Category: Rides

Jumping on the Gravel Train

I’ve taken my road bike off-road before but only for some “sectors” here and there, not for anything of decent length. So, this was my first true gravel ride experience and I was excited (and admittedly, a bit anxious). I’m blessed to be able to live, work and ride in the California Alps yet I also realize that I need to break things up a bit. Here was my gravelly opportunity to do just that!

Gravel i.e. sand, dirt and rocks, on Sierra Vista Lane. That’s the Carson Range to the right.

What Gravel Riding Isn’t

Coincidentally, I had just read the March/April issue of VeloNews and in it was an article entitled “Harder than Robaix,” by Andrew Hood (the article’s about the Strade Bianche). He writes: “Gravel racing has deep roots in Europe. In its earliest iteration, nearly all bike racing that wasn’t on a velodrome was held across gravel or cobblestone roads, simply because paved roads were a luxury at the turn of the last century.” Luxury, indeed. I realized immediately that I wasn’t in Kansas any longer.

Note to self: Gravel riding isn’t riding on nicely graded roads covered in decomposed granite. Yup, I was pretty naive but I had this picture in my head that this was not mountain bike riding on a road bike but was instead something much more civilized. That isn’t the case! At least not on this particular ride.

Jobs Peak and Jobs Sister, and other peaks of the Carson Range, as seen from Sunrise Pass Rd.

Setting Up the Bike

My faithful steed, Roscoe (named after an Italian Gentlemen – Roscoe Fanucci, because my Domane thinks he’s Italian) has been with me for many years and we’ve put in thousands of miles together. But, after getting an Emonda last year, I decided to convert Roscoe to a gravel bike. Really wouldn’t be too hard I thought. Not going to change out the fork or do anything too drastically complicated, so it’s really just about new tires and pedals, right?

Tubeless and Platform

Tubeless I thought for the former (my wheels were tubeless-ready after all) and as for the latter, my braddah suggested pedals that are clip-in on one side and platform on the other. Found a nice set of pedals at REI that fit the bill – Shimano EH500 SPD Sport Road Pedals. As for the tires, I’m thinkin’ hey, I run tubeless on my Fuel so I know what I’m doing. I’ve got Stan’s NoTubes and that injector thingy. I’ve done this before.

Not that Easy – the Tubeless Part That Is

So I ordered the stems and some Panaracer Gravel Kings. I should mention that the Domane is not a true gravel bike so my clearance is limited to 32mm in back and 35mm in front, which is what I set out to mount on my trusty stallion. The wheels had the right rim-tape on them and I put in the stems and got the tires on. As for the “tubeless but holding air part” I looked at the instructions and did what I could to interpret the petroglyphs, arrows and “cross-out, no you dufus” icons. I failed in the translation. I could not for the life of me get a seal on those tires! And, I reminded myself, I hadn’t done this before. I’ve added sealant to tires that the shop set up but I’ve never actually installed tubeless tires from scratch. So, after a couple tries I decided to cut my losses and I filled the tubes with Stan’s; I’ll seek expert advice from Jay at Big Daddy’s, or via YouTube.

Roscoe on the left and Chris’ steed (with Chris) on the right.
Photo taken at Riverview Park in Carson City, NV

Ready to Roll

Chris, our fearless leader, and I went with the hydration pack approach since we weren’t sure what to expect. Good call since we were out there for about five (5) hours. I also carried a couple bottles with Skratch’s Sport Hydration Mix (that stuff is awesome!). We packed some sandwiches and the obligatory gels and bars, too. We met at Riverview Park at about 10:00 a.m. (not too cold but not too hot either, we figured) and after the typical pre-ride prep. (that’s where Chris waits for me to get my shit together), off we went.

Definitely not a flat ride!

Gravel Riding is Challenging

But oh so fun. I giggled like a crazy-man while fish-tailing and sliding around in that sand. I was stoked that I was able to stay upright and power through, having never ridden in sand that deep, for so many miles. That all changed about two-thirds of the way through the ride, though. I became an uber-whiner (Chris was much more stoic and bore the pain silently). The terrain had become very challenging with some big ol’ rocks (some loose, some not), sand, mud, steep climbs and creek crossings. — Great suggestion on the pedals, by the way Scotty! — My lower back and glutes were screaming and I was kinda pissed off at myself that I hadn’t set my expectations properly; this was TRULY challenging. I am a strong cyclist after, all. This ca-ca, though, is different – mountain biking with a twist. Now I understand why cyclocross riders are true bad-asses! Roscoe, by the way, wasn’t challenged at all. He handled everything that was thrown at him. And those tires…I was blown away by their traction and durability!

The Light at the End of the Gravel

The sand was a kick (and meant that coasting was not an option); the climbs were made more difficult by that constant sucking feeling (I swear I heard sucking sounds), the rocks were scary but at the same time exhilarating when I cleared them, the creek-crossings (sorry, too tired to take pix at that point) were disconcerting, BUT IN THE END, it was a great day. Cycling (and gravel riding) is pain, right? If so, lots of weakness left my body. Seriously, though, I will do it again; especially now that I know what to expect, and what to bring: more GRIT, or dare I say…True Grit?)

All smiles AFTER our epic ride. Cold cervezas await.

Epilogue – How Do They Know That?

As it turns out, five days after the ride. I received an email from Bicycling. Subject line: Are you ready for gravel? Okay, that’s just too weird. From the email: “Thing is, gravel can also be hell, especially if you hit terrain you’re not expecting. To crush it, you not only need special equipment, but also a different kind of fitness, fueling, finesse, gear, and grit.”

Grit? If grit means stoically taking the pain and quietly dealing with all that’s thrown at you, I didn’t have that. Chris did. But, if grit is persevering, even if vocalizing a little (okay, a lot), then I DID HAVE THAT. Perhaps I need some more of that, I decided. I ordered the book. Should be here this week. Stay tuned for a review.

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.

Last Weekend’s Adventures in the California Alps

After a crazy week of work, community activities and training it was great to take a day for my head and just relax a bit. The weather was about to turn cold (it has as of this a.m. – 5 degrees fahrenheit here this morning) so we wanted to take advantage of the mid-70’s we were supposed to have, (and did!) on Saturday.

Footprints tell the story…

My wife, Mom and I headed to Curtz Lake here in Markleeville for a bit of hiking and birdwatching. The former was the plan, the latter was a bonus. As you can see by the many prints on the trail (there are some deer and other animal prints in there – look closely) lots of folks take advantage of this loop trail that was built, and is maintained, by the Alpine Trails Association.

It’s a nice easy loop and good for all ages and levels of hiking, and for me personally it was a great rest/recovery day after a hard week of riding. I did mention birdwatching… Here’s a few of the birds we saw (and that I could actually identify – not a professional birder by any means) on the hike:

  1. Clark’s Nutcracker
  2. Western Bluebirds (male and female)
  3. Red-breasted AND white-breasted Nuthatch
  4. The ubiquitous Steller’s Jay

We were surprised by the amount of activity, especially the nuthatches. They were all over the place and so fun to watch with their telltale downward “walk.”

After that taxing (not!) stroll we were in need of sustenance, so off to Genoa we went. A blood mary at the Genoa Bar (Nevada’s Oldest Thirst Parlor – founded in 1853) is always an excellent option and some good grub at the Genoa Station Bar & Grille was a nice follow up.

Amazing light and fluorescent aspens

Later that afternoon it was time for a ride. I hadn’t planned on it since it was supposed to be my rest day but the weather was glorious (mid-70s) and it was supposed to (and did) turn cold the next day, so of course I had to partake. So glad I did because the light coming through the East Carson River canyon was fantastic.

We’ve still got a bit of leaf-peeping left here in the California Alps so come on up if you’re so inclined.

We’ll be doing a bit of peeping ourselves this weekend. A few of us are doing a ride up to Ebbett’s pass Saturday (weather should be good – 65 or so by late morning or early afternoon). If you’d like to join us give me a shout!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the pix and that your riding, or other planned adventures, are feeding your head, too.

Andy’s Ride Takes Place in Genoa on September 14th

Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town so I won’t be able to partake. Nonetheless I wanted to socialize the event on behalf of the Suicide Prevention Network (Minden, NV) because it’s such an important cause.

Click here to register!

Per the folks at the Network: “Andy’s Ride” was created to bring awareness to the increasing problem of suicides and to honor the memory of Andy Getas, local dentist and cycling enthusiast, whom we lost to suicide several years ago.  Andy was a friend to many and a wonderful riding partner on cycling trips through Nevada, California and even Europe.  Well known as a skillful dentist with a joyful, wonderful personality and a kind heart, Andy was devoted to his family and God, was an accomplished drummer and loved jazz and cycling. Our hope is “Andy’s Ride” will be a way to keep his memory alive while bringing much needed awareness and support to suicide prevention! 

There will be a 22-mile and a 34-mile route from Genoa along Foothill Road and the “Old Pony Express”/Emigrant Trail to choose from.  Pre-registration price is $35.00; includes BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, Sides and Dessert lunch.  Day of registration will be $40.00 and will include the same lunch.  NO REFUNDS CAN BE GIVEN.  

There will be raffle prizes, with each participant receiving one free raffle ticket.  Additional tickets will be available to purchase. Current raffle prizes include:  3 Quality Cycling Jerseys, $100 gift certificate at Blue Zone Sports, Dinner for 2 at J&T Basque restaurant.

So, come on out, up, over or down and join the folks at the SPN on a good ride for a great cause!

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!

Givin’, Fixin’, Ridin’, and Spectatin’ in the California Alps

The last several weeks have been a lot of work, but with lots of fun times, too. I haven’t had much time to blog but I finally came up for air so here’s a run-down of our recent activities here in the heart of the Sierra Nevada.

Markleeville Spring Clean-up and Cinco de Mayo Celebration

It all started on the anniversary of that famous (infamous?) day, which commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. It is not a celebration of Mexican independence, as some mistakenly think. Okay, there’s your history lesson for today. Thanks Wikipedia!

Here in Markleeville, it was our chance to do our first clean up of the year and do a bit of commemoratin’ ourselves (after the work was done, of course). Eighteen (18) intrepid volunteers, including your truly, my wife and California Alps Cycling co-founder, Patricia, joined us, as did our club mother (and my Mom), January. In fact Mom gets the kudos for the excellent salsa and guacamole that we munched on post-work day. I brought the cerveza, though.

We mowed, weed-whacked, lopped, trimmed, picked-up and well, you get the idea. We tackled Markleeville Park (as we have affectionately named a vacant lot in town), Coyan Park, and Heritage Park. We picked up a bunch of limbs, branches and such that had accumulated by one of our welcome signs and we picked up trash – on the section of highway we’ve adopted between Turtle Rock Park and Camp Markleeville, which includes town.

Several bags of trash, a bike helmet and a totally thrashed mile-marker (snow blower got it I think) were part of the haul. We made about three to four trips to the local bio-mass pile, too. Lots of mass to bio, if you will. A shout out to Karrie and John Baker, of Alps Haus and Al’s Got Gas, Bait & Tackle, here in town for their support (as always). Quick plug – We have some CA Alps Cycling schwag for sale (it’s a consignment ‘thang) at Al’s so stop on by and grab some (and get some gas and tackle while you’re at it)!

Washoe Earth Day Celebration

The following Saturday (last weekend, May 11th), Chris (Schull, legacy member) and I met at the Hung a Lel Ti gym as we had lots of bikes to repair. The day had been a long time coming with the associated planning that comes with such big events. Susan Jamerson and team did a bang up job getting ready for the event, with a bicycling focus added to the day. Part of that included a repair station so that kids could get their bikes fixed up for the races that were to come. I spent the previous week or so gathering donations (prizes for the race winners) from local merchants and friends as well as prepping and packing the gear, tools, stands, tables etc. that we’d need for the repair center.

Chris & I arrived about 8:30 a.m. and we already had some repair candidates waiting. Hung A Lel Ti Chairman Irvin Jim met us upon arrival and he and a few of the riders helped us unload and then we set to work. Was quite the trip down memory lane as the bikes we worked on were not what we were used to riding, at least now that we were old (er). These were bikes we rode as kids! Too fun. We mostly fixed flats and such but there were other repairs needed too – from brakes to derailleur hangers and many points in between. We figured we wrenched on about 12-15 bikes and we got them all done in time for the races, which started at 10:00 a.m. It was great watching the kids race and we basked in the knowledge that we helped them be able to do that.

What an awesome place to ride

After our hard, but oh so rewarding day acting like bike mechanics, it was time for some us time! We headed up Ebbett’s Pass to Raymond Meadow Creek for a “chat n’ ride” as I call it. Nary a car was seen so we were able to yak and take in the scenery without much trouble.

Then, on Monday (just a few days ago), we took it one step further and rode Monitor Pass; my second trip up the mountain since the Friday before. It’s a hard climb but we figured it would be a good way to start the day because we planned on finishing it by watching the Amgen Tour of California come into So. Lake Tahoe for the finish. Get it? We suffer in the a.m. and then drink beer and eat while we watch the pros suffer in the afternoon!

The Amgen Tour of California

Off to Tahoe we went. We kicked things off with some suds and sammies at Artemis; we hung out at the bar and enjoyed the vibe before we walked a couple miles up to Heavenly to avoid the crowds, or so we thought. Fortunately for us (and other race-watchers) there wasn’t much of that. Unfortunately, if you get my drift, there wasn’t much of that. Too bad – seeing these athletes do their thing is an amazing experience. Anyway, compared to last year it was a piece of cake. In fact, we realized about 2/3 of the way there that we could have just driven on up and parked near the start/finish/festival. By then, though, it was too late. We were committed!

We got to the start/finish in plenty of time to have a brew (see above) and check out the vendors and schwag. The weather was perfect and I don’t think there’s a better place to watch a bike race. You still have some time to check out some of the race, yourself. The women’s race starts today which means you can watch two races! And, of course, there’s the Giro happening too! And, on top of all the wonderful cycling coverage, there’s basketball and hockey playoffs for those so inclined. I’m into the Warriors but have yet to watch the Sharks play. I will though; I have to represent since I’m a San Jose native. Exciting times for sure! At least for some of us, right?

Check us out on Facebook!

That’s right, we finally got our arses in gear and set up our FB page! We also have a Twitter feed and have begun setting up our Instagram page. It’s not easy trying to find the time and I appreciate your patience, loyal reader, as we continue to build and “social-ize.”

Thanks for reading, especially this post. I know it’s a bit long-winded.

We’d love to know about your adventures! Comment on this post so other followers can partake and perhaps live vicariously through you.

Be safe out there

In closing, just a little reminder to be safe in whatever outdoor activities you do. Have the right gear, get the right training, do the right research and you’ll have the right fun! Ride on!?

Crazy Weather Daze

My wife and I moved up here to Markleeville in October of 2016 – just before that winter kicked into high gear. My original plan in dealing with the snow was to shovel it. It would be a great workout I thought. That lasted about two (2) weeks. The call to Sears for the snowblower went out one morning and we picked up the ‘blower that afternoon. Major kudos to the inventor of that little gem!

Fast forward to this year, after a low volume winter of snow and rain last year, and as Yogi Berra would say, it’s deja vu all over again! I don’t have any hard data to compare this year to last but from our persective (not just mine and the wife’s but other locals too) this year has been snowier and colder than that epic winter. As I write this post this morning it’s 2 degrees. We’ve seen several days of negative temps too yet I only recall one “minus-day” in the winter of ’16-17.

I also remember that I was able to ride a bit more outside during our first winter. Some of that was behind the locked gates at the junction of Monitor and Ebbett’s passes, which by the way I no longer do. I was a bit naive when I first arrived in the Sierra but after a couple mechanicals behind those gates I quickly realized that it wasn’t such a good idea – what if something went seriously wrong? Nonetheless, I was able to get up those roads that year. Not so, this year. There are feet of snow now whereas in that winter there was none!

Rocking the Mapei jersey on Monitor Pass. Winter of 2016.

Thankfully, there are cycling apps like Zwift and FulGaz that allow those of us who live in the colder climes to get those miles in. Sure, it’s not nearly the same as riding outside but it’s riding at least. Combine the apps with a smart-trainer and it’s pretty cool. In the interests of full disclosure I must admit that the technology can sometimes be a little frustrating. I’ve been going through some major gesticulations with my current trainer – getting the power calibrated correctly or making sure I have the right dongle can be a bit trying. In fact, my new trainer arrived yesterday. BOLO (be on the lookout) by the way for a future post on my (and other California Alps Cycling members) timely trainer tips and tribulations.

So my story of woe continues…I’ve not ridden outside at all this month. While there have been a couple days where it might have been warm enough (if you call 25-30 degrees warm enough) there was either too much ice on the roads or too much snow on the shoulders (the road’s, not mine). I’ve logged just over 300 miles this month and have done so in such places as Australia, Belgium, Innsbruck, Watopia, London and the Marin Headlands. All virtually of course.

Happy Saturday to you all! Today I think I’ll go to a new destination – after I set up my Wahoo Kickr. If you hear me cussin’ you’ll know why. I’ll leave you with this little ‘cicle, as opposed to cycle, video. Ride safe and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses! Even if they’re virtual passes.

I’ve seen lots of icicles in my days here but none quite like this one.

Current Road Conditions in the Heart of the California Alps

One of my Strava friends recently asked on one of my posted rides if the gates for Monitor and Ebbett’s Pass were open. That question made me realize I hadn’t posted an update on the local road conditions lately. So, here’s one!

Four recent rides

Since last Sunday I’ve toured the area around Markleeville and ridden in or to Diamond Valley (Hwy. 89 between Markleeville and Woodfords), Wolf Creek Road (Hwy. 89 between Markleeville and Monitor Pass and Hwy. 4 from Monitor Pass up a portion of Ebbett’s Pass) and Crystal Springs Road (Hwy. 88 from Woodfords up a small bit of Carson Pass) and have this to report:

  • Diamond Valley – Snow on the sides of the roads but no ice on the roads themselves. Lots of “snow plow dirt” and other detritis on the shoulders though.
  • Wolf Creek – Ditto – heading up Ebbett’s to Wolf Creek you’ll see some small slides, with assorted rocks and boulders, though. Not too “bouldery” on the roads themselves but certainly some. On one ride earlier this week I heard, and then saw, some rock coming down one of the hills onto Hwy. 4. A bit disconcerting…
  • Wolf Creek Road itself is gated/closed.
  • Crystal Springs – Easy going on Hwy. 88 with only the plow detritus on the shoulders. No ice on Crystal Springs Road.
  • Monitor Pass is closed for the winter. The gates at Hwy. 395 and at Hwy. 4/89 are closed.
  • Ebbett’s Pass is closed for the winter. The gate at the Hwy. 4/89 junction is open, and the sign nearby reads the road is closed seven (7) miles ahead (Raymond Meadow Creek), HOWEVER, the road is actually closed 2.5 miles from the junction (at Wolf Creek Road). It’s likely that the gate will be closed at the junction at some point in the near future though, as more snow is forecast for this weekend.
  • Carson Pass is open.
  • Luther Pass is open.

Pix of some of those roads

The lucky shot

Sam (could be Samuel or Samantha) the bald eagle (as we’ve named it) posing for a pic near the Hwy. 4 and Hwy. 89 junction.

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend! More snow is on the way so please remember to ride safe and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

The disclaimer

The information and content on this page, as well as any other California Alps Cycling (CAC) page or materials, is general in nature and must be used with an understanding of your capabilities and expertise. Please be sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set as CAC is not responsible for any injuries to you, your companions or your equipment.  Additionally, while we strive to provide accurate, timely and complete information, it is subject to change and therefore CAC is not responsible for the accuracy thereof.   

Winter Cycling in the California Alps

I’ll try not to whine too much as I write this post. After all, I get to live and work in the heart of the California Alps. Still, the winter can be tough up here in terms of cycling. The roads, even though most are plowed, have a tendency to ice up a bit (or more than a bit), especially after a decent snow, and that can make things a bit difficult on any bike, let alone a road bike.

A crisp, cool and icy Diamond Valley afternoon.

Over the last several weeks it’s been so icy most of the time that riding outside was not really safe. Thankfully, there are options. For example, a bluetooth trainer helps lessen the boredom and makes a virtual ride more engaging. I use a CycleOps Magnus with Zwift. The trainer syncs with Zwift and so as the grade increases on the screen, the resistence increases on the trainer. It’s not climbing per se but it certainly feels more realistic than mashing a bigger gear to simulate a climb. With this set up I can spin at a high cadence when I climb in the house just like I would when I’m on the road.

Last weekend, I took another step forward. I mounted a flat screen in my workout room and hooked it up to an old Apple TV. I did have one problem, though: the Zwift app. was kinda janky and running it with the Apple TV remote was problematic. So, I went with Airplay instead. That actually turned out to be a better set up. I put my laptop on a tripod (you can get a special tray on online to attach to any tripod), placed it by my side, opposite the stool I have for my water bottle, phone, towel, etc. and man, it felt like Mission Control! And that larger screen (46″) made for a much more immersive experience than what I had used previously – just the Mac in front of me on that tripod. Since the beginning of the month I’ve put in about 214 miles, with 172 of those on Zwift. I cast my mind back to the winter of ’16-17 when I rode 600 miles during one period, all indoors!

Yeah, I here ya! I need to find something else to do perhaps. A bit of snowshoeing maybe? Time to learn how to ski? How about a hike? Yup, I need to do some of that too. I do have a sweet little gym set up (little being the operative word) so I can do some core work, keep the upper body strong and work on those hammies and glutes a bit too. But, I agree, some other outdoor activities are warranted.

With that said, I did get a little break in the weather, or ice I should say, and got outside for a couple hours last Sunday. I was able to ride up Highway 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) a bit. The snow, and requisite gate, however, stopped me at Wolf Creek but I did get a glimpse of a bald eagle and I startled a coyote (doing it’s “business” on the side of the road). It’s the little things…

Snow and ice behind the gate at Hwy. 4 and Wolf Creek Road.

It was a great day, made even more special by the fact that I was outside. Yet another perk of riding inside: the rides outside are just a bit more enjoyable. If you’d like to do a bit of winter riding in one of the most beautiful places in the world, come on up, the weather’s fine…for now.

Snow on the sides of the road but not on it! Made all that much sweeter by that bright, shiny orb in the sky.

L’Etape California – A Good Yet Hard Day on the Bike

A few of us California Alps Cycling members had signed up but we lost a couple, one to injury and one because he became a new daddy last year and so has not been able to put in the miles.

So, it was just Scott Keno and I representing C.A.C. a week ago Sunday (the ride/race took place on October 28th). I made the trek east from Markleeville and Scott made the trip north from Clovis. We met up Saturday at the Expo where we picked up our bib numbers, timing chips, t-shirts and schwag bag. John and Diana Velez, two hard-core local riders, and friends of Scott’s (and now friends of mine) also came by the Expo, along with their standard poodle, Studly (what a cool dog).

An image of Mark with a dog licking his ear.
Studly introducing himself to me, while his Mom, Diana, looks on approvingly.

We spent a bit of time checking out the gear at the Assos truck where John, and the Assos boyz, turned me on to some cool bibs (I bought the Equipe and wore them on the ride the next day – man were they commmmffffyyyy).  The five (5) of us then bailed from the festival, but not before checking out some TDF history at the Expo’s museum (mouse over the images and the captions will pop-up. Dig that wool jersey!),

and headed out for some pub grub and a few cervezas. Later that night, we met up with a couple more friends for some good eats at the Corner Tavern and Grill.

After dinner it was time to get the gear ready, put the chips and numbers on the bikes and our jerseys and get some rest.

The day of the ride started well. Nice weather – not too cold – and so we didn’t have to wear “the warmers.” I did, though, add a light base under my jersey and wore a neck thingy too. You’d think that since I live in the Sierra that I wouldn’t be such a cold-whimp, but alas, that’s not the case.

A couple pix from the start – That’s Scott doing “the Kilroy” and me chatting with another rider in that image on the right.

We took off with an escort (always cool) about 8:00 a.m. and after just a short bit of flat roads, the climbing started. For those of us doing the 90 mile ride, we had about 8000′ of climbing to look forward to and we did about 7000′ of that in the first 50 miles! As is the usual for L’Etape, the course was a difficult and challenging one but hey, as we’ve all heard, if it was easy, anyone could do it!

Three riders smiling for the camera.

This was my third L’Etape and I had a goal of placing in the top 200 riders, a ride time of 6 (six) hours and an elapsed time of under 8 (eight) hours. I felt pretty good about hitting those goals since I was peaking fitness-wise and I had a really strong rider to pull me (and push me, if you get my drift) around the course. And John met us early on and rode with us for part of the course too (that’s him in the middle of the above pic.).

Rider pointing to his location on the elevation profile of L'Etape California.
Yup, I was there.

For those of you who haven’t done a L’Etape before then you’re probably not aware that the TDF organization does a bit of timing on certain sections (KOMs) and on this particular ride there were three (3). Now this big boy is never in the top of those standings but it’s always fun to compare myself to others. Scott is a big boy too (not as big as I but not your “typical” rider) but we climb fairly well and always enjoy the looks we get when we pass smaller riders while climbing.

Anyway, as it turns out I was 221st out of 394th on the climbs (cumulatively), 27th (out of 38) in my age group (55-59) and for the “classic challenge” (.3 miles at 12% average but let me tell you there were some 18-20% pitches in there!) I came in 99th out of 207 riders! Overall, I finished 165th so really stoked about that! There were 295 participants on the 90 mile course so I’m pretty happy with that. Time on the bike = 6:14:20 (almost hit my 6 hour goal) and elapsed time was 7:08:01.  Click here to see my official results, and click here to see Scott’s. Note: he would have had some much better results if he wasn’t letting me suck his wheel all day long. Well, I did do one good pull towards the end of the ride. Thanks Scott for taking care of me. You are the man!

L'Etape Course Map and Profiles
The course map and my elevation, speed and HR profiles for the day.

Hopefully I didn’t bore you with too many stats and such. I was just trying to give all of you, especially those of you who haven’t participated in such an event, a good sense of the day. I’ll leave you with one last picture…

Me and Scott after finishing the 2018 L'Etape.
All smiles now that we have our finisher’s medals, which (GOOD IDEA) also double as bottle openers.

And bid you all a happy Monday and remind you to challenge yourself and ride safe.

Now Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™