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.

The Social Distancing Racing Season Comes to a Smoky End

This morning I got a little glimpse into what Smoke Eaters did, or in some cases still do, when I tackled the last race of the season, the Diamond Valley Road Race. When I got home my wife crinkled – or wrinkled, you choose – her nose at the smell that permeated my clothes, helmet, you name it.

To my credit, for what that’s worth (I’m a knucklehead) I did check the AQI before I left. It was in the green here at HQ and in Alpine Village (where the race started) so even though it was showing over 150 in Diamond Valley I went for it. I thought the wind might be blowing east based on those two green readings but that was not the case; it was coming in from all directions.

I should have called for extraction but you know how that goes – I was committed, or more aptly put,
should be (committed that is)!

Some Background

The season started on April 19th and due to the pandemic the first few races of the Alta Alpina Cycling Club’s (AACC) COVID-19 Social Distancing Race Series were slotted to be time trials. We had hoped, as many of you likely did in April, that we’d be so over this by now. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and so all of the remaining races (twenty in all) were done as time trials. Click here, by the way, if you’d like to read my initial post of April 23rd on this subject.

On my way home after the Fredricksburg TT (August 27th). Had a really good race!

I should point out that the racing season doesn’t really end until this Sunday, and perhaps it will be extended if the smoke continues to be an issue. I was a minute slower today than I was back in April, maybe because of the smoke, or maybe for another reason…See the “What I learned” section below for more on that. Nonetheless, I could race the course again as I have until at least Sunday, but there are still many more racers to go, many of whom are FAST. So, right now I’m not too motivated to put that on my calendar; in addition to looking for work-work, I’m also doing the FulGaz French Tour (more on that next week), so this professional cyclist (as my brother from another mother calls me) is a bit busy.

What I’ve Learned

  • For a nervous, have no clue what I’m doing first-time racer, this format was perfect!
  • I was able to ride against the clock, as opposed to other, more-experienced racers, and so was less intimidated.
  • I still had to race every week and so preparation, including rest, nutrition and hydration, was very necessary. BTW, I still need more practice on the prep. part.
  • I have a tendency to go too fast and hard on the out-leg. I’ve really only been able to keep those horses in the gate for one race, the week 15 Foothill TT, and on that day I was 27″ behind at the turn but made up 42″ on the return leg. That discipline helped me beat my previous PR by 15 seconds!
  • I have to think more strategically/tactically: One rider re-did the Luther TT a few days after he and I raced to a tie. He smoked me on his re-do and so earned more points for that second effort.
  • I still need to cogitate more creatively. E.G., should I ride in the a.m., afternoon, or evening since weather and wind conditions do change? I’ve been paying more attention to what the big dawgs do so that next year…
  • It was so fun and engaging, even riding solo!
    • Seeing how others did, what they did and when they did it was cool (and helpful).
    • Bragging rights (I did beat my nemesis ONCE) are part of the equation.

Here’s some other images from some of my races. Sorry but no snot-dripping, coughing up a lung, sweat soaked Mark photos. You’re welcome!

Looking forward to the official points totals and hoping I’m still in the Top 10. So honored to be put in the A group for my first year of racing and am planning on being even better next year.

The totals a/o week 17. And I only missed one race!

Thank you to my fellow members of the Alta Alpina Cycling Club for helping me take my riding to another level!

Big thanks too, to the first responders who are out there on the front lines right now trying to keep us all safe from this uber-crazy year of wildfires.

Looking forward to a superior – and fingers crossed, a smokeless, no masks or social distancing required – racing season, next year.

Markleeville Missive – News from About Town

Another week, another hump day! Today, though, is a bit more exciting than the usual hump day because it’s the soft opening of the Cutthroat Brewing Company! While most Markleevillians are over the top excited, including yours truly, we also must deal with a bit of controversy – the Thin Blue Line flag. The flag is not shown in the image below but it is hanging, along with the American flag, outside the bar now, and it is causing quite a stir.

Admittedly, yours truly has been behind the proverbial 8-ball on the controversy surrounding the flag so I did a bit of research on Wikipedia for this post. I found this:

“The term is derived from the Thin Red Line, a formation of the 93rd Highland Regiment of Foot of the British Army at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854, in which the Scottish Highlanders stood their ground against a Russian cavalry charge. This action was widely publicized by the press and recreated in artwork, becoming one of the most famous battles of the Crimean War. The name is now used for firefighters today.”

Of course that is by no means the entire story. Wikipedia expands on its article by describing the controversy thusly: “Critics suggest that the “thin blue line” symbolism represents an “us versus them” mindset that heightens tensions between officers and citizens and negatively influences police-community interactions, by setting police apart from society at large.”

I get that. Especially in light of the Black Lives Matter Movement. I can also understand that for some it has no significance other than to show respect to police and other first responders. The co-owner of the bar told several of us that recently. Her husband is a deputy sheriff here in Alpine Co. so it has a different meaning to her (and to him too I suspect). By the way I know them both well and they are fine individuals who care DEEPLY about, and give generously of their time and money to, our community.

So, what to do? Some in town are writing letters and boycotting the establishment. I respect that. My wife and I are not taking that stance, however. We decided that first and foremost we are going to support our friends who have worked so hard to get “our Cheers” open. We want to hear what others have to say, see what the vibe is at the bar (outside seating only due to Covid-19), and see how things develop.

I’m curious though…What do you think? Am I being naive? Just uninformed? Are others over-thinking it? Does it make me a racist if I don’t boycott the bar?

Would love your thoughts so please share — comment on this post or hit us up on Facebook.

In Other News

That heading reminds me of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” and I realize it is somewhat of an awkward segue after the previous topic. Still, I did want to share a few other things – the first of which is bad, and good.

I’ve officially joined the ranks of the unemployed. Boy it feels weird to “say” that. After being on furlough since March, my position, like many others at my former company, was eliminated. I had worked there over eleven years and it’s the first time I’ve been unemployed. Ever. I’ve got some feelers out, though, and I’m optimistic about a potential consulting gig. I’m also looking it as an opportunity to take my passion for cycling to another level. Send me good vibes, k?

California Alps Cycling now has twenty members! Perhaps that’s not a lot compared to other clubs or organizations but for us it’s a big deal. Huge thanks to Phil Harvey for making the leap and being #20. It’s a relatively cheap investment ($40.00) and by being a member you help support our cycling causes here in the heart of the Sierra. And, you can get a free shirt too!

This is just one of our designs/colors. We’ve got three (3) others as well. If you’re interested in earning that shirt and at the same time helping raise cycling awareness here in Markleeville and surrounds (we have several non-cyclist members by the way) go to our membership page, fill out the form and send us your hard-earned ducats via PayPal.

Your support is oh so valued!

116 Facebook followers and counting! We’re grateful to those of you who are on that list. We also just hit 62 followers on Instagram. Thank you “grammers” ;-).

Not earth shattering numbers compared to others but to us it’s MASSIVE NEWS! One of the perks of being on furlough was the ability to spend more time socializing California Alps Cycling and it’s nice to see those efforts paying off.

Now what? Well, that’s one of the things I’m trying to figure out. Like many of you riding bikes is my passion. My happy place. My escape. And it has been for most of my life. How can I pay that forward? Can I make a living doing it? All questions to be answered in the positive I hope.

From last Sunday’s ride…Markleeville to Route 207 (Kingsbury) and over Daggett Summit to S. Lake Tahoe. Then up and over Luther Pass into Hope Valley and back to town. Was an awesome, about 70 mile, ride!

That brings me to a question, or questions, for you loyal follower:

  • Would you be willing to pay for personal cycling tours here in the Markleeville area?
  • Would you come here and partake of a gravel ride or fondo of some sort? Maybe the weekend before the Deathride, for example?
  • What would be most important to you? Cost? Schwag? Takeaways (i.e. learning new skills)?
  • If you’re answer, or answers, are in the negative, for what reason or reasons?

We’d love your input especially since we realize that some of you (hopefully not too many) are likely in the same boat.

Have a Great Rest of the Week!

As always I appreciate you taking the time to read what I write. Today’s main topic was not one I had planned on penning but it would have felt strange to just gloss over the “elephant in the room.”

As for the other subjects… T’was a mix of catharsis, positivity and queries and I eagerly await your input on all!

Wishing you and yours a safe, happy and non-controversial (or controversial if that’s your happy place) remainder of the week. And while we’re at it, have a fantabulous weekend, too.

— Mark

Need More Room for Your Bikes? Here’s What We Did!

If you’re like us here at California Alps Cycling then you can never have too many bikes. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have enough space for them, right? Chalet Schwartz, aka CA Alps Cycling HQ, is a former A-frame cabin that we (as my wife likes to say) turned into a mountain home. While true — we upgraded the inside of the home substantially — we were not able to add space.

So, like some of you I suspect, we needed (and still need) to better utilize the space we did have. We had bikes in the garage, bikes in the pain cave, bikes in the office and still have bikes in the basement. Those are fat-bikes that are on loan from a friend though so we don’t have to make room for them long-term. Anyway, we were always moving bikes to get to something or make room for something, or someone(s).

So after several months (hey, we don’t move too fast here in Markleeville) of pondering the where and the how we finally googled “bike closet” and bam, tons of ideas! The one that we liked the most, and that seemed to be the best fit for our mountain home, was Elfa’s Utility Bike Rack.

We had some experience with Elfa, specifically their rack system for pantries, and were really pleased with that, and so we ordered the rack, which as Elfa describes, “includes four steel Vertical Bike Hooks featuring a cushioned, non-slip coating and four steel Accessory Hooks.”

The before…

The Demo

Out came those doors and the shelves as well as some old cable tv wires and a couple weird items, one of which was a screwdriver, sans handle, that was stuck through the wall into a stud. Still trying to figure out what that was about. Anway, it all came out. All of it!

Then the spackle went on (in?) and eventually off to Home Depot we went for the paint. Love the modern paint technology nowadays: we just brought in a jersey so the computer could match up the color that we wanted. We sure miss those good ol’ days of comparing paint chips. Not!

Spackle dry and sanding done. Then some masking and drop clothes.

The Reno

Painting time! We put on the base layer (white semi-gloss) and painted one of the shelves and the inside portion of the closet where the doors were “CA Alps blue” as we now call it. We bought some puck lights for the ceiling, too and on those went.

The install of the rack went fairly smoothly. I write “fairly” because after our measuring and stud-finding, with one small adjustment, we discovered that we installed it upside down – the bike hooks didn’t clip in like they should have. Shit! Upon further inspection we realized those two slots in the rack go up, not down. No, we didn’t get instructions. 🙁

So out came the screws (half of which have to be in studs, by the way) and off came the rack. Again. Thankfully the holes still matched up. The bike hooks and accessory hooks then snapped right in as they should have in the first place. As a bit of a finishing touch we added some decals to the shelf we painted and installed that on the back wall of the closet.

Voila!

Complete with mood lighting! Dig the patriotic theme?

It’s a nice clean look certainly yet there is still some work to be done; we need to figure out the best storage options. Do we add shelves or drawers under the bikes? Between the bikes? Not sure yet. We’ll let that develop.

In the meantime…the bikes are easy to remove, just lift up and turn the wheel slightly and out they come. Not a lot of bumping and grinding. The non-slip coating works well and the bikes hooks “float” just a bit so the don’t touch the wall.

No more bikes on the floor or doing the bike shuffle any longer. Yay!

So there you have it. If you are struggling with that perfect bike storage set up let your fingers do the walking (you youngsters are going to have to google that one). You too can stop doing the bicycle shuffle and perhaps fit another bike or two in. Don’t worry, we won’t tell your other half that you’re pondering yet another cycling purchase.

Got some ideas of your own to share? Want to show off your set up? Post up a comment here or go to our FB or IG page and add your creative ideas.

Hump Day Update from Markleeville – Beer, Fishing and Weather

Happy hump day! I hope this post finds you and yours happy, healthy and safe. I thought I’d take moment and provide an update on some goings on here in the heart of the Sierra. I’ve got some news about cerveza, the 411 on the trout fishing in and around Markleeville and a bit of info. on the weather front.

Oh yeah! Local brew coming…

You may have seen our Facebook post of last week but when it’s about beer it’s always worth repeating as far as we’re concerned! For those of you who recognize the Cutthroat name you know that the “brewing company” addition is new.

So is the sign – remember that ol’ fish sign? A cutthroat trout it was and it’s where the bar got its name. I’ve heard some crazy stories about what the bar used to be, including the bras that were nailed to the ceiling.

The new owners, though, have decided to go in a different direction with a more family friendly pub and their own brew! They are working hard to get “Markleeville’s Cheers” open soon and we can’t wait. Markleeville brew will come later on.

4 lb. + trout-whales

I caught these babies in Silver Creek last month. I took the pic right after I caught the second one and as you can see I was a bit excited. Screamin-excited! I would have had three (I swear) but the first one spit the hook just as I was getting the net under it.

Overall, the fishing has been pretty good this season and the trout that Todd Sodaro, Chair of Alpine Co. Fish & Game, has planted, have been large, lovely and oh so tasty. He gets them from Oregon and they have a nice pink/orange flesh and are more flavorful than the white-fleshed trout that are also around.

Last Friday he planted another batch of these beauties (East and West Forks of the Carson) and the average weight was 4 pounds!

I took a ride up Highway 4 this a.m. and was pleased to see that the chocolate milk of Monday was gone; the clear, green water that we, and trout prefer, was back. Apparently many fisherpersons got the word – there were lots of them out there so come and get ’em before they are on someone else’s grill!

Stormin’ Norman weather lately

This image doesn’t do what we’ve had the last couple days any justice – even General Schwarzkopf would be impressed.

In the above photo the clouds are beginning to form (this was just over HQ, by the way) but lately we’ve seen increased activity and severity. Today is supposed to be the worst day so far this season with the potential for large hail, big winds and flooding in some regions, especially burn-scarred areas like those that exist around the Numbers Fire. There were reports of quarter-sized hail yesterday!

For the most part, I must admit, we locals are welcoming the cool, damp and windy aspects of the storms. It’s been so frickin’ hot! We are however wary of the potential fire danger and so it’s a mixed bag for sure. Thoughts, prayers and good vibes go out to everyone who may be affected by these storms, or any storms for that matter.

And to the firefighters and others battling the blazes, we salute you. Your courage and fortitude, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, is inspiring.

As I sit here punching these keys I’m hearing the rumbling, and the blue has disappeared. Haven’t seen any lightning today, though. Yet.

My wife just reported from Woodfords (just above Alpine Village) and said there was some hail but that it had petered out by the time she got to the Fredricksburg area.

This is our typical weather pattern for this time of year – I have to remind myself of that sometimes; being born and raised in San Jose I didn’t get much thunderstorm experience. Around the Eastern Sierra, though, you can almost set your watch by it.

Brings back memories…Two years ago, James, one of our members who was riding the Deathride, was caught in a downpour, with bonus hail, as he descended from Carson Pass. You never know what you’re going to get here in the California Alps so it’s good to always be prepared.

Speaking of prepared…

If you do decide to come to Markleeville and partake be sure to bring, and more importantly wear, your face coverings.

We are strictly adhering to that requirement and ask that all visitors do the same. The virus, though, like the weather, shall pass. Especially if we all do our part.

Stay safe, drink beer, catch fish, enjoy the weather and go and kick some passes’ asses!

The Ghost Ride Cometh to the California Alps

Last Saturday, July 11th, was Deathride Day. For many of us it’s an annual holiday but this year, due to the pandemic, there was no holiday. 😢

Like many other organizations that had to regroup for their road, gravel or MTB events, we had to make that call, too.

We is not California Alps Cycling, by the way. Full disclosure, or for your edification, depending, as it can be a bit confusing and we’ve had people ask us when they could register for the DR.

The Deathride (the DR) is also known as the Tour of the California Alps. And of course we are known as California Alps Cycling (CAC). So it’s understandable that there may be some confused looks on your fine faces.

The Deathride, however, is owned and operated by the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce (based here in Markleeville, coincidentally and to add to the confusion, just like CAC). Mark Schwartz – (that would be me) your intrepid blogger (weird wearing both the 1st person and 3rd person hats) and founder of California Alps Cycling, is a member of the Chamber board.

Lucky him (me) as it’s an awesome and solemn duty (not kidding) to be a part of such an historical event. Let’s be fully clear in that respect too. It’s a group effort, with many volunteers, community, county and state agencies, and many moving parts and balls to juggle. Most of the heavy lifting, however, is done by the Chamber’s Executive Director, Becky DeForest-Hanson, and Curtis Fong, our ride director, and his team at Bike the West.

Alright, that’s better. Let’s get on with the big announcement…Drum roll please!

The Ghost Ride – Tour of the California Alps COVID-19 Edition is here!

From the Ghost Ride Facebook page:

Tour the California Alps by bicycle! This COVID-19 edition of the Death Ride is done on your time, at your pace. Come visit Alpine County to do the ride or experience it remotely via FulGaz, high-quality virtual rides from anywhere in the world! Once you are finished, upload your results to Strava. We’re all in this together – let’s see how many people we can collectively get over the 5 passes!

It’s going to be a scary good time. I know, I know. Cheap pun. Couldn’t help it.

You sharp-eyed readers probably noticed the reference to FulGaz and you know that we’ve (yup, really me so should be an “I’ve”) written about that company/product quite a bit. In last week’s post that Mark guy mentioned that we’re (we/I were/was referring to the Chamber we, not the CAC we – isn’t this fun?) putting together a DR library.

So far three (3) climbs have been filmed: Monitor West, Monitor East and Ebbetts North. Ebbetts South (from Hermit Valley) is scheduled to be filmed tomorrow and Carson Pass, the final climb of the DR, will be filmed next week. Monitor West has been tested. Again, lucky Mark (me), he (I) gets to film them and then test them in the pain cave – a double whammy certainly but it’s oh so cool to be able to really pay attention to the scenery, and what scenery it is. You are going to love it!

Now it’s likely that these virtual climbs won’t be available until August (one reason why the Ghost Ride goes into August) but we (FulGaz and me, uh, Mark) are all giving it our best efforts to get them posted for public consumption ASAP.

So for those of you who can participate here in Alpine Co., you don’t have to wait. For those of you who can’t make the trip out to the heart of the Sierra though, stay tuned.

You’ll have your chance to suffer virtually. Or would that be virtually suffer?

Okay, you’re right…you’ll literally suffer, you’ll just be doing it in the privacy of your own virtual world. Huh? That’s incorrect – it’s a real world, you’re just riding virtually. Wait! You’re really riding but that’s not you on the screen. Okay, this makes our collective brain(s) hurt.

Let’s just say this:

However you do it, do it well and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

And while we’re at it, let’s kick that viruses’ ass too, k?

Thinking of Filming Some Rides? Here are a Few Things to Consider

Like some of you I suspect, I’ve been wanting to film some of my rides for my own archives, and to share with friends and family (and perhaps become the latest YouTube sensation). Hey! It’s good to have big hairy audacious goals, you know?

As it turns out, because of the cancellation of the Deathride this year (the ride would have taken place this Saturday) due to the pandemic, I’ve been given a unique opportunity to fulfill that dream: filming rides in the California Alps for FulGaz. FulGaz? you say. Check out these posts from March of last year or January of this year, or click on the image below, for more on that most excellent app.

Okay, so back to the Deathride thing…Our (the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce) forward thinking Exec. Director came up with the idea of having some sort of event, or events, to keep riders engaged while we waited for July of 2021 to do the actual 40th Anniversary Resurgence Tour (of the California Alps, that is – it’s other name as you may know).

I shouldn’t say much more because that’s her cat to let out of the proverbial bag, but one of the concepts we came up with is to offer virtual rides of some sort. Having spent some time (especially in the winter) on the trainer I had experience with FulGaz and so I volunteered to reach out to them.

We’ve since begun the process of putting together a Deathride library!

I’ve filmed a bunch of rides over the last month or so for that endeavor and I’ve learned a lot, some of it the hard way.

Here are my suggestions with the hope you too could be the next Francis Ford Coppola.

Get the Right Ca-Ca

As in equipment.

  • My GoPro6 wasn’t going to cut it so I went with the GoPro8 Black.
  • The mount needs to be ON YOUR BIKE and it needs to be CENTERED unless you want to see the bars, or your shadow, etc. I went with an integrated K-Edge mount. This was, by the way, a FulGaz recommendation.
  • If you are having another rider film a ride for you make sure you know their set up so you can adjust if needed.
  • Have back up power. The GoPro battery will give you only about an hour. I attached a small top tube pack to the bike and ran the cable from the camera to the bag and so I can get about 4 hours.
  • Make sure your microSD cards have enough memory. I’m using 128GB cards.

Get the Right Angle

Take a look at these two images:

See what I mean about the mount? And, to reiterate, it’s not just the mount you need to be concerned with; make sure you have the right balance of road to sky. FulGaz recommends centering the horizon vertically in the image. The GoPro8 has a very cool feature that makes this easier – preview. You can look real time through the camera via the app on your phone while on site!

Get Good Internet

This is one I learned the hard way. Our internet here at HQ in Markleeville is not NEARLY what we had in San Jose. It uploads as slowly as molasses in winter.

Here’s me the day after I filmed my first ride: “I’ve got a great video of a bitchin’ ride and I’m ready to upload it to Google drive so the crew at FulGaz can download it and start processing it tomorrow. Sweet!”

WHAT? 60 FRICKIN’ HOURS TO UPLOAD A RIDE?

AYFKM!? Sound it out. You’ll figure out what it stands for…

The files are large, like many, many GBs large, so account for that!

Aren’t there some options? I’ve tried a few things, sure, but here in Markleeville those options are limited. I gave a couple local businesses (faster internet in town) and the Starbucks in Gardnerville, NV (30 mins. away) a shot and it was much better (tongue firmly planted in cheek). Sixteen (16) hours instead of 60. Ouch.

Needless to say I can’t do 16 hours at a Starbucks! So my current approach is to leave the Mac on and uploading for as long as it takes and then go off and film the next ride (or work on the honey-do list); the team at FulGaz has other work they need to do anyway, okay?

Get Some Help

FulGaz does have a support page and on it they do have a video that was helpful. In my back and forth with their engineering and release team, however, I also obtained a written guide. The latter I use as a checklist before every ride.

Some hints:

  • Bike computer features we cyclists enjoy, like auto-pause for example, are problematic when trying to sync up the video with the .FIT file. Turn off auto-pause when filming.
  • If you stop for a nature break or some food you need to back up about 20 meters when you begin again. That will allow you (or them) to more easily edit the gap, as it were.
  • Visual cues, like waving a hand in front of the camera when you start and stop, are helpful. I like to look at the camera just before I start. That gives the editor their visual cue and lets me confirm that the camera is rolling.

So What Have We Learned Grasshopper?

Do your homework, get or have good internet, make sure you have the right angle of the dangle and while it will take some investment on your part, get the right equipment. Do these things and you too can become a filming guru (or at least move in that direction).

That’s a wrap.

Only another 73 hours to go until my latest ride is ready for download at the other end. Sigh.

Want to be a Better Climber? Here are 5 Nuggets of Wisdom

For those of you who have met me you know I don’t have the typical climber’s frame – in fact I don’t have the typical cyclist’s frame either. At over six-feet tall and about 220 pounds I climb better than most cyclists even though I weigh more than most cyclists. I don’t say this out of braggadocio, and I’m never going to be a Pantani or a Froome, but if I can improve my climbing prowess, so can you!

Now if you’re a loyal reader you know I’ve waxed on about climbing in the past, including a post back in September of 2018 where I wrote about some of these same principles. Recently, though I’ve had somewhat of an epiphany so I wanted to share. Again!

Nugget #1 – Work on the Weight

Yup, it’s somewhat of a no-brainer but I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on other things, many of them productive, at the expense of this one.

I just wasn’t improving as quickly as I wanted, even with all the other work I was doing, so I set a goal to get to my lowest weight since high school. I had that “Denial is d-longest river in d-world” moment, you know?

You can tell by my shadow 😉
that I was a bit porkier back in November

I realized that goal and lost 20 pounds. Granted, the weight does fluctuate day-to-day but I know my base weight is a helluva lot less than it was and that’s making a difference, and not just on the bike. Can you say power-to-weight ratio?

Nugget #2 – Eat Better

Most cyclists I know, including yours truly, drink a lot of beer. We often take the approach that goes something like this:

“Hey, I’ve burned 1000 calories today, I can eat (or drink) 1000 calories more.”

This one has been the bane of my existence and still is to a certain extent. Today, however, I focus more on the what and not as much on the how much. Sure, sometimes I over do it but when I do I back off the next few days.

In general I eat more fiber than I used to (especially in the a.m. – it “holds” better) as well as lots of yogurt and other high-quality, lean proteins and most importantly I focus more on the after-workout nutrition. That 30 minute window post-ride is crucial. Get some good protein and carbs in after that ride.

My biggest challenge is snacking, especially after dinner. When I don’t do that the scale is happier and I sleep better, too. Go figure.

Lastly, it’s the little things…Every once in a while I choose less over more. For example a 1/2 a sandwich instead of a whole, some pasta and cottage cheese instead of that sandwich – I can live off of those things, I swear! – or no 2nd breakfast or mid-morning snack and a chore instead (gotta keep my mind off my stomach).

Nugget #3 – Get More Rest

This one is probably the most challenging for me and I suspect it may be for you as well. So much to ride, so little time. I’ve been somewhat immersed in racing season (see my April 23rd post about Social Distancing Racing) and so every week it’s another challenge. Early on I kept riding, in some cases fairly hard) between races (all TTs), and it began to take its toll. I wasn’t sleeping well some nights, my heart was pounding some mornings when it didn’t used to and my average resting heart rate was climbing.

Once I added in a rest day or two per week I slept better, my RHR got back to a more normal range and I wasn’t so cranky. Denial is d longest river…

Nugget #4 – HIIT it

High-Intensity Interval Training is what HIIT stands for and as painful as it can be it is SO WORTH IT!

The book “Climb!” (see my March 21, 2019 post) by Selene Yeager was life-changing for me. Among other things it includes several HIIT options (it’s by no means an exhaustive resource on the subject, though) that I find can be done inside or outside. In fact IMHO some of them are more easily done on the trainer since as it is a more controlled environment.

HIIT also includes lifting heavy weights. When I lift (twice a week ideally) I go with the circuit training model – I keep the heart rate up and use weights that allow me to do 12 reps per set and 3 sets. I often alternate push, pull, legs, arms, etc. so I can rest some muscles between sets.

I now throw in some weights that are so heavy I can only lift them 5 times or so. The muscles don’t know what to do initially but they figure it out and I’ve gotten both stronger and more lean.

Nugget #5 – Core, Core, Core

It’s all about balance and it’s the core that is responsible. As a martial artist I know this but I have to remind myself fairly often. It’s easier to just get on the bike.

My core-efforts, if you will, include a lot of kettle bell work as well as balance exercises on the Bosu ball and most recently I’ve hung some straps in the garage so I can do leg-curls and leg-lifts from the bottom up, if you get my drift. This approach really works the lower abs and hip-flexors.

I’ve also added other, non-traditional exercises to my repertoire. These include scorpions, weighted jump squats and bird-dogs.

Oh, and speaking of non-traditional…Check out this post: “Find a few extra watts,” from pedalWORKS. I too was skeptical but I kid you not I immediately saw the watts go up when “breaking the bar.”

Show Me the Money!

Coming up the eastern side of Monitor during the 2018 Deathride

Alright Cuba (Gooding, not the country) here are a couple rides I’ve done recently that validate this approach.

Kingsbury Grade (Daggett Summit) – 7.75 miles, 6% avg. gradient, ~2500′ of up

First ridden in April of 2017 and ridden three (3) more times since, the latest being last May (the 29th).

On that May ride I improved on my previous best time
by over thirteen (13) minutes!

Monitor East (Monitor Pass) – 9.25 miles, 7% avg. gradient, ~3100′ of up

First ridden in May of 2017 and ridden six (6) more times since, the latest being June 26th of this year.

On that June ride I improved on my previous best time
by over fourteen (14) minutes!

Granted, this improvement didn’t happen overnight and frankly I’ve still got some more work to do but by focusing more on rest, losing some weight, strengthening my core, hitting those intervals and keeping a better eye on my nutrition I’ve become a much better climber and a better cyclist overall.

Sure, some of this stuff may be obvious (e.g. weight loss) but in my mind it’s the combination of all of these things that have made me a better mountain goat.

How about you?
What have you done to be a better cyclist,
gravel rider or mountain biker?

Do tell!

Climbing Mt. Everest on a Bike? What the What!?

Last Saturday (and Sunday too), three (3) intrepid athletes did that on Ebbetts Pass, for the first time! They didn’t really climb Everest.

Let me explain.

Image courtesy of wikipedia

Everesting, as it is known is “fiendishly simple, yet brutally hard.”

Everesting.cc, from where the above quote is taken, describes it thusly:

The concept of Everesting is fiendishly simple: Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and complete repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 8,848m – the equivalent height of Mt Everest. Complete the challenge on a bike, on foot, or online, and you’ll find your name in the Hall of Fame, alongside the best climbers in the world.

Those athletes I mentioned? Roy Franz, Paige Redman and Shane Trotter. I have to mention (brag, actually) that Shane is CA Alps Cycling member #7.

And Roy, Paige and Shane are all in the Everesting Hall of Fame!

HUGE CONGRATS from California Alps Cycling to them all! RESPECT!

These very fit, very crazy and very driven riders started their adventure Saturday a.m. at about 7:00 a.m.

Shane, the fastest of the three (and an everesting pro – this was his 8th), finished in 17H 27M and did so while experiencing some debilitating (at least for we mortals) stomach issues. When I saw him just below Cascade Creek you couldn’t tell he was suffering.

Paige hammered this thing out in 18H 54M. I saw her too as I was driving up the hill to do some fishing and gave her a few words of encouragement. Frankly, I don’t think she needed them but based on her reaction she appreciated the gesture. Hey we all know what it’s like to get a few “attas” when we’re suffering. Will ride (harder, faster, longer) for cowbells, right?

Roy took a bit (okay a lot) longer than Paige and Shane. His time: 29H 32M. Yup, you read that correctly; over 24 hours!

I saw Roy during his attempt also, while he was on his 5th ascent, and as I told him, he looked great. He wasn’t even sweating! Fast forward to Sunday afternoon…I ran into Roy again, this time I was riding (to the point where they started their assault), though and he was getting into his car to head back home (with a stop planned at his favorite deli on the way).

A beaming Roy after his successful Everesting attempt

While all three of them are total animals, Roy gets the perseverance prize. He regaled me with stories of the cold and the sore hands; he had to stop at one point for some hot soup and coffee early Sunday a.m. but got back on the bike and finished. Me? Nap time. I would have been done at that point. No wait, I wouldn’t have made it to that point!

To be clear – all of these riders were on the mountain after dark. This particular mountain, for those who haven’t experienced it, has some nasty corners too, so not only did they have to climb at night, they had to descend too. Not for the feint of heart. Did I say “RESPECT?”

Just to give you a sense of the climb and the descent, here’s a couple video clips of Shane doing his thing during a filming session we did about 10 days ago. Remember, these riders did this during the day, and at night. About thirteen times!

As I tell folks who ask me how I do those long rides (again, nothing like these riders have done) it’s mostly about will. Sure, you have to be fit but in the end it comes down to how much pain and suffering you can endure. Needless to say, these three fine individuals can endure, and endured, a lot!

Talk about kicking some passes’ asses…

Thank you Paige, Roy and Shane for the inspiration. All of you are cycling champions and we wish you well on future Everesting attempts.

Better you than me!