high pain threshold. It was a long, steep, rocky death march on the way up and a "chest on your seat" Hail Mary on the way down. Up until that day I had absolutely no clue that I could ride a bike over terrain like that – especially my fully rigid Trek 920 that I was on at the time. That was the day I learned what mountain biking actually was. And I was hooked.

Flash Forward...
I normally ride solo because I have the opposite work hours of every person on the planet. I'm a musician and piano teacher so my work day generally starts around 2 pm. When I actually have a schedule that allows me to ride with someone it's usually my wife – and she is ruthless on a mountain bike.

The longest mountain biking ride I've been clocks in at just over 100 miles out in Leadville, Colorado, but the longest road ride I've done is 106 miles out in the Southern Adirondacks. Two totally different types of rides, but both equally rewarding.

Long rides are always amazing learning experiences – maybe that's why I love cross-country mountain biking, simply because you can do a little bit of everything on a cross-country bike. It makes climbing less painful, and you can still ride downhill and cover a lot of ground.

Currently, I ride a Niner Air 9 Carbon single speed. I haven't ridden a geared mountain bike in almost a decade. When mountain bike technology started changing drastically a close friend of mine ("Captain Orlo") talked me into giving a single speed 29er a try. He said, "it's cheaper, lighter, easier to maintain and you're more of a masher than a spinner anyway." All valid points, so it just made too much sense to not try it. So, I drank the punch and the rest is history.

My go-to area for riding depends on the type of ride I want. If I'm feeling "old school" and want an adventure, Shelving Rock around Lake George is perfect. It offers plenty of long grinds, rock gardens, bushwhacking and rewarding views. If I want to ride some flowy single track, I head to the Flume Trails in Wilmington, which are maintained by the Barkeater Trails Alliance. They do an amazing job cutting and maintaining the trails in the Lake Placid area, and I like the flume trails because they offer a solid mixture of technical and flow. The best part of either of these rides is that you have a beautiful lake or a gorgeous river to swim in after – always a plus for me.

Even with all the incredible terrain available around the Adirondacks, it always shocks me that people live so close to these trails, but never get out and ride them. These are diverse, picturesque, uncrowded trails. If you live nearby, you're gonna be upset you've been riding somewhere else! When I bring friends to ride in the Adirondacks, "epic" is dropped about every other word. Nuff said.

I dream about mountain biking all the time – especially after a long day of riding. This usually leads to me waking myself up by flailing around in bed like I'm still pedaling. I'm a big advocate of building community within the mountain biking scene, so my go-to après biking joint is usually the trailhead where I parked, right next to a cooler filled with beer. It's a great way to hang with some like-minded people and share some stories, especially if there are a few cold UBU Ales to be had, or a vanilla milkshake from Stewart's for the car ride home.

A Musician and Mountain Biker...
When I'm not riding, I'm thinking about riding. Or working. You can pretty much find me sitting at the piano practicing, composing, or in the studio recording. It's an interesting lifestyle, to say the least.

There are many days that I'll go straight from the trails to the studio, sit down and start composing some classical music. Talk about a drastic change of pace! I've been a musician my whole life. My mother is a classical pianist and teacher and I grew up listening to everything from The Doors to Mozart's Don Giovanni. I'm just as comfortable at the symphony as I am at a Phish show. For me, mountain biking and music just connect – both require creativity and rhythm.

Creativity helps you find efficient and aesthetic lines through rock gardens in the summer or glades in the winter. Rhythm is everywhere – whether you are falling into a rhythm climbing up a mountain on a bike or getting that perfect rhythmic flow from turn to turn skiing on a powder day. For me, it's always there.

I think if you are a musician you have an easier time feeling that rhythm, recognizing that it exists and latching on to it. Once you settle into it, it's hypnotic. On some days when I'm on long rides and really putting myself in the "pain cave," I will start doing some music theory or try to transcribe a song in my head in order to distract myself from the discomfort. It usually works.

My top Adirondack biking memory...
I have so many, but probably racing in the Wilmington Whiteface 100. The course was really fun with great views and samples of what riding in the 'Dacks is all about. That race is coupled with the Wilmington Whiteface Bike Festival, which makes for an entire weekend of bike-related events – an awesome way to spend a few days in the Adirondacks. If you're enthusiastic about cycling, it's hard to not enjoy yourself and make great memories.

About the Author …
Dustin DeLuke
On some days I'm a skier with a cycling problem, and others, I'm a cyclist with a ski problem. Follow Dustin on Instagram @000gonzo000
About Area ADK …
Real Adirondack Stories, Epic Adirondack Adventures
Area ADK is a celebration of the Adirondacks, a nod to the classic campfire tale, a place to gather and tell stories. Share your story #VisitAdks.
Related Content …
Discover more of the scenic roads and amazing trails waiting for you and your treads here in the Adirondacks.
All content, photography, programming © Adirondack Regional Tourism Council, 2002 - 2018P.O. Box 911, Lake Placid, NY 12946
The Adirondacks, New York - LonelyPlanet Best in the U.S. 2017