Pedalling During the Pandemic – an Imperfect Practice

If you’re like us, and the other cyclists, mountain bikers, gravel riders and e-bike riders we know, then you haven’t given up riding, or other outdoor activities, since our battle with Covid-19 began. Mark continues to ride, although he now carries some additional equipment he didn’t carry before. Note: he DOES NOT wear the mask while riding.

Mask and container, and a tube of hand sanitizer, make up Mark’s Covid-19 cycling kit. No gloves, though.

Other members of our merry band of troublemakers also continue to ride and as far as we know none of them are doing it Lone Ranger style – who was that masked man? Of course, that would be the WRONG type of mask to wear anyway, but hey we’re going with a bit of poetic license, k?

A New Dynamic

There’s a new and interesting dynamic on the road, paved or gravel, and the trail too. We’ve seen masks (only once) and no masks, big groups and little groups, social distancing and not so social, or more correctly stated not so distant, distancing.

What used to be a “approach the rider in front to say hi and yak a bit” is now a full-gas approach from behind, giving appropriate space in case of droplets, breath, or god forbid, actual phlegm, and then allowing at least six-feet of elbow-room, with a wave as we go by.

From “Medium’s” post of April 7, 2020.

That feels somewhat rude to us. Does the rider we just passed think we were waving hi or do they think we were being a-holes and emphasizing just how slow we thought they were? Hopefully the former. Perhaps a “howdy” or “beauty day” we just realized, would alleviate that confusion (or our consternation) — need to start doing that.

Just How Much Is Enough?

Speaking of appropriate space…Our friends over at PedalWORKS published a post (last month we think) that really hit home with us – 6 feet ain’t enough, riders! We tried to find that post and the appropriate link thereto but no dice.

So instead here’s a link to the post from which the above image is taken — Hey PedalWORKS, was this one of your sources? It looks familiar!

The Belgians and Dutch (’twas their study) have the cycling creds to be able to speak to this with some (ok, a lot of) authority. Here’s their highlight:

On the basis of these results the scientist advises that for walking the distance of people moving in the same direction in 1 line should be at least 4–5 meter[s], for running and slow biking it should be 10 meters and for hard biking at least 20 meters. 

20 meters? That’s 65.62 feet in case you were wondering!

Alta Alpina Cycling Club’s Social Distancing Series

We wrote about this last month but it’s worth mentioning again; the club continues to nail it!

Side note: As a member of this club, Mark’s been participating in this series and has just finished week #6. He loves the number nine apparently: four 9th places, one 10th place, and one snake-eyes. His goal is to finish the series in the top 10 and our math shows him at an average of 9.5 so far. Still a ways to go…

Advocates for Safety

We here at California Alps Cycling feel very strongly that as cyclists and riders we need to go the extra mile. No pun intended. We’ve seen so many photos on Strava, and elsewhere, that seem to indicate many, many individuals are taking a nonchalant approach by riding way to closely together or taking group shots where there is barely any distance between riders at all.

While we understand it may not be a perfect science, and that we could be a bit paranoid, we’re concerned that it sets the wrong example.

See our post from a couple weeks back where we speculate why some drivers hate cyclists. This “hey we’re too healthy, or pretty, or whatever, to get this thing” approach is adding fuel to that fire in our opinion.

What’s Your Approach?

Perhaps you can help…what is your club doing? What are you doing? Are you riding inside? Not riding at all? Wearing a mask? Holding your breath while passing another rider or posing for that group shot? Wearing an oxygen mask? What?

We’d love to hear how you’re dealing with the Covid-19 adversity. Or are you?

What Else Can You Do in the California Alps Besides Cycling? Here are Some Ideas…

Mom’s boot gives you a sense of the size of a bear. In this case a black bear – no grizzlies (aka brown bears) here. Nonetheless, I must confess, I know not the size nor age of this bruin. If the size of the poop we found on the trail is any indication…Well, let’s just say this particular bear appeared to be eating well.

Hiking (and Posey Sniffing)

Heenan Lake

We came upon this print last year, on the trail to Heenan Lake, while checking out the fish hatchery. It’s a short, flat (except for the little hill as you leave the parking lot) walk along the lake to the hatchery, where you can see, and get splashed by, if you’re so inclined, the famous Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. We were just there again last weekend and were greeted by Doug, the “hatchery-master,” who regaled us of his recent bear (bears, actually) encounter. You’ll have to hit Doug up yourself for the complete story. In the meantime, just use your imagination. Bears and fish…Get it?

Thornburg Canyon

I did a portion of this trail just yesterday and can’t wait to do the rest. Didn’t have a lot of time and the weather was coming in so I cut it short. As you can see, though, it’s a beauty of a trail with great views – both near and far.

To say we’ve just scratched the surface on the local trail and flora seen would be quite the understatement!

So, for more on Markleeville area hiking, check out this post (from January of last year) or this one, from last fall. For more data that matta, take a look at AllTrails and if you’re looking for something you can touch and feel, we recommend the Alpine Sierra Trailblazer. And for a cool application that you can use to ID flowers, trees and other plants, check out the PictureThis – Plant Identifier on the App Store.

Birding

Wild turkeys are definitely about, although we haven’t seen them as much lately. That is typical though – they seem to follow a different pattern after hunting season ends. Go figure! Other birds we’ve seen lately include hummingbirds (Anna’s, Rufuos and Calliope), which, admittedly, are best spotted on the feeders here at HQ (or perhaps at your house!).

We’ve also seen many hawks (mostly Red-Tailed) as well as some eagles (Bald and Golden) here and there. Steller’s Jays, Clark’s Nutcrackers, American Goldfinches and White-Crowned Sparrows have been frequenting the area, too and just recently we’ve been visited by Black-headed Grosbeaks. Check out this post from last fall – it includes a mention of a very rare bird in these parts, a Yellow-browed Warbler, who decided to make a little stopover here in Markleeville. Here’s another post with an image of an osprey that came by for a visit in October of last year and sucked down a Garter snake.

Here Fishy, Fishy…

Whether it’s the East Carson, the West Carson, Markleeville Creek or Hot Springs Creek, you’ll likely get some action. We’ve also got a few lakes and reservoirs around. Okay, you’re right – waaaay more than a few! Check out Dave’s Sierra Fishing for the details that I just don’t have room to post. Talking with our friendly neighborhood Chamber of Commerce would be a good idea as well.

By the way, trout season just opened last Friday and as I understand it, Fish & Game did a plant already. Soon, though, a bigger plant, with bigger fish, will take place. Perhaps for the Memorial Day weekend…You’ll have to come and see for yourself!

So Much to See, Tread (on) and Catch

More and more businesses (including restaurants) are open here in Alpine County; and so are hotels and some of the campgrounds. Definitely poke around our site too for more ideas as we’ve posted quite a few missives that may whet your appetite further.

We’re not all just boring cyclists, as we hope you’ve now noticed! We encourage ourselves (and you) to take some time off the bike and do some hiking, birding, posey sniffing, fishing or whatever strikes your fancy. Do it here in the California Alps, or anywhere else. Just do it safely, with dare I say, appropriate distancing, and carefully (mountains can be dangerous places). And, if you’re in need or want of some specifics, let us know!

Why Some Drivers Hate Cyclists and What We Can Do About It

Well if you’ve ridden as much and as often as I have (and even if you haven’t) then you’ve likely gotten yelled at, or honked at, or worse. We’ve all heard those stories about “the worse” and my bet is that some of you may have experienced it. Lucky for me, I haven’t, and of course I hope I never will.

A few years back, though, when I was riding the Mendocino Monster – and a monster it is, a driver intentionally plowed into a small group of cyclists out of frustration and rage (that’s what we were told, anyway). Thankfully, no one died. As I recall, though, at least one rider was taken to the hospital. One of my greatest fears when on the bike, if not the greatest: road rage.

Some Drivers are Just Shitheads

And there’s nothing we can do about that. Unfortunately. They, their friends and their family have to deal with that. I don’t envy any of them. It should be said, too, that some cyclists are also doody-heads (my friend’s son Mikey coined that term).

In any case, there’s not much that can be done for someone who is just an a-hole by nature; just give them a wide berth and figure that karma will take care of business.

Some Drivers Just Don’t Know

They don’t understand why we do what we do. They don’t know what it’s like to push themselves to the limit on a bike (or perhaps on a treadmill, or in a weight-room).

Most importantly, they don’t know the law (i.e. THE VEHICLE CODE). In CA, for example, they don’t know that V.C. section 21200(a) reads (in part): “A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle…”

They don’t appreciate that V.C. section 21760(c) reads: “A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.

It’s not their fault; they just don’t know.

Some Cyclists Act Like Prima Donnas

We’ve got our carbon fiber, or titanium, or unobtanium bikes. We’re rocking the lycra with the bright, tight jerseys and the high-end shoes that sound like horses hooves when we’re getting that espresso. We’ve got our own lingo. We often ride in groups (well, maybe not so much right now) and don’t follow the “single-file please” best practice. Most times that’s just because we revert, as I tell some of my non-cyclist friends.

Some Cyclists Revert to Childhood

We can’t help but go back to the time when we were five and we could do whatever the hell we wanted on our Sting-rays! Sometimes, though, it’s because we feel or act like we’re privileged. Hey, we drive cars too! We pay our taxes! We’re entitled to the road as much as a car, damnit! While this may be true, when we harrumph about it too much or too loudly, we become the shithead.

What We Can Cyclists Do About It

First and foremost – we can engage, advocate and educate. We also need to listen. One of the first things I did when I wanted to start this little adventure called California Alps Cycling was reach out to one of my neighbors. Nancy Thornburg was a community leader (unfortunately we lost her on December 31st, 2017) and she was known for her outspokenness, but also for her fairness and kindness. When I called her to explain my idea she said something like: “you know we don’t care much for cyclists, right?” I replied that I did know that and it was exactly for this reason that I wanted to talk with her.

She invited me and my wife up to her and her husband Fritzes house, and we got to know each other. I explained why for example we don’t ride close to the fogline all the time and admitted that yes, periodically we were dolts on bikes. I also pointed out that most of us help our communities, do more than ride bikes (i.e. fish, eat at restaurants, shop at the general store, etc.) and that we also drive cars. She and Fritz related to me some of the things we do that pissed them off and I acknowledged she had a point. Several actually. We became friends. I miss her.

What Else Can We Do?

Participate. Without asking for anything in return. Be active in the community, whether that’s picking up litter (as you may know, we “own” a stretch of Hwy. 89 here in Markleeville and we do our Adopt-a-Highway routine several times a year) or clearing rocks from the road.

Empathize. Occasionally I’m a nut. I’m a distracted cyclist. I’m talking to my friend and I’m being an idiot. That guy should have been irritated at me. I would have been too!

Attend local events. Especially those that are not cycling related. It’s a great way to show you care and that you’re not just about the bike. Contribute your opinions, your time and if you can, your money. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Smile and wave more often. It sounds simple but I find most riders don’t do it enough, or at all. I salute the CalTrans drivers whenever they pass. I ALWAYS wave or acknowledge other riders and most of the time I smile and wave at cars (or the drivers thereof). When I don’t it’s because I shouldn’t, or can’t – i.e. a big wind gust; a sharp turn; I’m about to pop an eyeball on that climb.

What Do You Think?

Am I smoking something? Too simplistic? Right on? Have you had any run-ins that ended well because you took the high-road? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with your fellow readers?

I’d love to hear from you. I promise, I’ll listen. Even if you don’t ride a bike!

Climbing Mountain Passes – 5 Key Things to Know

I’ve lived here in the heart of the Sierra Nevada for about 3 1/2 years now and in that time I’ve tackled our “Big 3” (Carson, Ebbett’s, Monitor) a bunch of times (well except for Carson Pass), and I’ve done some of the lesser known climbs as well. The below tally is by no means a comprehensive Sierra Nevada list but it gives me enough experience to offer some advice as to what to be wary of when you’re climbing big mountains here in the California Alps.

The Current Count

  • Carson Pass = 1
  • Ebbett’s Pass (N. – the Markleeville side) = 14
    (my favorite climb as you can see)
  • Ebbett’s Pass (S. – the Bear Valley side – from Hermit Valley) = 2
  • Geiger Grade = 1
  • Luther Pass = (S. – the Tahoe side) = 2
  • Kingsbury Grade = 2
  • Monitor (E. – the Topaz side) = 5
  • Monitor (W. – the Markleeville side) = 7
  • Spooner Summit (Hwy. 50 – E. – the Carson City side) = 2

That’s a total of 32 climbs on local mountains (or passes as they are also referred) for approximately 112,000 feet of climbing, or the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest almost four (4) times! Here’s some of what I’ve learned in all those hours and pedal revolutions.

Climbs up Mountains are Steep

Yeah, this may seem like a no-brainer but just last week, as I was climbing the west side of Monitor (the first 3.5 miles of which average close to 10%) I came across a few cyclists struggling to maintain any kind of cadence. I noticed that several did not have the right gearing (I ride a 50-34 in front and a 30-11 in back).

Lesson learned #1: make sure you have the right chainrings and cogset.

The Air is Thin

A couple riders told me as I passed (and they gasped for air) that they didn’t realize how hard it would be and that it was difficult to get any air. Some riders I’ve talked to like to come up and spend time here before they hit the climbs. Others come right up and do their climbing before their body realizes they’re here. In any case, be do your homework!

Lesson learned #2: address acclimatization.

Winds Can be Vexing

One of our members, Dr. Rich Harvey, commented on this post (which I wrote some time ago) and it was he that used the word “vexing.” So appropriate because here in the mountains there really are NO reliable wind patterns. Just yesterday I rode part-way up Ebbett’s Pass, into the wind. Did I get the tailwind on the way back? Nope. The wind shifted due to, among other things, the valley winds (explanation in that post).

Lesson learned #3: It’s a rare day that there is no wind and so set your expectations (and plan your wardrobe) accordingly.

The Climate can Change Quickly

There can be a temperature variation of 10-20 degrees between the start of the climb and the summit! And, in the summertime there are often afternoon thunderstorms. During the 2018 Deathride several of our riders were pelted with hail and rain on Carson Pass. This was in July and it was sunny here in Markleeville!

Just last Saturday I climbed Monitor. I brought an additional neck-gaiter and hat for the descent but it wasn’t enough. The wind came up and the temperature dropped while I was still climbing up to the summit. I did have a vest on, and arm-warmers, but I should have brought another jersey or vest. In the past I’ve done so (using a cinch-pack). This day, though, I didn’t follow my own advice and I was so cold on the descent I started to shiver badly enough that I had to stop and warm up before I could continue.

Lessen learned #4: Bring the necessary gear, or layer up, so you can deal with any adverse conditions that may arise.

There is No Cell-Service

We’ve all come to take cell service for granted. Here in Markleeville it’s really only Verizon that works. My wife and I had AT&T in San Jose but when we moved up here we quickly switched to Verizon. That doesn’t do diddly-squat up on Ebbett’s Pass, though, or even in some of the lower elevations. I carry a Garmin inReach Mini on my rides. Admittedly, I already had it before I moved up to the mountains because I’ve got a yellow-jacket allergy. But, had I not had it before I moved here I would have gotten it afterwards. Among other things (including an SOS feature) it allows me to send texts to my wife from anywhere in the world.

Lesson learned #5: Get a satellite communication device if you can and if you can’t (and I do this also) make sure you have clearly communicated to “your person” your route, your approximate return time and what to do “if you don’t hear from me by such and such a time.”

Cycling in the Mountains is an Awesome Experience

And one that is made that much better if you are prepared for what you’ll experience. Understand the topography; prepare for the thin air, wind and climate; and address communication. By following some of my lessons learned you too can have an awesome experience cycling in one of the world’s most amazing venues – the Sierra Nevada, and our little slice of heaven within, the California Alps.

Ebbett’s Pass and Monitor Pass – After Action Report

Here’s smiling at you! Sending good vibes and mountain energy from California Alps Cycling!

Well it’s been a great week of riding I must admit. Being furloughed has its benefits. I am one lucky dawg. I also recognize that many folks are not so lucky; some are sick or have died, some have lost loved ones, many are unemployed and many are working (some on the front lines – THANK YOU!). And yet life continues for me, and you, and most of us, albeit in this twilight zone. And so, writing a post about cycling two (2) iconic California Alps climbs this past week feels a bit weird. Nonetheless, for your reading (and cycling, if you’re coming our way) pleasure…

Ebbett’s Pass

Last Monday, April 27th, I partook, and I’m pretty sure I was the first cyclist up the mountain this year (my friend Bill Cassity said so!). It was a beautiful day (in the 60’s and 70’s), made even more beautiful by the fact that there were no cars on the road past Monitor Junction (see last week’s post for more on that).

There was no snow or other issues on/with the road until I got up towards Cascade Creek. There I found quite of bit of rock (a few large boulders but mostly small stuff) that had fallen from above, which made for slow going on the descent.

As I approached Kinney Reservoir I was excited for the photo op — the mountains and sky reflecting in the water are amazing — but felt like such a nit when I got there only to find a still frozen body o’ water. Skating anyone?

Yup! Still frozen. It is at about 8000′ after all.

I didn’t see any riders at all until I was coming down. And, again, that no motor vehicle thing is awesome! The pass will likely open soon (May 15th perhaps) so if you want to experience the climb, with no cars, like you only get on the Deathride, now’s your chance. It’s not for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced, though, so please be aware of that, and be cautious.

Monitor Pass

Just this a.m. I climbed Monitor and it was not nearly as pleasant as my trip up Ebbett’s Pass earlier in the week. I knew it was going to be windy; conditions at HQ before I left made that pretty apparent, but it was particularly “sporty” today with lots of crosswinds and gusts and such. I did, however, get some help from a nice tailwind for a lot of the climb; it was especially welcome on that first real pitch of about 3.5 miles from Monitor Junction to the cattle guard at Heenan Lake. That’s really the toughest section on the western side of Monitor; once you’re above that guard it becomes a bit more manageable. And while Monitor is steeper than Ebbett’s it’s only about half as long…That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

Just about at the 8000′ mark. That’s the Carson Range in the distance behind me.

I’ve never seen Hwy. 89 to Monitor Pass so devoid of snow this time of year; it validates (not that I needed it) the recent “only 3% of normal” snowpack report. As you can see, there was no snow on the side of the road (and there was nary a bit (just a couple of small patches) at the summit, neither.

The wind seemed to get colder, and more vexing (that’s for you Rich) on the way down – it was so cold (and I brought a couple extra items with me for the descent) that I had to stop and warm up. I was shivering so badly that I was starting to shimmy (and shake) – not a good thing when you’re barreling down a mountain at high speed!

Anyway, I did survive the descent, which, with the exception of some gravel and other debris on the road closer to the bottom of the hill, and a few of those gusts, was uneventful. I was back at HQ by lunchtime and beer-thirty.

So, there you have it. Did I mention that climbing these passes, or any passes for that matter, is not for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced? My lawyer told me to tell you that you assume all the risk if you decide to partake. Your loved ones would remind you to be careful (and I am reminding you too) and to keep in mind there’s no sag wagon behind those gates. And cell service? Forgettaboutit!

On that cheery note though…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

Social Distancing Racing in the California Alps

American Lady

I hope this post finds you all staying healthy, safe and sane during these turbulent times. A special tip of the hat, by the way, to our front-line warriors who are helping many of our fellow citizens survive. At the same time, condolences go out to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones due to the covid-19 pandemic. As I write these words, and so again take stock of the current state we’re in, I still can’t help feeling like Alice, or perhaps Dorothy. But, this ain’t Wonderland and it sure as hell ain’t Oz. Pardon the ain’ts – dramatic effect… Those stories, too, were more like dreams. This? This is a nightmare…and on so many levels. So, like you I suspect, I try to keep my mind focused on other things and live as normally as I can. Quick break while I sanitize my keyboard…🤓

Social Distancing Road Race Series

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest, by the way. No doubt many, if not all of you, are feeling the same way. That brings me to the main subject of this post: racing in this era of social distancing. For me, cycling has become even more important right now – it’s one of the things (probably the main thing) that’s helping me keep my mind off the nightmare. And, thanks to Alta Alpina Cycling Club I’ve got some racing options! AACC did us all of us locals a solid and morphed at least the first three (3) races of the season into virtual rides. Now I’ve never raced before but I’ve been training hard for organized rides that have now been canceled or postponed. So why not put some of that energy towards racing, eh? Especially, since it’s little less intimidating in this format. So, I jumped on in.

Race #1 – Fredricksburg Prologue (Time Trial)

The race director sends an email the weekend before the race and everyone has the entire week to complete the course, as many times as they wish, with results recorded on Strava (click on the link to see the segment). I took my first whack at it on Tuesday of last week and so was able to compare my numbers a bit to other racers/members. I knew I had some work to do to get into the top 10, which was my goal. So last Sunday I got my soigneur (aka my wife, Pat) to join me. Actually, she offered. Pretty sweet. She parked her fine-self next to the truck, read the paper and sipped on some coffee and off I went for a short warm up…

The course is only about 8 miles long so it was full-gas the entire time. Thanks to the live segments feature (try it if you haven’t) on Strava I was able to see my goal time, as well as my carrot’s best time, displayed on my computer. I was kicking ass on the way out – behind my goal (which was okay, it was a big hairy audacious goal after all) but ahead of my carrot. That all changed at the turnaround. I started losing time even though I had a bit of a tailwind. I put too much into the first-half of the course; I should have paced myself better. Oh, well, I said to my solo-self, only about 10 more minutes of pain.

The view from Foothill Road – can’t beat the location.

As I approached the finish, feeling and looking like many of the big dawgs I’ve seen on the TDF over the years, with snot pouring out of my nose and so much sweat on my glasses that I could barely see, I was cooked. As it should be, right? After a few minutes of gasping and hacking I was able to function again and actually speak to my wife, instead of just grunt. That spiked hot chocolate went down well as I reveled in my new PR. And, I ended up with a 9th place overall. I’ll take it!

Race #2 – AACC (Alta Alpina Cycling Club) Diamond Valley Clockwise (Time Trial)

Here’s a link to the course/segment, which I just road yesterday. While the course was really “designed” for a true road race, again this was a solo effort for each of us. I had done the route last year and so was anxious to see how (if?) I had improved. I needed some additional miles so I decided to do three (3) laps; if I did well on the first one then I’d take it easy on the next two (2) I figured. ‘Twas a beautiful morning and I was stoked that I didn’t need a vest or knickers. I wore my 2017 Deathride Finisher’s Jersey as I knew it would make me ride faster (it’s my version of the yellow jersey, you know?) and it did help. I shaved 3 1/2 minutes from my previous best time! Yowza! Still, not enough to beat the strong riders who have yet to ride the course. Right now I’m sitting in 5th position but I’m pretty darn sure that won’t hold. May have to give it another whirl this weekend but at this point I don’t think I’ll improve my time much so perhaps I’ll just ride Monitor or Ebbett’s instead.

Stay tuned! More Updates to Follow

I do have some news about Monitor and Ebbett’s, two (2) of our three (3) passes that we here at California Alps Cycling ride regularly, as well as some information about the upcoming fishing season and the Deathride. Stay tuned for that post. You can, in the meantime though, check our Facebook page for information on the former.

Happy riding and stay safe and healthy!

What’s a Good Saddle for Riding in the California Alps?

I am talking about this type of saddle:

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Not this type:

Although they are pretty nice, and do have some features that may translate well on the bike ;-).

As it turns out, here in Markleeville, and surrounds — we’ve got mountain cattle that graze in the meadows near town and just down the road in the Carson Valley you can get some of the best grass-fed beef around — you’re likely to see both saddle types!

Now I’m salivating a bit thinking about a nice rib-eye so let me get down to business on this gear review thing before a puddle forms.

Okay, okay..if you’re truly needing a saddle-saddle, here’s the link to Natural Horsemans Saddles (especially for you and your lovely wife, Chris). Okay, onward…

Fi’zi:k or Specialized?

Of course you’ve got many more choices than just those two (2) brands but this was the question I had to answer. I’ve been a loyal Fi’zi:k saddle user for many years. I really like the Aliante R3 Open (for snake – good back flexibility) and have the same saddle on both my Emonda and my Domane. Today however, I can say (er, write), “used to have the same saddle…”

I recently switched to the Specialized Power saddle and I’m really happy I did. Here’s why:

  1. There is a lot less pressure on my “taint,” especially when I’m in the drops.
  2. I get no numbness at all, even when riding on the trainer for long periods of time.
  3. When I sit back down after standing and pedaling, my butt feels like it’s docking on that friggin’ thing! Talk about a perfect fit…
  4. For descending (tons of up means lots of down) it’s a lot more comfortable in the drops and it just feels more natural.
  5. When climbing, or riding on flat roads, not having that standard nose length also works. I thought I might notice “no there, there” but not so; it just feels RIGHT.
  6. Did I tell you that it’s amazingly comfortable?

Here’s some specific details as to what I put on which bike, and the rides I’ve done.

Emonda = S-Works Power 143mm. Carbon Rails.

I did need to order oval ears for the seatmast because the rails on this saddle are oval, not round. Keep that in mind if you decide to get this, or a similar, model.

Red ears add a nice touch, especially on a red bike.

I first used it on March 29th and have done a total of four (4) rides, all outside, including a 1/2 century ride on April 2nd, adding up to about 128 miles. Again, no issues. No chafing, no numbness and oh so comfy in the drops.

Domane = Power Pro Elaston 143mm. Ti rails.

Didn’t snap a photo of this one…There were standard rails on this saddle so no need to change out the existing seatmast ears. I use the Domane on my trainer and as my gravel bike so I opted for a bit more padding for this saddle, and I read something recently (Velonews? Bicycling? Can’t remember…) that suggested the Elaston for gravel riding. Now I haven’t done a gravel ride with it yet but yesterday I road the Alpe d’Huez Finale on FulGaz (first ride on the Elaston). 1:43:02 total on the bike – mostly seated. Again, no issues and most importantly I didn’t notice that sore spot I used to hit on my right sit-bone when I went back to a seated position. You might say (I did say) the Pro’s wings made things much more bearable.

Integrated/Attachable Seat Pack

The Fi’zi:k Aliante does come with such a thing but it’s a pain in the arse to get on and off (in and out of?) the saddle: you’ve got to hold up the clip to slide it in the slot and sometimes I need a tool of some sort to do that. Same for out; kind of a hassle.

The Power also comes with a mount. Specialized calls it “SWAT compatible” and it’s much more user friendly than Fi’zi:k’s; just attach a bracket to the seat with the provided bolts and the pack itself (I went with the small Stormproof Seat Pack) then slides in and out of the bracket. A really good design!

The Verdict

I feel like I have to get some more miles in before I’m totally sold (had over 8000 miles on the R3 that was on the Domane) but in all my years of cycling and mountain biking, and recently, gravel riding, I’ve NEVER installed a saddle that didn’t need tweaking and that didn’t cause any minor problems early on. Until now, that is. Now I’ve got two (2) of ’em! So, even after a relatively short test period I would highly recommend the Power or Power Pro. If you haven’t gone short, you’ve got to check it out!

And, if you want to do a bit more research, here’s a couple more resources: First, a good post by Outdoor Gear Lab; I found it helpful and it touches on some of the finer points of this saddle that I didn’t. And here’s another from road.cc, again with some additional data that matta.

Let’s Kick Some Passes Asses!

So, whether it’s with a new saddle, an existing saddle, on a bike or on a horse. Or perhaps none of the above (maybe you’re a runner, or a hiker, or a snowshoer or a skier) let’s get out there! With the proper distancing, of course. And hand-washing. And masks if necessary. Whatever it takes, right?

Whenever and however you go, though, please be safe and stay healthy!

Checking in from Deathride Town, USA

First and foremost, all of us here at California Alps Cycling hope this post finds you and yours doing as well as possible in this new “pandemic-age.” Yup, we’ve had ’em before and we’ll have ’em again. So “says” a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News. Full disclosure: I’m from San Hoser – born and raised – so I still get “the Merc.,” the digital version of course. My wife and I came up to the Sierra in October of 2016. In any case, the article was good reminder – been there, survived that. At the same time I realize some haven’t. Or, won’t. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. And their families.

Speaking of the pandemic – Gawd, I sound like one of those characters on that Don Henley song “Dirty Laundry” – Alpine County was just added to the tally; we’ve had our first Covid-19 case here in the county. It was determined that the the disease was picked up in a distant location, not via community transmission, so that’s good. What’s MUCH better is that the patient is recovering well and did a good job of self-quarantining (and the family did too).

There is Snow in Them-thar Hills

On a lighter, weather-related note, we had some good snow up here the first couple weeks of the month – helped with the snowpack. I heard we were up to ~70% of normal. Not bad considering it was closer to 45% at the end of February. Ironic, certainly, that the ski resorts were (and still are) closed due to Covid-19. My wife, Mom and I went for a great hike last weekend (and the weekend before) at Grover Hot Springs State Park (see photos below). Note: The park is closed but hiking is still allowed, although our Sheriff’s office is recently told us all that DOES NOT MEAN BACKPACKING or other backcountry endeavors. He doesn’t want to potentially strain resources on rescues and the like. I’m definitely going to get a bit of snowshoeing in soon, though, before what’s here melts. Not sure what the lay of the land is in Carson Pass and the trails up there. I suspect they are open. Highway 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) is closed just south of Silver Mountain City (and the snowmobilers are happy) and Monitor Pass is closed (and has been, for the winter). Pssst…I heard Monitor was going to open soon but I have yet to get confirmation from Clinton the CalTrans guy.

Cycling, Hiking, Skiing or Snowshoeing and Social Distancing

Had to point it out, if for no other reason than to get the phrase in there so the search engines pick it up and rank me higher. In all seriousness though, I’ve seen some folks up here riding their bikes, enjoying the views by car, snowshoeing, hiking and snowmobiling. Great time to get outdoors, more like a necessity nowadays but I’ve been picking up mixed signals about that and so I thought I’d reach out to our County Health Officer, Dr. Richard Johnson, with a few questions.

Dr. Johnson Says…

  1. Is it okay to hike as long as we keep our distance?
    Absolutely!
  2. We’re not backpacking or anything like that – just day hikes, if not hour hikes. 
    Go for it!
  3. I am a cyclist and just yesterday went out to Diamond Valley and Emigrant Trail – I live here in Markleeville. Was about a 2 hour ride.
    Perfect.
  4. I’ve been furloughed (indeed – the courts, how I earn my living, are hurting) and so am planning on doing some longer rides here in the next few weeks. Is that cool?
    OK to sweat!
  5. I also do a cycling blog so anything you’d like me to share about cycling, mountain biking, etc. here in Alpine Co. would be great. 
  6. Should I tell folks to stay away?
    Yes.
  7. Partake but be safe?
    No.
  8. The issue we are having is visitors coming to recreate, buying up gas supplies and groceries, pooping in public because restrooms are closed. We also do not have emergency services capability to handle accidents. Therefore, we are discouraging all visitors – not residents – from coming to Alpine County for recreation. That also violates the Governor’s order to stay at home.

So, there you have it. A bit of green light, red light. Another irony, unfortunately. We like visitors. Visitors like us. There’s no one around and even less traffic than usual. Sadly, it’s just not a good idea right now and we’re all suffering for it. I’m planning on re-doubling my efforts to help with that damn curve. Flatten baby, flatten! Save lives, stay home. Or perhaps: Save lives, stay away (works both ways as far as I’m concerned – We Markleevillians, and Bear Vallians, and Woodfordsians, need to stay the heck away from you too! Hey, I’ve seen this one before…How about: Save lives, ride a bike.

I like this one best: Stay Away – BUT just for little while; looking forward to seeing you one day soon!

Deathride Update

As this point, the Deathride – Tour of the California Alps, is a GO! As many of you know, tons of cycling events, including UCI races, have been canceled or postponed. I was going to ride the Wildflower Century in April in Chico, CA but it was canceled. The Truckee Dirt Fondo, on the other hand, scheduled for June 13th, emailed me to say it was a go. I suspect, based on the recent extension of the social distancing guidelines, that it might not fly, however. It’s hard to say at this point if “the DR” is going to go for sure but we here in Alpine Co. sure hope so. It’s our mainstay event and keeps our little Chamber solvent and more importantly it puts TONS OF DUCATS into our local economy, which relies primarily on tourism. Fingers crossed; the eternal optimist…We will of course be having that conversation soon and any updates will be forthcoming. In the meantime…

Please be well and do stay healthy and let’s all kick some viruses asses!

A Deathride Resurgence in the California Alps

Well, in case you don’t already know…It’s official! Registration is open for the 40th anniversary of the Tour of the California Alps (aka The Deathride)!

The Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce, located here in Markleeville, CA, hosts and owns the ride, and this year, as I alluded to back in September, we’ve (full disclosure – I’m on the Board of Directors) decided to up our game, hence the tagline: “Deathride Resurgence.”

First and foremost, we’ve hired the Bike the West team! These are the same professionals that put on “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” and “Tour de Tahoe” so we are stoked! (I’ll be riding the former in June, by the way).

We’ve also inked a deal with Alta Alpina Cycling Club to host a training series of approximately five (5) different rides in the Deathride area. This club (it is based in Carson Valley – Lake Tahoe but members, including yours truly, do a lot of riding in Alpine Co.) does a lot of good works in the area (among other things they are one of our “Adopt-a-Highway” neighbors) and also has great experience putting on races and rides of their own, including the Alta Alpina Challenge.

As the only hard-core cyclist on the board, I’ve also been making it my mission to help my colleagues better understand why we cyclists do what we do and why we like what we like; I’ve been able to bring some of what I’ve learned doing organized rides over the years as well as share some insights about the Deathride course and the mountains that we climb.

15000 Feet of Elevation and 5 Categorized Climbs

Like I mentioned above, a change in terminology…We’ll still be climbing both sides of Monitor Pass, both sides of Ebbett’s Pass (albeit not all the way into Bear Valley – keep reading) and the eastern side of Carson Pass. In the past we referred each of these as passes but this year we’ve begun using the UCI lexicon – climbs. Technically, we only climb to three passes, right? We do, however, do five categorized climbs, four of which are hors catégorie (the other is a Cat. 1).

A Renewed Emphasis on Safety

With a strong(er) emphasis on safety this year, including more outreach to neophyte deathriders, we will make the ride even safer. We’re talking hay bales at risky corners (think Cadillac Curve), better signage, more robust outreach to non-riders, course marshals, safety talks and training, SAG and sweep support, HAM radio communications and staggered starts. For you early birds, including this guy, that means no more getting on the course at 3:30 a.m. The ride begins no earlier than 5:00 a.m.; we’ll have groups of riders departing every 15 minutes (you can pick your start time when you register). While we’ve got an excellent safety record, thanks to Curtis and Team, we’ll be even safer this year.

Other Route Options Being Explored

We had hoped to change the route this year to include Pacific Grade, and to remove Carson Pass. Unfortunately due to various concerns from CalTrans, local and state law enforcement, business owners, and others, we were not able to make it happen. Many riders have expressed support for this change and we appreciate that but currently there are so many logistical concerns we decided we needed to move on, at least this year. We’ll continue to work on it with the hopes that we can bring our neighbors to the southwest into the Deathride fold. Wouldn’t it be awesome to ride into Bear Valley or Lake Alpine next year? And, while Carson Pass is beautiful, I personally would much rather do a longer stretch of Highway 4 instead. Have some thoughts on this? Comment on this post or our Facebook page or better yet, bring your fine self and your voice to the ride this year and let us, and others, know how you feel. We’d love to hear from you!

You coming?

It’s a grueling and painful, yet amazing experience to do the Deathride. I’ve ridden it three (3) times yet only completed all the climbs one time (in 2017). In 2018 I was only able to complete three (3) climbs and last year, while I was the strongest I had ever been, I caught a nasty cough the day before the ride. Still, I was able to complete four (4) climbs: 7.5 hours on the bike, 10,433 feet of elevation and about 83 miles of distance. This year, I’m hoping to PR this bad boy and it would be great if you could join us too. Whether you’re all in and planning on doing all the climbs or doing fewer, I promise you’ll have fun and most importantly, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. And remember, there will be no cars on Monitor or Ebbett’s for most of the day – and that makes for an even more remarkable (dare I say mind-blowing?) experience.

I should also mention that we’re looking to up our game when it comes to food, fun and other amenities. Those things are still a work in progress so stay tuned for further updates but suffice it to say we’ve heard you, and our community, so it’s all on the table and our goal is to impress.

So, if you’ve joined us before, we’d love to have you back and if you haven’t and you’re looking for a world-class ride in a world-class setting, come and check it out. Alpine Co. would love to see you!

Some photos from past Deathrides

I’ll leave you all with some images that I’ve taken from past rides. Enjoy!

Oh and by the way, there’s been some confusion over the years about the relationship between California Alps Cycling and the Deathride. While the ride is near and dear to our (and mine) hearts, and were are both in Markleeville, California Alps Cycling is not affiliated with the Deathride.

A Walk on the Wildlife Side

As a follow up to my last post, and since we recently installed a wildlife camera here at California Alps Cycling HQ, I thought I’d regale you with some photos of the wild things that we see here in the California Alps.

Here’s “Yogi” in action!

This time of year we see more eagles than usual. While there are a couple regular mating pairs of baldies at two (2) of our local lakes, during the winter we tend to see more of them, as well as some Goldens (alas, no good pix of them yet) due to the calf-birthing that takes place nearby in Carson (aka Eagle) Valley. They are here for the after-birth (births?). Yeah, somewhat gross but I like the fact that the eagles don’t mind cleaning up after the mama-cows. I suspect the ranchers like it too – nothing worse than stepping in a gut-pile!

We’ve got a rafter of wild turkeys that hang out nearby too. While I am a hunter (and have taken one in the past) I don’t hunt anything here on the property – we enjoy the company too much. I can’t speak for the resident coyote(s) though.

Many people don’t know that if Benjamin Franklin had his way the wild turkey would be our national bird. While they are beautiful birds (and big too), and have the vision of an eagle, I personally think the Founding Fathers made the right choice.

Speaking of coyotes…There’s a sizable number of them here in Markleeville and they’ve been known to work together to take outdoor pets. Just last week we saw three (3) of them here at HQ just after dusk. Last summer, one of them took one of our neighbor’s chickens. They are wiley (pun intended) suckers.

Caught this guy on our wildlife camera just last week.
SQUIRREL!
Looks like it’s thinking about what to do next or perhaps trying to figure out where it put those pine nuts.

We’re pretty sure we’ve got a mountain lion in the area and so I’m hoping to get a shot of it soon. I’ll keep you posted!

We knew there were WILD animals here, no doubt, but to see them, or evidence of them, in person, makes it much more real. Have any photos of wildlife you’ve taken while on a ride or hike in the California Alps? Feel free to post them on our Facebook page (@bikedalps) if so!

Stay wild my friends, and ride safe!