Category: climbing

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!

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Forum

Well, not a forum per se, but work with me here…I’m referring to California Alps Cycling headquarters, which could loosely be defined as a forum.

Webster’s “1b definition” of forum is “a public meeting place for open discussion.” While we haven’t had any public meetings (aka grub and beerfests) recently, we have in the past and we certainly plan to have more in the future. This virus too shall pass…

Image credit: Pittsburgh Current

For you youngsters — admittedly I was only 6 years-old when the movie premiered but I thought it would be good to provide some context — here’s a link to a clip of the movie, and if you’d like to go the extra mile and read the Pittsburgh Current review, click here.

So now that I’ve set the tone, as it were, let’s get to my story of woe. “Whoa” also works in this case, as you’ll see. Read on!

Last Friday, again thanks to Alta Alpina’s Social Distancing Racing Series, I participated in my 7th TT in the last 7 weeks. This was the first climb we did in the series and being a clydesdale (6’2″, 220#) I knew I wasn’t going to be in the top 10, so my goal was to get it done in under an hour; my previous best was 1:10. I rode from HQ so I got in a nice warm up of about 20 miles or so before I hit the grade, a Cat. 1 climb.

All smiles post-ascent. Came in at 59:20…Woo, hoo!

As you can see, I was a happy camper post-climb and was stoked to hit my goal. And as it turns out I placed 17th out of 34. Not bad for a fat-boy!

BTW if you haven’t done Kingsbury before you should definitely add it to your list. It’s not as brutal as Monitor or as long as Ebbetts and the views into Carson Valley are amazing! The shoulder is fairly wide as well and the road is pretty clean. Did I mention the descent? It’s a screamer!

After the glide down the grade I was pretty much toast but I figured a little rest, some water and a bit of food would do me, so when I talked to my soigneur (aka wife) from the base of the climb I told her I’d go ahead and ride back.

Here’s where the funny part starts

About 5 miles in on my return trip I wasn’t feeling it. Or maybe I was but in the wrong way. It’s been so long since I bonked I didn’t remember what it felt like and while I don’t think I completely hit the wall I realized I didn’t have another 20 miles in me, especially if I had to do those frickin’ rollers on Hwy. 89!

So, I texted my trusty assistant and asked her to come and get me. I told her where we should meet (Mad Dog Cafe & Market in Woodfords) and that I would keep riding. I also asked her to bring some cold water. About another mile in I realized I wasn’t going to make Mad Dog so I texted her again with another location and wrote that if I wasn’t there that she should just keep driving down Foothill until she saw me. Well, as you can imagine our cell service isn’t the best here in the heart of the Sierra so she didn’t get the complete message.

When I finally made it to our rendezvous-point I went a bit further up the little road then I should have (nature-break needed) and as I came back around THERE SHE WAS! YAY! RESCUED!

BUT She drove right on by!

I whistled (and I have a LOUD whistle), I yelled, I waved. But to no avail. No brake lights, no wave, nothing. So I texted her and told her she passed me and to turn around. I then began riding back towards Kingsbury, albeit much slower than my first leg in the a.m. Still…nada.

Then I called and thankfully she answered. By this time I was truly gassed but at least I had ridden far enough to try and catch her that I got in my half-century.

She turned around and we agreed to meet at another designated point, this time a landmark – Fredricksburg Cemetery. Appropriate, huh?

After a few minutes of waiting and no sag-wagon appearing I checked her out on “Find my iPhone.” What!? She was going the other way! Shit! Wait…No she’s turning around. Here she comes. There she is! With my cold water, too. I was already tasting it.

We laughed as I hung onto the truck and then I asked for the water. No dice! She left so fast she didn’t get that part of the message. “Oy vey” as my dearly departed Grams would say! Thankfully she did have some water though (emergency supplies that we always carry) and that was guzzled down very quickly as you can imagine.

What’s MY moral to the story?

First of all, pick a landmark, Mark, and stay there! Second of all, drink more water you fool. Third…If you’re going to give it full, or close to full gas, on the way up an almost 8 mile ascent with ~2500 feet of climbing, eat more.

I know these things but for some reason in my TT induced haze I forgot them. Don’t be like Mark!

Climbing Mountain Passes – 5 Key Things to Know

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

The Current Count

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

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

Climbs up Mountains are Steep

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

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

The Air is Thin

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

Lesson learned #2: address acclimatization.

Winds Can be Vexing

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

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

The Climate can Change Quickly

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

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

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

There is No Cell-Service

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

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

Cycling in the Mountains is an Awesome Experience

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

Ebbett’s Pass and Monitor Pass – After Action Report

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

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

Ebbett’s Pass

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

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

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

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

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

Monitor Pass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Deathride Resurgence in the California Alps

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

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

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

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

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

15000 Feet of Elevation and 5 Categorized Climbs

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

A Renewed Emphasis on Safety

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

Other Route Options Being Explored

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

You coming?

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

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

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

Some photos from past Deathrides

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

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

Cycling in Britain and France on the Same Day

I did it virtually, courtesy of FulGaz, but I guess it could be done physically via the Chunnel train (added to my list). I however rode in both countries last Sunday from the comfort (kinda) of my pain cave.

I got the idea after getting an email from FulGaz telling me that Alpe d’Huez was now available on their app. I had started it on Zwift one day last year but wasn’t able to finish – life got in the way. Then I had forgotten about it until my brother from another mother, and California Alps Cycling member, Scott Keno, did it (or shall I say “smoked it”) last week. Now Scotty is a freak of nature and so I knew there was no way I was going to even come close to his time but I thought I’d give it a whirl, until I realized I couldn’t figure out how to get there in that virtual Zwift world.

As it turns out, I was more into the solo, non-game ride anyway and having seen “the Alpe” so many times while watching the TDF I wanted to see and ride the real thing (or as real as it could be if I wasn’t on the actual pavement) not the cartoon version. So, rather than try to figure out the right path on Zwift, I went with the FulGaz version.

The summit looms – just over an hour into the climb.
At the top. Pretty cool, eh?

Okay, so you’re asking: “What about Britain?” Well, that was my warm up. I did the Tour of Britain 2019 Stage 6 Pershore iTT and it was a kick. Again, fun to see real roads, real trees and real cars (that can’t hit or door you).

‘Twas a bright and sunny day in Pershore!

So, when you can’t get outside, and you’re looking for an alternative to gamification, check out FulGaz and you too can ride in two (2) countries (or more) on the same day, or even the same morning! Happy New Year!

My combined stats from both rides…Perhaps you want to give it a whirl and see if you can do better?

A Tale of Two Towns – One on the California Coast, One in the California Alps

It’s been over two (2) years since I’ve been able to ride near the ocean so when I had an opportunity to head to Petaluma for a company BBQ last Friday I brought my bike so I could go for a pedal the next day. I’m lucky enough to work from home but I do make the pilgrimage to our corporate offices several times a year. In this case, not for a board room style meeting, or meetings, but instead for some fresh (and BBQed) oysters, burgers, good beer and great conversation. What a deal!

The next morning it was off to the little town of Marshall, including a trip down memory lane and up the iconic Marshall Wall.

From Petaluma to Marshall, down to Pt. Reyes Station and back past Nicasio Reservoir.

Back in 1998 I did the “Aids Ride”, now called the Aids/LifeCycle, and rode from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the course of a week. I raised some ducats for the cause as well. While training for that event I was introduced to this area north of The City (that’s what natives call San Francisco – don’t call it Frisco, k?). I’ve done a few rides in the area since but it had been quite awhile so I was pretty excited to ride “the wall” (that’s it in the profile above – at the 20 mile mark), and sniff Tomales Bay. The kelp, the sea (er, bay), the oyster farms…All combine for a wonderfully briny sensory experience. Add some fog to the start of the ride and I was in heaven. What a great morning on the bike! Made it back to the hotel in time to pack up, take a quick shower and get out of dodge so I could get home for cocktail time! Below are some images of that first adventure of the weekend, and here’s a little video to check out (including a few more pix) .

Some good grub and conversation awaited me at the Chalet (as we call it – hey we’re in the Alps after all!) thanks to my Mom and wife, and after an evening of story telling it was off to bed so I could get some rest before the next day’s adventure.

This time (no offense coastal hills) I was off to do a “real mountain” and I was curious to see what kind of shape the road was in.

I decided to milk it a little and went for a late morning start so I could let it warm up a bit. We’d been getting some thunderstorms recently (and still are) so I didn’t want to get caught on the pass too late in the day, though. Based on the weather forecast I thought I could squeak in my ride after the temps rose but before any chippy weather showed up. It didn’t quite work out the way I had planned, though. Read on.

From Markleeville to the start of the pass is fairly passe’ (ooh, like that pun). The real climbing starts at about mile 11 (from Markleeville, not Monitor Junction), with a pitch of about 10-12% just before Raymond Meadow Creek and the 7000′ mark. I had a great view looking south and could see some fairly ominous clouds forming. I kept telling myself that I could just bail if things got too hairy but I really wanted to get up the pass; it had just opened and I felt it was my duty!

I was excited to see Kinney Reservoir (images 6, 7 and 9 above) but when I came up over the rise, expecting to see a blue alpine lake and the reflection of the surrounding mountains and sky, I was instead greeted by an ice-rink! WTF? The lake was still frozen?! Now the temp had dropped significantly since I started but it was still a very manageable 55 degrees, and so I was surprised yet again, this time by the amount of snow still on the pass. Notice the snowbanks? Many of them were still covering signage and trailheads. In fact, because of that snowy obscurement I arrived at the top faster than I thought I would – I didn’t have those visual cues that I was used to.

I quickly ate a snack at the pass because it appeared that the weather was indeed coming in. Had I blown it and left too late? Would I be caught in a deluge, or worse yet see some lightning? So after an expeditious message to the wife (thanks to my Garmin inReach Mini, a bad-ass piece of equipment, btw) I headed back down the mountain. There was still some gravel and other detritus on the road so I was cautious on the descent and for the first few miles I got lucky – no rain. That changed though as I got to about the 7500′ mark. Down it came. At those speeds, raindrops sting! Thankfully it did let up so I wasn’t too spongy when I got to the homestead.

What a fantastic way to cap off my week! Here’s a few stats from the weekend:

Miles ridden: 90.6
Feet climbed: 7169
Hours on the bike: ~6

I’m hoping you’ve had, or will have, similar weekends of wonder. If you have, or do, and would like to share them by posting up your own adventure on our blog, let me know!

Ride safe and let’s kick some passes’ asses! this summer!

Update on Two Passes in the California Alps

Just this a.m. I spoke with CalTrans about the current conditions on Monitor Pass (Hwy. 89) and Ebbett’s Pass (Hwy 4). Here’s the latest:

Monitor Pass

CalTrans is hoping to open it by this Thursday. There’s about 6″ of snow up there now and with this a.m.’s snow (yup, more of the white stuff fell just this morning) it’s not likely it will be open before then.

Ebbett’s Pass

With the water on the road from the recent rains and snow melt, sheets of ice have formed making it a bit more time consuming to get the equipment up to where it needs to be. In some cases, the crews need to wait until later in the a.m. to begin their work.

There is also a lot of sand, rock and mud on the road, and between Hermit Valley and Lake Alpine, there’s still about 6′ to 8′ of snow, including a bit of Sierra cement, and ice, in places. The CalTrans crew based in Woodfords has made it through to Hermit Valley and the crew on the other side is making its way there now with the hope that the two crews will meet in the very-near future.

The initial plan was to have Ebbett’s open by Memorial Day but that’s now up in the air. You can get up to the 7000′ mark (Raymond Meadow Creek) currently, though. There’s a couple nice pitches just north of the RMC bridge so don’t worry, you can push some watts and get that heart rate up.

Stay off the passes when the roads are closed

A reminder from CalTrans that those road closures are there for everyone’s safety. There are crews and heavy equipment up there and they’re not looking for cyclists or hikers, so it’s a bit dicey to go behind those gates. It also may get you a ticket if the CHP catches you – and it would be a moving violation too, meaning traffic school or points.

Be cautious – they’ll open eventually

There will be time for us all to get up there and enjoy these, and other passes in the California Alps, so please be patient. For me that means a bit more trainer time. I’m taking advantage and doing some HIIT and steady-state intervals to build my strength and stamina for what’s to come. I wish you well on your training and remind you to ride safely.

We’ll be able to kick some passes’ asses soon enough.

Climb! the California Alps

For years, like many of my friends, I have been riding bikes. Mostly road bikes but I do some mountain biking as well and have been known to ride my wife’s hybrid as well – especially when I don’t want to gear up.

I’ve gotten to be a better rider over those years, mostly because I’ve lost some poundage but also due to the shear volume of riding, with the associated climbing that comes with living and riding in the California Alps.

I’ve found, though, like many of you I suspect, that I pretty much “just ride.” Yeah, I’ve used a heart rate monitor for years and I’ve been active my entire life, even when I weighed over 300 pounds, but I never really paid attention to the data and until about two (2) years ago I never had a power meter.

So, as I added my big events to the calendar this year, the first one being the Wildcat 125 in Chico next month, I decided I needed to do more to improve my climbing. An ad or an email, I can’t remember which, that I received earlier in the year touted a new book: “Climb!” by Selene Yeager and the editors of Bicycling. The sub-title reads: “conquer hills, get lean, and elevate every ride.” So I went ahead and bought the book and read it from cover to cover.

What an awesome book! It has several plans in Chapter 12 and I decided to do “The 8-Week My-Base-is-Built-So-Let’s-Roll! Hill-Climb Plan.” It’s a combination of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), steady-state intervals, endurance rides, easy rides, and rest days. In other words, exactly what I wasn’t doing! By the way, as it happens, just yesterday Selene posted a blog article on HIIT workouts. Click here to check it out.

Well, I’m in the middle of week 5 and it’s making a huge difference. My power is up, my endurance is up and I’ve learned some new skills as well. Because of the weather here in the Sierra over the last several weeks I’ve had to do many of the workouts inside but thanks to Zwift and FulGaz, and my smart-trainer, that hasn’t been a problem. Last Sunday I got outside for my first ride in awhile and I killed it! Extra poop on the climbs, lower heart-rate while generating more watts, and I PR’d my Max Avg. Power (20 min.)!

So, if you haven’t checked out the book, and if you want to be a better climber, I recommend that you do. It’s a good read with lots of nuggets, and no, I’m not getting paid a cent by Bicycling for this “review.”

And if you have any climbing tips for your fellow riders, comment on this post and share them.

Last but not least, I wanted to let you all know that you can FOLLOW US now on Twitter! @bikedalps is our handle and we’d love to have you join the conversation!