In the Adirondacks it’s well known that if you’re only playing outside during daylight hours, you’re missing out on half the fun. The unofficial weekly gathering of mountain bikers for the Lake Placid “Booze Cruise” is no exception. The length and difficulty of the cruise varies and can generally be predicted by how many brews are recommended at the end of the ride; a one brew cruise is typically shorter and more difficult than the maximum three brew cruise, which generally offers a sampling of easier terrain over greater mileage. Either way, headlamps are a must.

Despite the name, the focus of Booze Cruise is the riding. With miles of epic mountain bike trails accessible from downtown, it was only a matter of time before local riders banded together to beat the midweek slump with a ride long enough to get the blood pumping, but not so strenuous they couldn’t socialize. The cruise usually ranges from 7-12 miles with a route more or less chosen diplomatically. Local legends like Bill Frazer offer suggestions based on the group’s overall skill, and the difficulty can always be adjusted throughout the ride based on group morale. Trail networks like Henry’s Woods and Heaven Hill welcome the most novice riders, while the Purple Trail and the Loggers Loops challenge even the experts. Craigwood, Scott’s Cobble, Fawn Ridge, and the Peninsula Trails all get thrown in occasionally for variety as well. With this much variety you can see why many consider Lake Placid to have some of the best mountain biking in the US. The cruise is a great way to develop an understanding of how to loop different segments together, and experienced riders often point out hidden features to riders new to the area.

The Booze Cruise is equally an opportunity to connect with new riding partners. While it’s not the place to try mountain biking for the first time, most skill levels are welcomed, from gap-jumping senders to wobble-wheeled intermediates. Trail builders, teachers, bike mechanics, and doctors all make appearances — you never know who will show up. I’ve been on rides with almost twenty people, and I’ve been on rides with only one other person. The crew makes occasional breaks, which offer the perfect amount of time to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and plan individual rides later in the week. It’s an eerie feeling the first time you watch the sunset knowing you’re still a few miles and an hour or two from the end of your ride, but the cheery atmosphere and good conversation make it easy to forget sitting in the middle of the dark woods covered in sweat is an unusual activity.

Two riders coming around a corner on one of Lake Placid's epic mountain bike trails
In truth, riding at night (with the aid of a light) can be incredibly rewarding. With limited distractions, it’s easy to focus on what lies just ahead on the trail. There have been a number of times where I’ve overcome tricky root sections or rock gardens in the dark that I never would have even tried during daylight hours simply because I didn’t have time to register what was coming up in the beam of my light. There’s also something empowering about knowing you can blame any mistakes on it being dark. Ironically, with an excuse in the back of my mind, I find I mess up a lot less on the trail.

Ultimately, the Booze Cruise is a great way to spend some time at the (handle)bars with friends new and old. It’s the perfect way to socialize, get some exercise, and sip a beer at the end of your ride. Start planning for your trip to Lake Placid today by booking a place to stay!

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