Month: July 2020

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. πŸ™

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 πŸ˜‰
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!