Category: virtual rides

Deathride News – Virtual and Actual

AS I mentioned in last week’s missive…COMING to a theatre near you: a virtual version of the Tour of the California Alps – Deathride. It begins on April 2nd!

I’VE also got some news about the real version, which takes place on July 17th.

Read on McRider…

Virtual Version

MEMBERS of California Alps Cycling, including yours truly, will be taking part in this epic event and we hope to see you as well. Be on the lookout for an invite to our Strava club so you can earn some bragging rights, and CLICK HERE to register. And if by chance you can spare a few more ducats (there is a donation option) we’d sure appreciate it. Ruptured vinyl here…Our little community, like many others, perhaps even yours, has taken a big hit event-wise due to the pandemic and the Deathride, which was canceled last year, is our biggest revenue source at the Chamber. Thank you in advance for your support.

LET me give you just a bit more background…

LAST year I filmed all of the climbs of the Deathride. GoPro mounted on the stem, top tube pack with an extra battery and a bit of trial and error. I rode them on my Emonda so had to pay the piper if you will, and if you listen closely you can hear my cycling gesticulations as I grind. I promise though, nothing X-rated. I recorded them so that riders, including me, could tour the area anytime, from anywhere – the beauty of FulGaz. For a complete list of all of “my rides” take a look at last week’s post.

I’VE participated in a couple FulGaz Fondos and they are fun! Leaderboards and a course map on your display, while you ride through the scenery, make it an immersive experience. If you haven’t tried FulGaz, whether it be as a subscriber or a “Fondo-er”, you really should check it out.

BY the way, you will not need to be a FulGaz subscriber to particpate. The Chamber will send you a code once you sign up for the Virtual Tour.

Again, starting the 2nd day of April. And again, you can get more details AND register here.

Actual Version

ALPINE County’s Planning Commission recently approved the permit for the Deathride to be CLOSED on both Highway 89 (Monitor Pass – like it has been) and Highway 4 (Ebbetts Pass – like it has been).

WITH one exception…

THE ride will NOT INCLUDE CARSON PASS this year but instead will go farther down Highway 4 to just before Lake Alpine and then back up and over, to eventually finish at Turtle Rock Park. Yup, Pacific Grade x 2. Ouch! The route will be shorter (just about 103 miles) but will still have ample climbing (~14000 feet) and therefore lots-of-weakness-leaving-the-body opportunities. 😉

IT’S going to be so sweet to only have to worry about cars between Turtle Rock Park and Monitor Junction. Alpine County Public Health has been a partner throughout this process and continues to be. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that the ride is dependent on our progess with the pandemic. Fingers crossed we’ll all be climbing on July 17th.

WE’RE currently working on an extra event or two around the Deathride as well. Part of our mission it to bring back that fondo-like experience and while we don’t want to over-promise right now we’re looking to host a kids/family type event the day before, or even the day of the event, to give rider’s families something to so while we’re out there enjoying the beauty of the California Alps.

A kid’s MTB race (maybe even one for the big kids), a safety clinic/fix-it clinic, a yoga class, and a course on Native American art, culture and influence are all being discussed. We’re hoping to have this event at the Hung A Lel Ti reservation here in Alpine County.

Some cool giveaways are also in the mix!

IDEALLY your appetite is now whetted!

HERE’S hoping we’ll all have some images of our own to add from this year’s Tour of the California Alps. I’ve never ridden Pacific Grade so am really looking forward to that. And, to signing the poster!

Remind me I said that when you see me on the course in July, k?

IN the meantime, we’re looking forward to seeing you in April. So please be safe, stay healthy and get those climbing legs ready!

Bike the California Alps Virtually? Here are Some Options!

FIRST and foremost I’d like to announce the Death Ride Tour of the California Alps – Virtual Tour! We’ve (the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce) been working with FulGaz to put together this event and it takes place starting April 3rd!

A Few More Event Details

YOU loyal readers know that I’ve filmed a bunch of rides for FulGaz over the last year or so. Part of the library includes all five (5) climbs of the iconic Death Ride (formally known as the Tour of the California Alps):

  • Monitor West Ascent
  • Monitor East Ascent
  • Ebbetts North Ascent
  • Ebbetts South Ascent
  • Carson East Ascent

COME April 3rd you’ll be able to conquer all of these climbs from the pleasure of your pain cave! (If you’re a FulGaz subscriber you can tackle them already).

IT’S a great opportunity to do a bit of training, and if you haven’t done these climbs before, it’s a great chance for you to get a glimpse of what’s to come (fingers crossed) this July 17th. Heads up that this year’s “real ride” won’t include Carson Pass (at least that’s our plan) and will instead offer Pacific Grade. We’re still working out those details and of course the ride is dependent on how things progress pandemic-wise but we are cautiously optimistic, and we hope to see you this summer in Markleeville.

IN the meantime we’d love to have you fondo with us beginning April 3rd. They’ll be some cool prizes (winners will be selected randomly) and some bragging rights to be had as well. Registration isn’t open until March 1st, and we do have a few minor details to work out, BUT it’s sure to be a good, and relatively inexpensive ($35.00) time. You’ll be able to register here.

AND…as the title of this post mentions, there are some other alternatives too.

Markleeville Area

IN addition to the DR climbs noted above, you can also ride from Markleeville to the Snowshoe Thompson memorial out in Diamond Valley. There’s also a return route from Diamond Valley to Markleeville. The Alta Alpina Markleeville Time Trial is in the library too.

FOR a bit of context…these rides were all filmed in the summer of 2020, as were the Deathride climbs.

Lake Tahoe aka Big Blue

These rides went live just last week!

THE screen grab above is from the announcement email that was sent to all FulGaz subscribers. Here’s what’s available:

  • DL Bliss State Park to Camp Richardson
  • Meeks Bay to Incline Village
  • Incline Village to Glenbrook

Unfortunately, due to a my error, I didn’t film the section from Glenbrook to Meeks Bay. I thought I did but you’ll have to read that post for the back story. Suffice it to say it’s on my list.

Other California Alps Virtual Ride Options

YOUR sharp eyes may have caught the reference to Hope Valley in that screenshot above. I filmed that ride on October 22, 2020 and even though the fall colors weren’t as glorious as I’ve seen in the past, they were/are still pretty awesome. You’ll definitely want to check it out!

YOU can also do just the Blue Lakes Road Ascent, which is part of the Hope Valley to Lower Blue Lake ride, but shorter, and not quite as vibrant color-wise since it was filmed in July, 2020 (on Independence Day actually). If you pay close attention you can catch some shots of Old Glory on this ride.

How Can You Do These Rides?

LIKE the last sentence reads…

JUST search “SCHWARTZ” on FulGaz for the complete list. I thought of saying “May The Schwartz Be With You” here but I’ll leave that up to Mel.

YES, you do need to be a FulGaz subcriber to enjoy these rides. Keep in mind that there is a 14-day free trial though so you can check them out relatively risk free. FulGaz offers some great rides, including group rides, as well as coaching and training options too, so if you’re like me and doing a lot of riding inside, it’s another great option, or addition.

BTW, you WILL NOT need to be a subscriber to ride the Virtual Deathride. You’ll get a special code that will give you access for that event.

Feedback Has Been Positive So Far

Chris from the United Kingdom wrote that “those rides have made me feel really connected to a place I love.”

Curtis from Michigan said “It’s great to relive the Death Ride and riding around Tahoe even though I haven’t done them in person for a decade now.” Curtis also asked about that “missing link” from Glenbrook to Meeks Bay.

Jim from New England had this to say a week ago: “Great ride Mark, did the Meeks bay one last night and it was super nice given the current winter in New England. Thanks for uploading it!”

Lastly, a bit of praise from Bob (whereabouts unknown): “Mark you made me homesick. I lived in South Lake Tahoe for 12 years riding every single mountain bike trail, every dirt road, and every road event from “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” to the “Death Ride “. Thanks for giving me the chance to ride Tahoe again. 👍👏”

I can’t thank you enough Chris, Curtis, Jim and Bob, for taking the time to ride ’em and especially for letting us know what you thought. It makes the effort so worthwhile when I get this kind of feedback.

There you have it…some virtual choices for you and your faithful steed.

So let’s kick some passes’ asses! Virtually…

Right now, with the exception of Carson, they’re all closed for the winter anyway, but the gates are open and you won’t see any snowplows in your pain cave.

Feeling a Bit Sluggish on the Bike? Perhaps You Need a Plan!

MY fitness was flagging. There was no “go” in the gams. The brain was befuddled and my slumber was sub-standard.

a roaring lion

AND in addition to all of that I was a bit cranky.

YUP, you guessed it! I was overtraining. Over reaching. Well, just over.

IT was time to find a training plan I decided. I’ve done a few structured plans in the past (click here to read about one I did a couple years back that is climbing focused) and they’ve always done me right.

ZWIFT Academy had some options as did TRAININGPEAKS. I tried one of the workouts on Zwift and it was really good. I’ve done quite a few of the other generic workouts on Zwift as well but I was looking for something or someone to tell me what to do, and mayhaps more importantly, what NOT to do, or when NOT to do it. 😉

I needed some structure and I couldn’t really afford a coach. Frankly, I don’t feel I’m at the level where having a coach is even justified, anyway.

SINCE I’ve been using TRAININGPEAKS for some time now, and digging the feedback, I decided to go with one of its plans.

FTP FOCUS 2021 – Power/Threshold Improvement – 4 Weeks’ Training Plan

WAS the plan I chose. I went with it because it was only four (4) weeks long and I had a good base fitness. My new job starts on March 1st too (so stoked!) so I didn’t want to go with a longer program. As it was, I’d be doing that last week during my first week of employment, but in looking at the plan particulars I could see that was do-able; the last week was the easiest and least time consuming.

THE other reason I went with it, and this is a biggie IMHO, is that it syncs with Zwift. Once you purchase the plan you can access each day’s workouts in the training area of Zwift! You can pick any course and then just select the workout you want to run. Zwift will run in ERG mode, provide the prompts for each interval and “yell” at you if your watts are too high or low or your cadence is too fast or slow.

Get those watts up! Not low enough to get “yelled at,” though. The intervals that have been completed, and those that are coming, are displayed on the left.

HELPFUL tip: Pick a flatter course if you want to get more miles in or a hilly course if you want to get the elevation. Since you’ll be in ERG mode the trainer won’t adjust based on the terrain. Instead the resistence will be set according to the workout parameters.

Doing the Work

THE week before I started the plan I noticed my VO2 Max was flat. If I’m doing things right that doesn’t happen; it typically rises as the week progresses. That was another sign (of over-training) as was my steadily rising resting-heart rate.

SO, to kick things off I took two (2) days off, one of which was Day 1 of the training plan. Every Monday is a rest day. Each week ramps up and culminates in a tough weekend. The day before each workout I get an email reminder with the necessary details and the sessions also appear in my TRAININGPEAKS calendar (image below) so I’m prepared for the next day and focused on the current day’s nutrition, recovery and hydration.

My trainingpeaks calendar for this week. The calorie info. is there because TP also integrates with MyFitnessPal, yet another cool feature.

SO it was that on Tuesday, February 9th, I jumped in, or on really. That first week was fairly difficult. It started with a “Power and Fast Cadence” workout, some sweet-spot training (SST) on day 2, a two (2) hour endurance/tempo workout on day 3, some more endurance work on day 4, three (3) max FTP efforts on day 5 and it finished off on Sunday with a two (2) hour SST and endurance ride.

Let’s just say I was happy to have a rest day this past Monday.

UP to this point I’ve done all of the rides on the trainer, which for me is better because there just aren’t that many flat roads here and trying to maintain certain watts and cadence while hitting the rollers, for example, is problematic. Mentally, though, it’s hard being on the KICKR for two (2) hours and I find it somewhat formidable when the sessions are focused on maintaining the same power for a long period of time, like the endurance workout I did on day 4.

203 watts at the same cadence for an hour took some discipline!

WHAT about that four (4) hour ride that’s coming up this Saturday, the 20th? I’ll be doing that one OUTSIDE. In Monterey. The bonus: it will give my wife and me a chance to smell some seaweed, feel some fog and gorge on some good seafood.

The Data Points

HERE’S what I’ve noticed so far, after completing eight (8) workouts:

  • My VO2 max has gone from 45 to 49
  • I feel stronger
  • I’m sleeping better
  • My resting-heart rate is back to where it should be (low to mid-40’s) and is stable
  • I’m not “that lion” anymore
  • My Garmin watch is providing validation – I’ve been “productive” since I started the plan whereas before I was in unproductive mode for quite awhile.
  • FTP – Currently it’s 290. I’m certainly interested to see how (if?) it improves. The plan does include a test on the last day.
  • Weight – Currently about 218 pounds. Getting it down further, and FTP up at the same time, is an important bench-mark as to the overall success of the plan.

SO, whether it’s TRAININGPEAKS, Zwift Academy, TrainerRoad, or some other application, I suggest you give it a try if, like me, you were somewhat stagnant on your steed.

What are You Doing?

EVERY body (and mind) is different so please feel free to dole out your advice by commenting on this post.

IN the meantime, ride on, stay safe and healthy, and let’s train, so when the weather allows and this virus has been sent packing, we can kick some passes’ asses…together!

Today’s Forecast? Blizzard Conditions With a Chance of Zwift

Fulgaz is an option, too. Perhaps a Wahoo or Garmin workout instead? I dunno. I do know this, though:
the chance of moving lots of snow today (blowing, shoveling, etc.) is extremely high!

FOR now, since I’ve finished moving some of those flakes (so I could get the images for this post), I’m content to just blog away, watch the snow fall and revel in the fact that we finally have a shit-ton of that white stuff. About a foot or so since last night, with a lot more expected. Hallelujah!

AS a professional cyclist — written with tongue firmly planted in cheek — I have the luxury of not being too hasty in my decision making this morning (or any morning for that matter). “Professional cyclist,” at least in my case, is code for unemployed. My most excellent friend, Mr. Keno, gave me that moniker, around the summer of 2020 I think it was, because I was able to spend an extraordinary amount of time (and still am) training.

ALAS, I wish the situation was different. I do need to earn more ducats than I am currently but am appreciative of the EDD help and oh so cognizant that there are people far worse off than I.

Indeed, I continually wonder how I held down a full-time job, got those many homestead chores done, stayed involved in the community, and trained.

I did it, but as my wife points out, I was a lot more stressed. And admittedly I didn’t spend quite as much time working out then as I do now. That’s something that will change at some point; either I’ll be back into the corporate grind or working at the California Alps Cycling shop, or both, in the near future.

IN the meantime, I wish you a happy hump day and hope that you too got the weather you needed or wanted.

I’m off to the pain cave.

I’LL leave the icicles alone for now.

MAYBE later, when I’m doing some serious snow-moving, I’ll pull a few of ’em down and start my ‘cicle garden.

Decisions, decisions…

Ride Inside Without the Tech? How Do I Do That?

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.

After all, this was only a bike ride.

Deathride Dreaming? Need Some Ride-Inside Options? Check These Out!

As you likely know by now I’m a FulGaz devotee. That’s not to say I don’t use other “inside apps”, I do. Lately though, FulGaz (FG for short), has been my go-to. With the FulGaz French Tour now complete — my stats: 26:53:40 hours, 221 miles and 50,017 feet of climbing — and the smoke for the wildfires still lingering somewhat, I’m now looking forward to riding all of the Deathride climbs (and other local rides) from the pleasure of the pain cave.

And next week (Tuesday the 29th to be precise), I’ll have my chance and so will you!

Every Tuesday, FG does an email entitled Top Up Tuesday and yesterday I received a preview of ours! The library includes all five (5) of the current Deathride climbs (Monitor East & West, Ebbetts North & South, and Carson East) as well as the climb up Blue Lakes Road and some additional nuggets:

  • Markleeville to Snowshoe
  • Diamond Valley to Markleeville
  • The Alta Alpina Cycling Club (AACC) Markleeville Time Trial.

So here’s your chance to virtually explore some of the rides of Alpine County, and you can do so for very little, or no, money.

How can I do that? you ask. FulGaz offers a 14-day free trial so if you want to hit ’em all up in two (2) weeks you can definitely go that route (no pun intended). After the trial period, it’s only $12.99 per month or $108.99 per year. And no, I don’t work for, nor am I being compensated by FulGaz. I just wanted you to be aware since the application is so bitchin’ and I’ve found that a lot of riders just don’t know about it.

The email will go out to subscribers next Tuesday, September 29th, and the rides will be live that day as well!

Now I put in a lot of miles (~6000 per year), mostly outside, so riding inside isn’t my first option – most of the time. I do find it a great way, however, to do certain workouts in a more controlled environment. By that I mean FTP tests, HIIT work and so on; some of those external forces (e.g. wind, heat, rain, smoke, etc.) can wreak havoc on that day’s plan.

So why not take them out of the equation?

For example, yesterday morning, when I wanted to do some sprints, every two (2) miles, on flat roads, I turned to Zwift. But, when it comes to hill charges, hill repeats or the like, I prefer FulGaz. There I can find steady climbs, or rollers, or both. The steady climbs, like those on the Deathride, are much more conducive to steady efforts if you get my drift. It’s hard to maintain a certain power level when you have to go downhill.

I’ve found it to be an immersive experience, too!

Put on some tunes and put your fine-self in the heart of the California Alps without the need to stuff those jersey pockets, figure out where you’re going to get water or worry about traffic.

And, if you’ve not yet experienced the climbs of the Deathride and so you’re not sure what to expect, these rides will allow you to get a bit of practice in before next year.

Just be sure to put down that sweat mat, turn on those fans and if you’re like me, have an extra kit standing by.

Enjoy the rides and…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

Smoky Where You Are? Here’s How You Can Mix Things Up

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 5, Luz Ardiden – 8.39 miles, 3379 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

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!

Other Options

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.

The Ghost Ride Cometh to the California Alps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Ghost Ride Facebook page:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s just say this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get the Right Ca-Ca

As in equipment.

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

Get the Right Angle

Take a look at these two images:

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

Get Good Internet

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

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

WHAT? 60 FRICKIN’ HOURS TO UPLOAD A RIDE?

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

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

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

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

Get Some Help

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

Some hints:

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

So What Have We Learned Grasshopper?

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

That’s a wrap.

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

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?