Last week we had an internet outage just before I was going to get on FulGaz and ride the Ebbetts Pass North Ascent (which as you may recall I filmed last summer).
Here at Chalet Schwartz, aka California Alps Cycling HQ, we do have a sweet generator (thanks Generac) but alas, it doesn’t do much good when it’s a Frontier outage.
I still had cell service, although as you can imagine, it’s not even close to five bars here, but what the hell I thought, I’ll give it a try. No dice. Not enough bandwidth for those videos. Zwift neither. Alright I said to myself, I’ll just ride and watch something on Apple TV.
Uh, no. No internet you fool!
How about a nice slide show of all of my photos I’ve taken over the years?
No joy there either – I sync my photos via iCloud – who knows, maybe the images were hung up in this cloud?
Okay, so there’s my story of woe, the set-up if you will. There I was, trying to get my swell on, but without the usual distractions I needed to keep my monkey-brain at bay. What to do?
As a former mechanic once wrote on my service slip a long time ago…RIDE YOUR BIKE. This was after I had brought the bike in to get something perfectly dialed-in; for the 3rd time! I was, and still am I confess, a bit OCD.
To my credit, and so you all know that I didn’t get too hung up on these issues, I kept pedaling during my ordeal.
And then it came to me! You can still sprint. You can still work on those circles. You can still get in a good workout. You’ve got music at least, and a smart watch, so get to it!
And so I did. And I had a great workout and learned that yes, Mark-inia, you can get in some good training without all the bells and whistles. And really, like you’re probably saying right now, I still had some of those jinglers and toots (e.g. Apple music and Garmin) so technically I was still techy.
That makes me feel better. And keeps it in perspective.
Yesterday while riding Leviathan Mine Road on my MTB I was out of cell service and needed to contact my wife. In this case it was not an emergency, but what if it was?
Would I have been able to get help?
As you may recall, I published a post earlier in the year, “Climbing Mountain Passes – Five Things You Should Know” and in that post I referenced the Garmin inReach Mini that I’ve used for several years. While that unit is not technically a PLB (read on to learn about thatdistinction) “you can send and receive messages, navigate your route, track and share your journey and, if necessary, trigger an SOS to get help from a 24/7 global emergency response coordination center via the 100% global Iridium® satellite network.”
So instead of rescue authorities coming to look for me because I haven’t checked in with my person(s) I instead was able to message my wife and mom that I was okay, just taking longer than expected on the ride.
Had I had an emergency I could have triggered that SOS feature and been able to get help. That’s what PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons), and their brethren, do okay? They allow you to get assistance in those areas where you can’t call 911.
As for PLBs…What are those?
Rick Wallace, of Tackle Village, reached out to me last week about a guide Tackle Village had recently produced entitled “How a PLB Can Save Your Life” and we struck up an email convo. about how we can each help other spread the word about these technologies.
As Rick wrote in his email to me: “To promote outdoor safety, we have put together this comprehensive and easy to read guide [that’s the link in the above paragraph]. We wrote this because many people who hike, fish, ski, camp or climb (including some of our friends) don’t realise the need to carry a PLB, and this causes unnecessary deaths every year. Personal Locator Beacons have saved an estimated 35,000 lives.”
I replied “I use a Garmin inReach, which I think is a PLB. Is it? It does have an activate-able SOS feature and allows me to send text messages to family and friends when my cell has no service,” and Rick responded:
“I think the Garmin inReach is a satellite phone as opposed to a PLB – slightly different. The PLB can only send a distress signal encoded with GPS co-ordinates – no text, no voice. Its advantage is in the longevity of the battery and the toughness of it and waterproofing.”
Ah, there’s thatdistinction. One allows for two-way communication while the other sends only an encoded distress signal.
Now I’m not sure just how long the battery life is on a KTI PLB but I can tell you that the battery life on the inReach is pretty good too.
For cycling, the inReach, or something small and compact like it, makes sense because it fits in a jersey pocket (along with other items). For hiking, backpacking and perhaps even skiing or snowshoeing I can see where a PLB would be a good alternative or compliment, though.
Wait, what about an avalanche beacon?
Good catch! That’s a different animal since it’s not a standalone unit; others with a similar device must be nearby to receive the signal it transmits and then find the location of that transmitting beacon via triangulation.
Fodder for a future post, I’m thinking, as I plan on taking up cross-country skiing this winter and having an avalance beacon could be a key piece of equipment for some of those endeavors.
Whatever you decide, cover your bases!
It’s especially important during these days of Covid-19.
Law enforcement, rescue authorities, you name it, are a bit pre-occupied nowadays so I’m sure that anything we can do to lessen their load would be appreciated.
Having a portable, satellite-enabled device, such as the inReach, or KTI’s PLB, could save searchers a whole lot of time if they have to come a lookin’, and in the case of an inReach or something similar, could prevent them from even having to be dispatched at all!
I know the volunteer firefighters, search & rescue, and paramedics here in Alpine Co. would be grateful for that!
Fall is giving way to colder temperatures, including some sub-freezing readings here lately, and so I’m working hard to get some of those special rides in, film some fall colors for FulGaz, and knock off some more of those honey-do list items before our epic winter (putting out those Game of Thrones vibes, if you get my drift) sets in.
As you may recall I published a post late last month about riding around Lake Tahoe (aka Big Blue), and one of our loyal readers, Roy Franz, urged me to try the ride again, this time on a weekday and taking the clockwise direction.
And so it was that yesterday I found myself in Stateline, NV, on a fairly brisk morning (about 45 fahrenheit), gearing up to do just that.
Prepping for the Shoot
Yesterday morning I was up at o’dark thirty so that I could prep. my gear and the bike and get the GoPro mounted and ready. There is a little bit of work involved to make sure the camera angle is good, the battery back-up is charged and the top-tube pack that holds the back-up, cable and tool is not flopping around. A bit of “tape-work” is also needed in order to secure the cable to the bike, and to keep the GoPro’s battery and cable connection secure as well.
Before I headed out I used the very cool preview feature to make sure that the horizon was where it should be on the camera and I also double checked the settings too, or so I thought.
The plan was to record the entire ride in three (3) manageable sections, each approximately 1.5 hours long.
Stateline to Meek’s Bay
Meek’s Bay to Incline Village
Incline Village back to Stateline
All geared up. Settings good. Camera angle good. Power button pushed. Requisite beep heard. Hand waved in front of camera to signal the start for FulGaz’s engineers. Off I went.
Switching tacks for just a moment; let’s talk biology. There are a few times during the year that for whatever reason I seem to lose a lot of water weight. Typically a few days after hard efforts or too much mexican food. That salt, you know? I wasn’t expecting this day to be one of those but that’s the way the water works I guess, especially when you have (as my friend Mike would say) a bladder the size of a peanut.
A bit more context…If you do stop while filming a ride for FulGaz (FG) then you just go back about 20 yards from where you stopped and start again. I make a mental note of those instances so I can pass that info. on to FG. The team then edits that section out and for the most part you don’t even notice.
So, after about five (5) stops in the first 30 minutes, I was getting frustrated. Really bladder? Now? Today? Seriously? I kept doing my thing, and re-starting and apologizing to Klaus (their lead-dawg engineer), by commenting during the video. Finally, Mr. Bladder had gotten rid of the excess fluid and I was able to get to Meek’s Bay without another stop.
Beep. Upon my arrival I pushed the button and heard that comforting sound that acknowedged I had in fact stopped recording. I also stopped the ride on my Wahoo and saved it as well; the .fit file then syncs up nicely with the video. It’s also important to toggle off auto-pause or things get a little screwy, and to my credit I did do that. What I didn’t do, though, was look at the camera before I took off from Stateline.
Had I done that I would have noticed that I was in photo mode instead of video mode!
Yup, that’s what the FUBAR portion of this post’s title is all about. After all of that prepping, nature-breaking and riding from Stateline to Meek’s Bay I had NOTHING! Zippo! Nada! Oh well, I thought, at least it was an amazing day so far and I did have a section of this section recorded (when Chris and I did the counter-clockwise route in late September) so I’ll just use that. Still…shit! Or FUBAR! You pick.
Meek’s Bay to Incline Village
I planned on redeeming myself on this portion of the ride and what a BEAUTIFUL segment it was! Not too much climbing and a lot of the course was really close to the water so it should be a really pretty video. I made it to Incline without another bio-break and had a nice encounter (seriously) on the way with a Placer Co. deputy sheriff who pulled up next to me to remind me that two (2) ear buds is not better than one (1) when on a bicycle.
Frankly I’m a bit anxious to look at the clips for fear of another SNAFU (see “FUBAR-link” above) but based on what I saw on the GoPro’s screen (fingers crossed) I got this one so on to the next.
Incline to Stateline – The Finish
There’s a bit of climbing to get up and out of Incline so it was somewhat of a taxing finish but I thought it would be a nice juxtaposition to come from such a beautiful place to Stateline with its casinos and such. However, just after I went throught the tunnel at Cave Rock I heard a telltale series of beeps from the camera that indicated that either the battery had died or the media was full. Shit, again. And again, the oh well…If nothing else the FG ride will be Incline to Cave Rock. We shall see. Still not brave enough to look.
The Moral of the Story
Roy was oh so right. What a day of riding in one of the most beautiful places on earth! Clockwise, on a weekday that isn’t a Friday is definitely the ticket. There was much less traffic, the view from the lake side of the road is much better (there are some drop-offs but nothing too scary) and there were fewer tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I like tourists. I realize some don’t right now and I get that, too. IMHO they infuse the area with much needed ducats, yet it seems that sometimes they leave their brain at home, especially when confronted with such amazing scenery.
As for the FulGaz Faux Pas’, what can I say? Apparently I left my brain at home too. I’ve never (add saracastic tone here) done that when I’m doing the tourist thing.
The beauty of it, though, is that I can head back anytime before winter rears its oh so wonderful head and take another whack (or two or three) at it. Looking forward to that!
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.
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!
I’m a California boy, born and raised, and like you I suspect, have never seen anything in my 56 years like we’re seeing now with these fires. I’ll leave the hows and whys to the scientists and instead offer a glimpse into how I’m continuing to ride as well as what else I’m doing to stay engaged and fit.
The FulGaz French Tour
This tour has been my primary source of entertainment since the end of August. BTW, I’ve previously published a handful of posts that mention FulGaz so check those out too if you’re so inclined. It’s a great application and currently it’s even better with the addition of the FulGaz French Tour.
The Tour kicked off on August 28th, the day before the Tour de France started, and the idea, as you can imagine, is to ride twenty-one (21) stages by September 18th. Virtually. Just like the “real tour.” Not the same stages, no (there are some), but no less challenging, at least so far.
Last week I climbed over 17000 feet, with all but 3000 of it from the smokeless confines of Chalet Schwartz here in Markleeville!
Quick chest thump…
Thanks to the extra climbing that comes with the FulGaz French Tour, I was numero uno in climbing for the week in Alta Alpina’s 2020 Social Distancing Road Race Series. Sweet!
So far I’ve ridden the following stages:
Stage 1, Col de Turini – 9.29 miles, 3555 feet of climbing
Stage 2, Monaco Grand Prix Circuit – 16.21 miles, 1089 feet of climbing
Stage 3, Col du Galibier – 11.17 miles, 3998 feet of climbing
Stage 4, Harrogate Street Circuit, UCI Worlds 2019 – 8.48 miles, 821 feet of climbing
Stage 6, Ninove to Ghent – 23.03 miles, 785 feet of climbing
Stage 7, Lac de Cap de Long – 8.39 miles, 3398 feet of climbing
Stage 8, Els Angels – 9.05 miles, 1490 feet of climbing
Stage 9, Col du Chaussy, 6.19 miles, 2457 feet of climbing
A bunch of photos from my virtual adventures to date.
I’ve still got eleven (11) more to do by September 18th and those stages include the Col d’Aspin, the Col d’Izoard, the Tour of Romandie TT, Six Laps of London, the Col du Telegraphe, and Mont Ventoux (that one’s going to be the hardest and longest I fear). It all wraps up with the Alpe d’Huez!
A challenging stage race to be sure. Oh, and did I mention that there is live tracking as well as stage results for each stage, and a GC too? After nine (9) stages I’m 94th out of 115; 11h 41m 44s of time on the bike so far. The leader of the GC after the same stages: 6h 26m 13s. Overachiever!
Don’t forget strength training! I try to get two (2) workouts in a week, focused mostly on my upper-body and core. In the above pic are some of the systems of suffering I utilize. Take note of the red medicine ball, a “no-bounce,” which among other things lets me do squat and slams without the ball bouncing up and hitting me in the mug. Some Bowflex dumbbells, an inexpensive bench, a regular medicine ball and some kettlebells are the other items you see.
On the cycling and running front there is of course that ol’ standby, Zwift, which has certainly been getting a lot of press (and paying heavily for it I would imagine) during the Tour de France. I’m so thankful for my DVR – watching all of those commercials would be painful.
I’ve recently started using TrainingPeaks and it too has workouts of which one can partake. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading “Training + Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen, Andrew Coggan and Stephen McGregor and it syncs up nicely with TrainingPeaks.
Wahoo’s application has some “good grinds” (not the food kind, sorry) too and there are myriad others, including TrainerRoad and Strava. And, here’s an article from PC mag that provides some additional data.
I should mention that the FulGaz French Tour allows riders to do more than one stage a day, and out of order, if you so choose. I’ve taken advantage of this on a couple occasions by doing a flat(ter) warm-up stage before a climbing stage. A double whammy!
Some Additional Suggestions
Especially if you’re going to put in some long rides/hours on the trainer:
Extra kits, or at least a jersey, depending on how much you sweat, that are accessible from the bike so you can change mid-stage if you need.
Same with water – fill some extra bottles beforehand.
Food is good. I made a turkey and cheese sandwich after one stage and to save time ate it during the next stage. It also made it feel more like I was doing a “real event.”
I hooked up a portable A/C unit because without it, things got a little steamy in the cave. Combine it with a couple fans, especially if you have a smaller workout room like I do.
Lastly, speaking of fans…I just started doing this and it works well: Put a fan behind you and one in front. That backside breeze lessens the drips and it just feels nice.
One last bit of advice: Get a bike fit. I spent a couple hours doing just that yesterday. The fitter, also a physical therapist, made some adjustments to my seat and my shoes and after just one ride I can already feel the difference. The jury is still out on whether or not what we did is good enough or if I need more; time will tell. Still, it was something I had been avoiding because of the time it takes but I thought why not do it now? it’s too smoky to ride outside anyway!
What about you? What are you doing? Any suggestions for your fellow readers? Let us all know by commenting on this post.
Having spent most of my life cycling in the San Francisco Bay Area I was very accustomed to the conditions there and so was well prepared when I hit the road. When we moved up to Markleeville in the winter of 2016, though, I quickly learned that what worked “in the flats” did not necessarily translate to the Sierra Nevada.
Several months ago I posted an article entitled “Climbing Mountain Passes – 5 Key Things to Know.” This follow-up post expands on that one a bit with some more specific recommendations.
Sure, most experienced cyclists carry some sort of mini-tool, a patch-kit, Co2 cartridges, etc. but it’s important to have some redundancy where you can. Some examples:
Two (2) tubes instead of one. I was bombing down Hwy. 4 a couple years back and hit a pothole. I double flatted and had only one (1) tube. The patches I had wouldn’t work as the holes were too big; had to call for extraction.
Tire boot, duct tape (or both). I don’t carry an extra tire but I do have a tire bootand some duct tape wrapped around an old toothbrush handle. On one particularly frigid morning I put the duct tape around my fingertips – the gloves I had were not doing the trick.
Chain pin. Ideally you’re checking your chain wear regularly but even then, ca-ca occurs. I learned this the hard way, too. A pin in my chain starting coming out while on a ride (I hadn’t checked my chain in awhile) and I couldn’t get it fully inserted with the chain tool. Again, I had to call for extraction.
Sat-com. Speaking of calling for extraction…How do you do that with no cell service? I mentioned this in that “Climbing Mountain Passes” post, too but it bears repeating: cell service is basically non-existent in the mountains. Now that’s not to say I don’t carry my cell, I do, but having a device like the Garmin inReach Mini will allow you to communicate with “your person” when you are out of cell range, and its SOS feature could save your life. The monthly subscription for the basic plan is relatively inexpensive (about $12.00 a month).
Identification and dinero. I hope this one is a no-brainer for most of you yet I’ve heard of some who don’t carry one or the other. Not only do I carry my driver’s license but I also carry my medical insurance card, my debit card and some green. And, speaking of redundancy, I wear a Road iD. In my case, just the ID itself, on the band of my Garmin fenix.
Footwear and Clothing
Foul weather in the mountains is not always cold, or stormy weather IMHO. Heat and sun can also foul up a good ride. Here’s a bunch of suggestions:
Cycling boots. No, I’m not referring to those lycra-type shoe or toe covers. I’m talking full on, waterproof, boots. With sleet, rain, mud and road spray I’ve found that shoe covers just don’t cut it. I invested in a pair of Sidi Gore-Tex Cycling Shoes (ankle-high boots, really) and my feet don’t get cold or wet.
Neck gaiter/tube. I’ve got several types of these, some lighter, like Buff’s and some heavier, like Castelli’s Arrivo 3 Thermo Head Thingy. Keeping that neck warm is key to keeping those colds away and it can be used for the noggin as well. Once, when I forgot my vest, I stashed it under the front of my jersey to help ward off the winds a little during a descent.
Vest or jacket. When you head out from 5000′ and it’s 85 degrees it’s easy to forget that it can often be 20-30 degrees colder at the top of thatclimb. A vest or jacket, especially if you can strap it to your bike somewhere so you can save some pocket room, can make the difference between a shivering descent and one that is much more comfy.
Extra gloves and hat/cap. First, let me say that I’m a dripper; one of those “two-towels under the spin bike kinda guys” so when I’m doing long climbs things can get a bit schweaty. I’ve learned to carry an extra set of gloves, cap and oftentimes an extra gaiter, and will exchange the sweat-soaked pieces for the drier ones once I reach the summit.
Climbing bibs (or shorts) and jersey. Like I wrote at the start of this paragraph, in my book foul weather isn’t always cold or wet (or snow). It can also include heat (or wind). I’m a Castelli devotee and so I went with their Superleggera bibshort and Climber’s 3.0 jersey. I climbed Hwy. 4 to Ebbetts Pass last week, when it was a tad warm, and what a huge difference those items made! So much so that I checked my shorts a few times to make sure they hadn’t split at the seams. Nope, just the material doing its job. Breezy!
Having an understanding of regular weather patterns, e.g. daily t’storms, regular wind patterns, is helpful when cycling in the California Alps (and other locals for that matter).
Get some intel. from a local rider, club or bike shop so that you know that right now, for example, up Tahoe way daily thunderstorms are a regular thing. Getting caught on Carson Pass during a hailstorm isn’t pretty. Just ask our friend James Hurst who experienced just that on the Deathride a couple years ago.
Check the forecast before you head out and prepare for the worst-case scenario. I like Weather Underground, in large part because they have a network of folks all over the country who have personal weather stations. That allows you to get weather data closer to where you are or will be. Yup, we have a weather station here at HQ so you can get Markleeville weather realtime.
Know what to do if the shit hits the fan. Are there places to shelter? What do you do if a thunderstorm (and the associated lightning) happens where/while you’re exposed on some mountain road?
The Scouts have it right. Be prepared. Or said another way, plan for the worst and hope for the best. Having the right equipment, understanding and addressing footwear and clothing options, and getting a handle on the weather are all key to having a good ride or perhaps avoiding catastrophe when you are cycling — or gravel riding, or mountain biking, or hiking, or backpacking, or 4-wheeling, or fishing…
Okay, you get the idea. Gear up, be ready, be aware, and enjoy the day!