Ride Inside Without the Tech? How Do I Do That?

Last week we had an internet outage just before I was going to get on FulGaz and ride the Ebbetts Pass North Ascent (which as you may recall I filmed last summer).

Here at Chalet Schwartz, aka California Alps Cycling HQ, we do have a sweet generator (thanks Generac) but alas, it doesn’t do much good when it’s a Frontier outage.

I still had cell service, although as you can imagine, it’s not even close to five bars here, but what the hell I thought, I’ll give it a try. No dice. Not enough bandwidth for those videos. Zwift neither. Alright I said to myself, I’ll just ride and watch something on Apple TV.

Uh, no. No internet you fool!

How about a nice slide show of all of my photos I’ve taken over the years?

No joy there either – I sync my photos via iCloud – who knows, maybe the images were hung up in this cloud?

Okay, so there’s my story of woe, the set-up if you will. There I was, trying to get my swell on, but without the usual distractions I needed to keep my monkey-brain at bay. What to do?

As a former mechanic once wrote on my service slip a long time ago…RIDE YOUR BIKE. This was after I had brought the bike in to get something perfectly dialed-in; for the 3rd time! I was, and still am I confess, a bit OCD.

To my credit, and so you all know that I didn’t get too hung up on these issues, I kept pedaling during my ordeal.

And then it came to me! You can still sprint. You can still work on those circles. You can still get in a good workout. You’ve got music at least, and a smart watch, so get to it!

And so I did. And I had a great workout and learned that yes, Mark-inia, you can get in some good training without all the bells and whistles. And really, like you’re probably saying right now, I still had some of those jinglers and toots (e.g. Apple music and Garmin) so technically I was still techy.

That makes me feel better. And keeps it in perspective.

After all, this was only a bike ride.

A Bike Shop in Markleeville? Tell Us What You Think!

It’s always been my dream to own a bike shop. When we started California Alps Cycling back in 2017 we thought that perhaps it could someday morph into a brick & mortar business and come spring of 2021 it just might!

And that’s where you come in…we’d like to know what you think about the concept.

  • What would you like to see in the shop?
  • Do you think we should rent bikes?
  • Should we offer tours?
  • Would you frequent such a business?

First, Some Background

For those of you who’ve visited Markleeville in the last couple of years you may recall our little gas station: “Al’s Got Gas, Bait and Tackle.”

This is Al’s, in its early stages, before it had signage and such.

The station has been open 24/7 for awhile now but the convenience store (right side) and the retail shop (left side) have not been open for the past year, for the most part because the owners have been too busy with their day jobs. They have reached out to us and suggested we take over Al’s and put in some sort of shop as well.

So we’ve been talking about doing something along the lines of what our friends at Bear Valley Adventure Company do, e.g. rent bikes, repair bikes, sell souveneirs, sell basic outdoor gear – and not just cycling gear – and host the town’s gas station.

Side note: BVAC is light years ahead of where we would be when we opened but our hope is that we too could eventually offer some winter sport activities as well.

In case you weren’t aware, 95% of Alpine Co. is public land and there are TONS OF THINGS TO DO HERE IN THE WINTER but no real organized events. Coincidentally, the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce has formed a working group to try and remedy that and yours truly is a member of that group.

But, I digress.

Participants lined up at the starting line at last year’s Earth Day Kid’s Bike Race.

Making a Difference

The image above says it all, at least from our perspective. Yours truly, and fellow CAC member Chris Schull, wrenched on the kid’s bikes in the a.m. so they could race ’em in the afternoon. To see those furiously peddling legs…Those smiles…What a day it was!

We believe we’ve already made a small difference in our community but we’d like to do more.

  • We want to help people with their bikes.
  • We want to educate.
  • We want to advocate.
  • We want to host group rides.
  • We want to sponsor events.
  • We want to help our community continue to grow (but keep our small town, alternative to South Lake Tahoe, vibe).
  • Oh, I should mention that while we’d like to sell bikes that’s likely not possible due to several factors but hey, you never know…

What do you think?

Can you help us reach the finish line?

We’d like to hear from you, our loyal readers, our members, our customers and perhaps you, our future customers.

Tell us what you think.

Don’t hold back.

We really want to know!

Honest.

Winter is Afoot in the California Alps – Here’s a Snowy Update!

Finally. Some snow. So good to see the white stuff coming down this past weekend. It wasn’t a piddly amount either – we received about 8” here at California Alps Cycling HQ and so we had to break out the snowblower!

Riding Behind Those Gates

CalTrans closed the gates at Monitor Junction last Friday in anticipation of the coming storm and so access to Monitor Pass and Ebbetts Pass, and as it turns out, Sonora Pass, was restricted.

The above image, at Hwy. 4 and Wolf Creek Road, was taken earlier this year and I post it up here to point out the difference between the simple “Road Closed” signs and the extra “Pedestrians, Bicycles, Motor-Driven Cycles Prohibited” signage. The former is what we cyclists, hikers, fisherpersons like – it means no cars to worry about and so it’s generally safe to do your thing. When that extra sign is posted though, it’s an indicator that there is heavy equipment, road repairs, snowblowing, etc. going on and it’s NOT SAFE to go behind the gates. This I learned in speaking with CalTrans.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there is no vehicular extraction if you have a mechanical once you’ve gone over to the other side. I personally have done a bit of walking over the last several years, once when I had a chain break and once when I double flatted and so I learned this lesson the hard way.

Curt Prater, one of our FB followers, gets credit for this part of our update by the way. He and I struck up a conversation after he saw our post on the closure. He loves riding behind those gates and he reminded me that I do too.

Just be prepared and be safe about it, okay? It does come with some risk.

Some Sobering News…

Unfortunatley, there’s been a Covid-19 outbreak here in Alpine County. As of this morning the total number of cases is 26, with one (1) hospitalization and thankfully, no deaths. Up until last month we only had three (3) but we, like many other counties in CA, are now ticking up. It’s an important reminder that even though we’re all growing tired of the virus, it is not growing tired of us. On the contrary, I fear it’s taking advantage of that fatigue. With the holidays approaching it’s up to all of us to keep up the good fight. Please wear a mask and stay safe.

Snow covers the rocks of Hot Springs Creek and if you look closely you can see those squirrel prints to the left of the frame.

Switching Tacks…

Let’s talk about food and suds for a minute. One of my colleagues on the Chamber Board is Patrick Sarni, owner of the 7800 Bar & Grill in Kirkwood. He’s opening on December 1st in anticipation of the December 4th opening of Kirkwood. Patrick, like most small business owners, especially those in the food service industry, has put everything he has into his business so let’s help him, and others like him, have a successful opening, and season, safely!

Ditto for the Out West Cafe here in Markleeville. Joey and Danelle Daly, who also own DollFace Cheesecakes, have recently opened in the former Alps Haus Cafe location. I overheard a patron raving about the cheesecake and will be ordering one for Thanksgiving.

Snow covered rocks and icy waters of Hot Springs Creek.

The Mad Dog Cafe at Woodfords Station also has good grub (and cerveza) and I heard from a reliable source (Jennifer Quillici, owner) yesterday that they will be the ONLY snow-park permit vendor in Alpine County this season. She said they should have the permits in about a week.

And definitely don’t forget about the J. Marklee Toll Station and the Cutthroat Brewing Company. The latter, as you may know, just opened this past summer.

A small pool in Hot Springs Creek. Ice skating coming soon!

While it’s not about food and suds, it’s also worth noting that The Bear Valley Adventure Company has posted on its website a projected XC Ski and Snowshoe opening of November 27th! We’re looking forward to some ‘shoe’n and I’m hoping to get in some cross-country skiing, too. First, I need some lessons though. 😉

Should be an interesting season with Covid-19 in play but as long as we all keep up with those best practices we can make it a safe one. As it turns out I just saw an email from our County Health Officer, Rick Johnson, in which he advises to BOLO for an update next week after the state releases its tier assignment. Like I said, interesting season…

Some New FulGaz Rides are in the Works

I’ve noticed quite a few riders tackling some of the rides I filmed earlier this year. Yesterday I did the Ebbetts South Ascent, the shortest of the Deathride climbs, as a quick warm-up for some core work, and saw that 52 riders have ridden it since it went live. Cool!

What’s even better is this email I received from a FulGaz subscriber last week. Froylan wrote: “I wanted to thank you for the wonderful job you did to film the climbs of the Deathride. I have participated in that event for a number of years and of course I miss not riding the event this year, but thanks to you and Fulgaz (love the app for rides) I can re-live the event at home.” He made my day and also asked about Kingsbury Grade, which is on my list, but not yet filmed.

I have, however, recently filmed three (3) rides around Big Blue (aka Lake Tahoe) as well as one from Hope Valley to Lower Blue Lake (with some fall colors). I’m processing them now and should get the files to FulGaz by the end of the week for their processing. Stay tuned as you’ll soon have a chance to partake on those rides too, along with Froylan!

Closing Things Out With a Couple Nature Videos

A turkey social in the snow
An early a.m. (this morning) visitor – a gray fox.

And on this Veteran’s Day I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to all the veterans (including my Grandpa who served in WWII), their families and those currently serving. Thank you SO MUCH for your service and sacrifice!

Stay safe, be well and let’s kick some passes’ asses! Whether that be by bike, snowshoe, ski or snowmobile.

Using Satellite in the Sierra Could Save a Life – Perhaps Even Your Own

Yesterday while riding Leviathan Mine Road on my MTB I was out of cell service and needed to contact my wife. In this case it was not an emergency, but what if it was?

Would I have been able to get help?

As you may recall, I published a post earlier in the year, “Climbing Mountain Passes – Five Things You Should Know” and in that post I referenced the Garmin inReach Mini that I’ve used for several years. While that unit is not technically a PLB (read on to learn about that distinction) “you can send and receive messages, navigate your route, track and share your journey and, if necessary, trigger an SOS to get help from a 24/7 global emergency response coordination center via the 100% global Iridium® satellite network.”

So instead of rescue authorities coming to look for me because I haven’t checked in with my person(s) I instead was able to message my wife and mom that I was okay, just taking longer than expected on the ride.

Had I had an emergency I could have triggered that SOS feature and been able to get help. That’s what PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons), and their brethren, do okay? They allow you to get assistance in those areas where you can’t call 911.

As for PLBs…What are those?

Rick Wallace, of Tackle Village, reached out to me last week about a guide Tackle Village had recently produced entitled “How a PLB Can Save Your Life” and we struck up an email convo. about how we can each help other spread the word about these technologies.

As Rick wrote in his email to me: “To promote outdoor safety, we have put together this comprehensive and easy to read guide [that’s the link in the above paragraph]. We wrote this because many people who hike, fish, ski, camp or climb (including some of our friends) don’t realise the need to carry a PLB, and this causes unnecessary deaths every year. Personal Locator Beacons have saved an estimated 35,000 lives.”

I replied “I use a Garmin inReach, which I think is a PLB. Is it? It does have an activate-able SOS feature and allows me to send text messages to family and friends when my cell has no service,” and Rick responded:

“I think the Garmin inReach is a satellite phone as opposed to a PLB – slightly different. The PLB can only send a distress signal encoded with GPS co-ordinates – no text, no voice. Its advantage is in the longevity of the battery and the toughness of it and waterproofing.”

Ah, there’s that distinction. One allows for two-way communication while the other sends only an encoded distress signal.

Now I’m not sure just how long the battery life is on a KTI PLB but I can tell you that the battery life on the inReach is pretty good too.

For cycling, the inReach, or something small and compact like it, makes sense because it fits in a jersey pocket (along with other items). For hiking, backpacking and perhaps even skiing or snowshoeing I can see where a PLB would be a good alternative or compliment, though.

Wait, what about an avalanche beacon?

Good catch! That’s a different animal since it’s not a standalone unit; others with a similar device must be nearby to receive the signal it transmits and then find the location of that transmitting beacon via triangulation.

Fodder for a future post, I’m thinking, as I plan on taking up cross-country skiing this winter and having an avalance beacon could be a key piece of equipment for some of those endeavors.

Whatever you decide, cover your bases!

It’s especially important during these days of Covid-19.

Law enforcement, rescue authorities, you name it, are a bit pre-occupied nowadays so I’m sure that anything we can do to lessen their load would be appreciated.

Having a portable, satellite-enabled device, such as the inReach, or KTI’s PLB, could save searchers a whole lot of time if they have to come a lookin’, and in the case of an inReach or something similar, could prevent them from even having to be dispatched at all!

I know the volunteer firefighters, search & rescue, and paramedics here in Alpine Co. would be grateful for that!

Four Fitness Apps for Cycling – a Quick Review

With almost 6000 miles on the road this year and countless miles and hours in years past I’ve tried a few different apps, some with hardware, some without. My experience yesterday with a new feature on my Garmin Fenix gave me the idea for this post.

Let’s take a look at Garmin Connect, Strava, Trainingpeaks and Wahoo Fitness. For each I’ve added a screenshot from the website (hyperlinked for your convenience 😉 ) as well as an image from its mobile app.

  • Price = Free (with hardware)
  • Key Features = Track exercise, sleep, water intake and more
  • Coolest Feature = Add or Remove Gear. Let’s you keep track of miles you put on your bikes, shoes, seats, etc.
  • Ease of Use = Fairly intuitive and easy to set up. Syncs automatically with your hardware (most of the time)
  • New feature = Suggested workouts. Yesterday my watch prompted me to do some anaerobic work. Was a good workout with visual and audio prompts.
  • Price = $15.00 per month or $5.00 per month if billed annually
  • Key features = Follow other riders and vice-versa (think Facebook for athletes), explore (aka find) segments or rides, take on challenges and sometimes earn prizes or discounts on schwag
  • Coolest feature = Segment results so you can see how you’re doing compared to others. KOMs/QOMs, cups for top 10s and other bragging rights
  • Ease of Use = Easy to set up and syncs with multiple apps (Zwift, FulGaz, Garmin, etc.).
  • Price = Several, flexible plans including a free option. Monthly ($19.95), quarterly ($16.33) or annual ($9.92) plans as well
  • Key features = Robust and detailed graphs, peaks (e.g. 5s power, 20 min. HR, etc.), daily metrics (sleep, soreness, overall health, etc.)
  • Coolest feature = Fatigue, Fitness and Form info.
  • Ease of Use = Steeper learning curve than the others for sure but you can really slice and dice your data.
  • Price = Free (have to buy the hardware though, like Garmin)
  • Key Features = Workouts, History (with ability to share .fit files anytime), routes, planned workouts
  • Coolest Feature = Ability to adjust settings (e.g. auto-pause, auto-lap, etc.) on your head unit (Bolt or Roam) from the app.
  • Ease of Use = Intuitive and automatic. Set up was easy, too. Just download the app. and follow the bouncing cursor, as I like to say.

As you may know, I published a post earlier this year about data and whether it’s worth having access to so much of it. I believe it is but it’s certainly a matter of personal preference. I get that many of you don’t want to be bogged down with all of that info. You just want to ride.

For me, though, these apps have helped me take things to another level.

Strava, with its social nature, makes things more fun and allows you to compete with your friends. Garmin Connect does this as well but it’s not as popular, at least as far as I can tell.

Admittedly, I haven’t tried any of the Wahoo workouts but with FulGaz, Zwift and the great outdoors I’m content with that. My recent discovery of Garmin’s suggested workouts wasn’t a showstopper either.

Trainingpeaks, I believe, is the most helpful if you’re trying to dive deeper into those whys and hows of performance. Coincidentally, before I bought the app I purchased “Training + Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen, Andrew Coggan, and Stephen McGregor. As I read more and more it seemed to me that the book is somewhat of a companion to the app and in fact, Joe Friel, Co-Founder of Trainingpeaks, wrote the forward for the book.

So you pick. Or not.

If, however, you’re like me and want to better understand why you perform the way you do on a given day and also would like to glean some other valuable insight, take the leap and try one of these apps. Editors note: I did check Strava’s and Trainingpeaks’ websites for pricing today so they are current (for now).

I’m happy to provide more data points; just shoot me an email or give me a jingle!

Looking for Some Fall Color Rides? Here are a Few Options!

It’s definitely that time of year…the aspens are glowing here in the California Alps! While some areas have a bit more color than others you really can’t go wrong right now with the blue, almost purple sky, the clean air, the great fishing and for you leaf-peepers, those “poppin’ trees!

Hwy. 4/Ebbetts Pass

I snapped this image yesterday on my way up Highway 4; right in our back yard here at California Alps Cycling! This photo was taken but a few miles outside of town and as you can see, there is still some room for improvement.

The next 1-2 weeks should do it! Farther up the mountain there were more splashes of color, including some oranges and reds and there were quite a few “wow-moments” on Sunday when CAC members Greg Hanson, Rich Harvey and I took a ride up to Raymond Meadow Creek.

Blue Lakes Road

I did cheat a little bit here…this image was actually captured in October of 2018. I did ride up Blue Lakes Road from Hope Valley just last Thursday expecting to see more of the same but alas, just little patches here and there. I was disappointed because I had rigged up the GoPro for a FulGaz shoot; I ‘spect we’ll see sigificant progress in the next week or so, however, and am planning on taking another shot at it. But even if I do, you need to check it out for your fine-self!

Speaking of Hope Valley, the colors at or close to Sorensen’s, now known as Wylder, are AMAZING; one reason I started the session I mentioned above in Hope Valley. But with just a few exceptions there just wasn’t a lot of there, there. Give it a few more days…

Hwy. 89/Monitor Pass

This photo was taken on Monday, October 5th, while we were road trippin’ on Loope Canyon Road. The road is just off Highway 89 on the way up to the eastern side of Monitor Pass and there was just a smidge of color then. I haven’t had a chance to make my way back up but knowing what I know about the area there are, or will be, some nice patches of glow above Heenan Lake, as well as a bit farther up around the 8000′ mark.

And thanks to our friend Mario Carmona (that’s him on the left), who rode up there last Friday, here are a couple of photos that do the area some justice.

Now since we’re in Markleeville I am partial to this particular area, BUT no post on fall colors would be complete without mentioning our brothers and sisters to the south, specifically Mono County.

Mammoth

I had the opportunity last October to ride the June Lake Loop and it was a great ride. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you should and you should do it NOW according to what I read on Mono County’s fall color report (of Oct. 6th). Jeff Simpson, by the way, gets credit for the above photo, which was taken off (on?) Lodbell Lake Road. You’ll see his gallery on the link I’ve provided. It’s definitley worth a look!

So Get Out There and Get You Some!

While seeing them via car is fun, riding through colors like this is sicknasty.

Of course you could hike or walk (or ride a horse – I bet that would be sweet!) through them too but IMHO nothing beats doin’ the fall colors by bike, whether that be on the road, on the gravel or on the trails.

The fishing right now here on the East Fork of the Carson is kick-ass by the way. I talked to our Fish & Game Chairman, Todd Sodaro, last week and he let me know they have just planted a whole bunch of whales, one was over 10 pounds! I’m going to see about getting some fish in the freezer here soon.

And, as for grub…The Cutthroat is fully open and has both outdoor and indoor dining going on. Try the Deathride pizza if you can as I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll be looking for the smoke coming out of your ears!

In a couple more weeks we’ll have a new place for munchies too – the Out West Cafe. It will be in the same location where the Alps Haus once was and should be opening by the end of the month.

Markleeville Creek – image courtesy of Greg Hanson

So come on up, down, over or whatever and get you and your family some fall color karma, some leaf-peepin’ miles, some good grub and maybe a trout or two for the grill. Please remember, though, to do it safely, with the appropriate masking, hand-washing and distancing (i.e. follow those best practices).

See you soon?

Ps. California Alps Cycling is not responsible for you loosing your brain in all of Mother Nature’s splendor. You’re assuming all the risk when it comes to activities such as these and we’d hate to see your trip cut short, or worse, because you bit off more than you could chew or forgot to pay attention. Thanks, my lawyer said he feels better now.

And Now for Something Completely Different…

Since this is a blog that is pretty much devoted to all things cycling, it is a rare day, and a challenging one, when other than mentioning cycling in this paragraph, I don’t mention cycling, or mountain biking, or gravel riding, or something related thereto in the remainder of the post.

Okay, I’m glad I got that out of my system.

‘Twas This Bear That Made Us Go There

Hey Boo-boo…Where’s that pic-a-nic basket?

Or not go there, if you will. Our friendly neighborhood bear (one of them anyway) has visited us quite a bit this summer and fall and was the inspiration behind this “different post.” We’re pretty sure it’s one of two, approximately 3-year old cubs (are they still cubs at that age?), but we’re not sure if it’s the formerly golden fleeced cub we’ve shown you before, or its sibling. As you can see it’s a well-fed bear and it appears to be ready for the winter hibernation. Looking closely at the video you’ll notice that it does eyeball the bird seed-feeder (aka bear crack) that is hanging from the stair landing rail on its way up to see about that picnic basket.

The black bins that it sniffs are full of recycling and it now knows (because it has opened them previously) that there are no grinds in there. As it approaches the window we think it got wind of, or heard, my wife working inside at the dining room table, hence the abrupt turnaround and departure. The feeder, by the way, is taken in every night. Yup, if you’re going to do the seed-feeder ‘thang in bear country you’ve got to be diligent.

We remind ourselves often that yes, we do live in bear country, and to be honest we think that’s pretty cool, but it does come with responsibility. We don’t feed the bears and do chase them away when we see them.

Loope Canyon and Leviathan Mine Road Recon

In case you hadn’t guessed it, I’m switching tacks now.

This past Monday the little woman and I decided to do a bit of 4-wheelin’ and explore a couple of local fire roads that we thought might have some potential. Loope Canyon Road intersects with Highway 89 (on the way to Monitor Pass from the western side) as does Leviathan Mine Road, and as it turns out Loope Canyon also intesects directly with Leviathan Mine Road. Since I am not mentioning “you-know-what” in this post I won’t say that it might be a good route for well…you know.

We were able to travel from Loope Canyon Road (some pretty nasty gravel, er rocks, on that bit let me tell you) to Leviathan Mine Road (much nicer, fairly graded road with one exception) and from there we made our way to U.S. Highway 395 in Nevada.

This oil drum, by the way, is on Leviathan Mine Road at the CA/NV border. It seems appropriate, and a bit hilarious we thought, that it is shot full of holes.

The entire route was about 22 miles with over 3000 feet of elevation gain. The section from 395 up to Highway 89 (just above Heenan Lake) covered almost 15 miles and included about 2000 feet of climbing. Some possibilities we think; just need to figure out whether we do a loop, a hill climb or something in between. Won’t be this year so we’ve got some time to figure it out. If you have any suggestions do feel free to share!

In the meantime I’ll leave you with these views from HQ of Hot Springs Creek, aka the middle fork of the Carson River. It’s low but it’s still flowing and today a flock of Pinyon Jays decided to do a group dunk and preening session. Ahh, fall…my favorite season here in the California Alps…

We wish you and yours well and hope you’re successfully weathering the various storms, some figurative, some literal, that are taking place in our world today.

Please stay healthy and safe!

Deathride Dreaming? Need Some Ride-Inside Options? Check These Out!

As you likely know by now I’m a FulGaz devotee. That’s not to say I don’t use other “inside apps”, I do. Lately though, FulGaz (FG for short), has been my go-to. With the FulGaz French Tour now complete — my stats: 26:53:40 hours, 221 miles and 50,017 feet of climbing — and the smoke for the wildfires still lingering somewhat, I’m now looking forward to riding all of the Deathride climbs (and other local rides) from the pleasure of the pain cave.

And next week (Tuesday the 29th to be precise), I’ll have my chance and so will you!

Every Tuesday, FG does an email entitled Top Up Tuesday and yesterday I received a preview of ours! The library includes all five (5) of the current Deathride climbs (Monitor East & West, Ebbetts North & South, and Carson East) as well as the climb up Blue Lakes Road and some additional nuggets:

  • Markleeville to Snowshoe
  • Diamond Valley to Markleeville
  • The Alta Alpina Cycling Club (AACC) Markleeville Time Trial.

So here’s your chance to virtually explore some of the rides of Alpine County, and you can do so for very little, or no, money.

How can I do that? you ask. FulGaz offers a 14-day free trial so if you want to hit ’em all up in two (2) weeks you can definitely go that route (no pun intended). After the trial period, it’s only $12.99 per month or $108.99 per year. And no, I don’t work for, nor am I being compensated by FulGaz. I just wanted you to be aware since the application is so bitchin’ and I’ve found that a lot of riders just don’t know about it.

The email will go out to subscribers next Tuesday, September 29th, and the rides will be live that day as well!

Now I put in a lot of miles (~6000 per year), mostly outside, so riding inside isn’t my first option – most of the time. I do find it a great way, however, to do certain workouts in a more controlled environment. By that I mean FTP tests, HIIT work and so on; some of those external forces (e.g. wind, heat, rain, smoke, etc.) can wreak havoc on that day’s plan.

So why not take them out of the equation?

For example, yesterday morning, when I wanted to do some sprints, every two (2) miles, on flat roads, I turned to Zwift. But, when it comes to hill charges, hill repeats or the like, I prefer FulGaz. There I can find steady climbs, or rollers, or both. The steady climbs, like those on the Deathride, are much more conducive to steady efforts if you get my drift. It’s hard to maintain a certain power level when you have to go downhill.

I’ve found it to be an immersive experience, too!

Put on some tunes and put your fine-self in the heart of the California Alps without the need to stuff those jersey pockets, figure out where you’re going to get water or worry about traffic.

And, if you’ve not yet experienced the climbs of the Deathride and so you’re not sure what to expect, these rides will allow you to get a bit of practice in before next year.

Just be sure to put down that sweat mat, turn on those fans and if you’re like me, have an extra kit standing by.

Enjoy the rides and…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

Aches and Pains When Riding? Consider a Bike Fit!

If you’re like me, and most of the riders I know, you have some sort of issue with some part (of your anatomy) when riding. Sometimes it’s numbness in the nether-regions, sometimes it’s numbness in the hands, sometimes it’s burning in the feet and sometimes it’s some other nit somewhere else.

In the past I’ve dealt with several of these problems. Thanks to finding the right equipment and most importantly finding the right fit, though, that hasn’t been the case. Until recently…

Last year I ordered my first (and only) Project One bike from Trek: my boy Blue. Yup, that’s him below.

Blue, the wild mustang of Markleeville, named after Blue, one of leaders of a band of wild horses in the Pine Nuts.

It was an awesome experience, made even better thanks to the collaboration I had with Big Daddy’s Bike, Ski & Board (aka Big Daddy’s Bike & Brew I believe) in Gardnerville, NV.

Keith and crew did an awesome job helping me pick certain parts and speccing the bike and of course they assembled it as well. We pretty much nailed it! We did the basic bike fit — you know, elbows bent, not too extended in the cockpit, knees over the spindles using a plumb line — all that stuff, and the bike felt really good. I then double checked some measurements on my Domane and tried to replicate those as best I could on the Emonda.

After several thousand miles, however, I was still getting too much numbness in the hands and so I decided to quit putting off that professional bike fit.

I had one many years ago when I lived in the Bay Area and it was during those sessions that the bike fit technician suggested (among other tweaks) that I should invest in Speedplay pedals. Those pedals allowed for more set back than most (there’s a special plate that helps).

I have really long (14.5) feet and was getting too much hot foot because, as it turns out, the spindle was in front of the ball of my foot, thereby putting too much pressure on the toes and the nerves therein. I’m still riding Speedplays today and have been able to find some Euro size 15s that are Speedplay (aka 4-hole) specific, so no more need for that extender base plate and therefore the stack height that goes along with it.

Fast forward to today; last week to be more precise. After doing a bit of research I decided to go to Barton Ortho and Wellness in South Lake Tahoe, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Blue and I met with Harrison, a physical therapist and professional bike fitter. After a short interview it was on the bike for a look-see.

Harrison set up lasers to check knee alignment first and noticed my knees were coming in towards the top tube on the upstroke. We then checked my feet – yup, I’m a pronator – happens when we get older. Those arches go away. Some shims inside of the shoes and a re-check and it was much better.

We then took a look at my knee extension and seat position. Guess what? My seat was just a bit too high (we dropped it about 1/4 inch) and the nose was down 3 degrees. Both of those things made me put more pressure on the hands. And, as it turns out, that seat position was also putting a bit too much stress on the hips and lower back. Ah, that’s why the sore lower back maybe? Notwithstanding the knee issues it could cause… Seat down, nose up. Good to go.

A Bit of “Table-work”

Off the bike I got and on the table I went for a leg length and flexibility check. Both legs measured the same length so that was good. Flexibility was pretty good too but Harrison did notice some tightness in the left hip as well as the right ankle. A couple things to work on, certainly.

Next…I have a follow up appt. in the coming week and among other things I’m going to get fitted for some orthotics and report back on how things are going so far. Unfortunately, due to the smoke, I’ve not been able to ride outside but thanks to FulGaz (see last week’s post) I’ve managed to test out the new fit every day.

Here’s What I’ve Experienced so Far

While hand numbness is still there it’s MUCH LESS than it was. With my upper body size I put more weight on the bars than those of you who are much lighter and that’s not going to change. What could change, though, is my abdominal strength. Another reason it’s good to talk with a professional: I’ve been working on the lower back thinking that pain was due to lack of strength there. On the contrary, and somewhat counterintuitively, it’s my abs that need the work.

In other news…Back pain? Gone! Power? Up! Left/right balance? Better! Connection to the bike over all? Much improved! Oh, and the price? $250.00. For both sessions.

A bargain IMHO.

So if you are having some of these same botherations than you too are a candidate for a professional bike fit.

Get one and there’s no doubt you’ll be more blissful on the bike!

Let me know how it goes.

Smoky Where You Are? Here’s How You Can Mix Things Up

I’m a California boy, born and raised, and like you I suspect, have never seen anything in my 56 years like we’re seeing now with these fires. I’ll leave the hows and whys to the scientists and instead offer a glimpse into how I’m continuing to ride as well as what else I’m doing to stay engaged and fit.

The FulGaz French Tour

This tour has been my primary source of entertainment since the end of August. BTW, I’ve previously published a handful of posts that mention FulGaz so check those out too if you’re so inclined. It’s a great application and currently it’s even better with the addition of the FulGaz French Tour.

The Tour kicked off on August 28th, the day before the Tour de France started, and the idea, as you can imagine, is to ride twenty-one (21) stages by September 18th. Virtually. Just like the “real tour.” Not the same stages, no (there are some), but no less challenging, at least so far.

Last week I climbed over 17000 feet, with all but 3000 of it from the smokeless confines of Chalet Schwartz here in Markleeville!

Quick chest thump…

Thanks to the extra climbing that comes with the FulGaz French Tour, I was numero uno in climbing for the week in Alta Alpina’s 2020 Social Distancing Road Race Series. Sweet!

So far I’ve ridden the following stages:

  • Stage 1, Col de Turini – 9.29 miles, 3555 feet of climbing
  • Stage 2, Monaco Grand Prix Circuit – 16.21 miles, 1089 feet of climbing
  • Stage 3, Col du Galibier – 11.17 miles, 3998 feet of climbing
  • Stage 4, Harrogate Street Circuit, UCI Worlds 2019 – 8.48 miles, 821 feet of climbing
  • Stage 5, Luz Ardiden – 8.39 miles, 3379 feet of climbing
  • Stage 6, Ninove to Ghent – 23.03 miles, 785 feet of climbing
  • Stage 7, Lac de Cap de Long – 8.39 miles, 3398 feet of climbing
  • Stage 8, Els Angels – 9.05 miles, 1490 feet of climbing
  • Stage 9, Col du Chaussy, 6.19 miles, 2457 feet of climbing

I’ve still got eleven (11) more to do by September 18th and those stages include the Col d’Aspin, the Col d’Izoard, the Tour of Romandie TT, Six Laps of London, the Col du Telegraphe, and Mont Ventoux (that one’s going to be the hardest and longest I fear). It all wraps up with the Alpe d’Huez!

A challenging stage race to be sure. Oh, and did I mention that there is live tracking as well as stage results for each stage, and a GC too? After nine (9) stages I’m 94th out of 115; 11h 41m 44s of time on the bike so far. The leader of the GC after the same stages: 6h 26m 13s. Overachiever!

Other Options

Don’t forget strength training! I try to get two (2) workouts in a week, focused mostly on my upper-body and core. In the above pic are some of the systems of suffering I utilize. Take note of the red medicine ball, a “no-bounce,” which among other things lets me do squat and slams without the ball bouncing up and hitting me in the mug. Some Bowflex dumbbells, an inexpensive bench, a regular medicine ball and some kettlebells are the other items you see.

On the cycling and running front there is of course that ol’ standby, Zwift, which has certainly been getting a lot of press (and paying heavily for it I would imagine) during the Tour de France. I’m so thankful for my DVR – watching all of those commercials would be painful.

I’ve recently started using TrainingPeaks and it too has workouts of which one can partake. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading “Training + Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen, Andrew Coggan and Stephen McGregor and it syncs up nicely with TrainingPeaks.

Wahoo’s application has some “good grinds” (not the food kind, sorry) too and there are myriad others, including TrainerRoad and Strava. And, here’s an article from PC mag that provides some additional data.

I should mention that the FulGaz French Tour allows riders to do more than one stage a day, and out of order, if you so choose. I’ve taken advantage of this on a couple occasions by doing a flat(ter) warm-up stage before a climbing stage. A double whammy!

Some Additional Suggestions

Especially if you’re going to put in some long rides/hours on the trainer:

  • Extra kits, or at least a jersey, depending on how much you sweat, that are accessible from the bike so you can change mid-stage if you need.
  • Same with water – fill some extra bottles beforehand.
  • Food is good. I made a turkey and cheese sandwich after one stage and to save time ate it during the next stage. It also made it feel more like I was doing a “real event.”
  • I hooked up a portable A/C unit because without it, things got a little steamy in the cave. Combine it with a couple fans, especially if you have a smaller workout room like I do.
  • Lastly, speaking of fans…I just started doing this and it works well: Put a fan behind you and one in front. That backside breeze lessens the drips and it just feels nice.

One last bit of advice: Get a bike fit. I spent a couple hours doing just that yesterday. The fitter, also a physical therapist, made some adjustments to my seat and my shoes and after just one ride I can already feel the difference. The jury is still out on whether or not what we did is good enough or if I need more; time will tell. Still, it was something I had been avoiding because of the time it takes but I thought why not do it now? it’s too smoky to ride outside anyway!

What about you? What are you doing? Any suggestions for your fellow readers? Let us all know by commenting on this post.