The Ghost Ride Cometh to the California Alps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From the Ghost Ride Facebook page:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s just say this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get the Right Ca-Ca

As in equipment.

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

Get the Right Angle

Take a look at these two images:

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

Get Good Internet

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

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

WHAT? 60 FRICKIN’ HOURS TO UPLOAD A RIDE?

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

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

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

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

Get Some Help

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

Some hints:

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

So What Have We Learned Grasshopper?

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

That’s a wrap.

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

Want to be a Better Climber? Here are 5 Nuggets of Wisdom

For those of you who have met me you know I don’t have the typical climber’s frame – in fact I don’t have the typical cyclist’s frame either. At over six-feet tall and about 220 pounds I climb better than most cyclists even though I weigh more than most cyclists. I don’t say this out of braggadocio, and I’m never going to be a Pantani or a Froome, but if I can improve my climbing prowess, so can you!

Now if you’re a loyal reader you know I’ve waxed on about climbing in the past, including a post back in September of 2018 where I wrote about some of these same principles. Recently, though I’ve had somewhat of an epiphany so I wanted to share. Again!

Nugget #1 – Work on the Weight

Yup, it’s somewhat of a no-brainer but I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on other things, many of them productive, at the expense of this one.

I just wasn’t improving as quickly as I wanted, even with all the other work I was doing, so I set a goal to get to my lowest weight since high school. I had that “Denial is d-longest river in d-world” moment, you know?

You can tell by my shadow 😉
that I was a bit porkier back in November

I realized that goal and lost 20 pounds. Granted, the weight does fluctuate day-to-day but I know my base weight is a helluva lot less than it was and that’s making a difference, and not just on the bike. Can you say power-to-weight ratio?

Nugget #2 – Eat Better

Most cyclists I know, including yours truly, drink a lot of beer. We often take the approach that goes something like this:

“Hey, I’ve burned 1000 calories today, I can eat (or drink) 1000 calories more.”

This one has been the bane of my existence and still is to a certain extent. Today, however, I focus more on the what and not as much on the how much. Sure, sometimes I over do it but when I do I back off the next few days.

In general I eat more fiber than I used to (especially in the a.m. – it “holds” better) as well as lots of yogurt and other high-quality, lean proteins and most importantly I focus more on the after-workout nutrition. That 30 minute window post-ride is crucial. Get some good protein and carbs in after that ride.

My biggest challenge is snacking, especially after dinner. When I don’t do that the scale is happier and I sleep better, too. Go figure.

Lastly, it’s the little things…Every once in a while I choose less over more. For example a 1/2 a sandwich instead of a whole, some pasta and cottage cheese instead of that sandwich – I can live off of those things, I swear! – or no 2nd breakfast or mid-morning snack and a chore instead (gotta keep my mind off my stomach).

Nugget #3 – Get More Rest

This one is probably the most challenging for me and I suspect it may be for you as well. So much to ride, so little time. I’ve been somewhat immersed in racing season (see my April 23rd post about Social Distancing Racing) and so every week it’s another challenge. Early on I kept riding, in some cases fairly hard) between races (all TTs), and it began to take its toll. I wasn’t sleeping well some nights, my heart was pounding some mornings when it didn’t used to and my average resting heart rate was climbing.

Once I added in a rest day or two per week I slept better, my RHR got back to a more normal range and I wasn’t so cranky. Denial is d longest river…

Nugget #4 – HIIT it

High-Intensity Interval Training is what HIIT stands for and as painful as it can be it is SO WORTH IT!

The book “Climb!” (see my March 21, 2019 post) by Selene Yeager was life-changing for me. Among other things it includes several HIIT options (it’s by no means an exhaustive resource on the subject, though) that I find can be done inside or outside. In fact IMHO some of them are more easily done on the trainer since as it is a more controlled environment.

HIIT also includes lifting heavy weights. When I lift (twice a week ideally) I go with the circuit training model – I keep the heart rate up and use weights that allow me to do 12 reps per set and 3 sets. I often alternate push, pull, legs, arms, etc. so I can rest some muscles between sets.

I now throw in some weights that are so heavy I can only lift them 5 times or so. The muscles don’t know what to do initially but they figure it out and I’ve gotten both stronger and more lean.

Nugget #5 – Core, Core, Core

It’s all about balance and it’s the core that is responsible. As a martial artist I know this but I have to remind myself fairly often. It’s easier to just get on the bike.

My core-efforts, if you will, include a lot of kettle bell work as well as balance exercises on the Bosu ball and most recently I’ve hung some straps in the garage so I can do leg-curls and leg-lifts from the bottom up, if you get my drift. This approach really works the lower abs and hip-flexors.

I’ve also added other, non-traditional exercises to my repertoire. These include scorpions, weighted jump squats and bird-dogs.

Oh, and speaking of non-traditional…Check out this post: “Find a few extra watts,” from pedalWORKS. I too was skeptical but I kid you not I immediately saw the watts go up when “breaking the bar.”

Show Me the Money!

Coming up the eastern side of Monitor during the 2018 Deathride

Alright Cuba (Gooding, not the country) here are a couple rides I’ve done recently that validate this approach.

Kingsbury Grade (Daggett Summit) – 7.75 miles, 6% avg. gradient, ~2500′ of up

First ridden in April of 2017 and ridden three (3) more times since, the latest being last May (the 29th).

On that May ride I improved on my previous best time
by over thirteen (13) minutes!

Monitor East (Monitor Pass) – 9.25 miles, 7% avg. gradient, ~3100′ of up

First ridden in May of 2017 and ridden six (6) more times since, the latest being June 26th of this year.

On that June ride I improved on my previous best time
by over fourteen (14) minutes!

Granted, this improvement didn’t happen overnight and frankly I’ve still got some more work to do but by focusing more on rest, losing some weight, strengthening my core, hitting those intervals and keeping a better eye on my nutrition I’ve become a much better climber and a better cyclist overall.

Sure, some of this stuff may be obvious (e.g. weight loss) but in my mind it’s the combination of all of these things that have made me a better mountain goat.

How about you?
What have you done to be a better cyclist,
gravel rider or mountain biker?

Do tell!

Climbing Mt. Everest on a Bike? What the What!?

Last Saturday (and Sunday too), three (3) intrepid athletes did that on Ebbetts Pass, for the first time! They didn’t really climb Everest.

Let me explain.

Image courtesy of wikipedia

Everesting, as it is known is “fiendishly simple, yet brutally hard.”

Everesting.cc, from where the above quote is taken, describes it thusly:

The concept of Everesting is fiendishly simple: Pick any hill, anywhere in the world and complete repeats of it in a single activity until you climb 8,848m – the equivalent height of Mt Everest. Complete the challenge on a bike, on foot, or online, and you’ll find your name in the Hall of Fame, alongside the best climbers in the world.

Those athletes I mentioned? Roy Franz, Paige Redman and Shane Trotter. I have to mention (brag, actually) that Shane is CA Alps Cycling member #7.

And Roy, Paige and Shane are all in the Everesting Hall of Fame!

HUGE CONGRATS from California Alps Cycling to them all! RESPECT!

These very fit, very crazy and very driven riders started their adventure Saturday a.m. at about 7:00 a.m.

Shane, the fastest of the three (and an everesting pro – this was his 8th), finished in 17H 27M and did so while experiencing some debilitating (at least for we mortals) stomach issues. When I saw him just below Cascade Creek you couldn’t tell he was suffering.

Paige hammered this thing out in 18H 54M. I saw her too as I was driving up the hill to do some fishing and gave her a few words of encouragement. Frankly, I don’t think she needed them but based on her reaction she appreciated the gesture. Hey we all know what it’s like to get a few “attas” when we’re suffering. Will ride (harder, faster, longer) for cowbells, right?

Roy took a bit (okay a lot) longer than Paige and Shane. His time: 29H 32M. Yup, you read that correctly; over 24 hours!

I saw Roy during his attempt also, while he was on his 5th ascent, and as I told him, he looked great. He wasn’t even sweating! Fast forward to Sunday afternoon…I ran into Roy again, this time I was riding (to the point where they started their assault), though and he was getting into his car to head back home (with a stop planned at his favorite deli on the way).

A beaming Roy after his successful Everesting attempt

While all three of them are total animals, Roy gets the perseverance prize. He regaled me with stories of the cold and the sore hands; he had to stop at one point for some hot soup and coffee early Sunday a.m. but got back on the bike and finished. Me? Nap time. I would have been done at that point. No wait, I wouldn’t have made it to that point!

To be clear – all of these riders were on the mountain after dark. This particular mountain, for those who haven’t experienced it, has some nasty corners too, so not only did they have to climb at night, they had to descend too. Not for the feint of heart. Did I say “RESPECT?”

Just to give you a sense of the climb and the descent, here’s a couple video clips of Shane doing his thing during a filming session we did about 10 days ago. Remember, these riders did this during the day, and at night. About thirteen times!

As I tell folks who ask me how I do those long rides (again, nothing like these riders have done) it’s mostly about will. Sure, you have to be fit but in the end it comes down to how much pain and suffering you can endure. Needless to say, these three fine individuals can endure, and endured, a lot!

Talk about kicking some passes’ asses…

Thank you Paige, Roy and Shane for the inspiration. All of you are cycling champions and we wish you well on future Everesting attempts.

Better you than me!

In Cycling it’s All About the Data – or is It?

Garmin, Wahoo, FitBit, Apple Watch, Lintelek (haven’t heard of that one until today), you name it, most us of have one, or more, so we can track our rides, runs, hikes, sleep, Vo2 max., oxygen saturation, heart rate, caloric intake and on and on and on.

Is it worth the hassle?

Well after yakking with my BFF (and CA Alps Cycling member #3) Scott yesterday about the issues he was having getting his new Wahoo Elemnt Roam to upload to Strava I asked myself that very question.

My answer = YES.

My Experience

I’ve run an Apple Watch (it’s been awhile) and found it wasn’t rugged enough. At one point I used it for work and my Fenix (Garmin) for play. It became too much to manage both systems and I also found in the frequent switches that I would have “button-confusion” (the process whereby you push one button on one watch thinking it was the other button on the other watch and therefore not get the data you were looking for). I just made that up but I think it works. Hello Merriam-Webster! Next edition perhaps?

Image courtesy of Know Your Meme

Finally I decided to simplify my life and I sold the Apple Watch and went with the Fenix. Since then I’ve upgraded a few times to newer Fenix models and I absolutely LOVE this watch (Fenix 6 Pro) and with just a couple of exceptions (I’ll let you guess) it never comes off.

This watch gives me the tools and feedback to monitor and improve my health and fitness. Among other things it’s helped me lose 20 pounds this year and increase my Vo2 max and FTP. It also lets me keep an eye on my pulse ox and resting heart rate – two key indicators that can tell me if something’s awry in the ol’ bod.

What about on the bike?

But…the watch doesn’t work on the bike, at least for me. While I do wear it while I ride, and use it as a back up — which, you’re correct, adds another layer of data complexity and management — I prefer a larger, bicycle specific computer on the two-wheeler, or wheelers. The larger fonts help me see the data that matta betta.

In the saddle I’ve used a Garmin most of the time (1030 is my current model) and a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt some of the time. Recently though, just before Scotty did as it turns out, I purchased a Wahoo Elemnt Roam. Why?

I was tired of the resets and screen freezes on the 1030 and I happened to notice on Strava that Levi Leipheimer was running a Roam. I had also just watched a FulGaz “How to film amazing bike videos” clip on YouTube and it suggested that the Wahoo was the best computer to use to record your rides.

I must give credit where credit is due though: Garmin support has been awesome and they have sent me two replacements. As I think about it, Wahoo support has been great too – I had problems with my original Kickr awhile back and they too sent a new unit my way and knock on wood, no further issues. Maybe I’m just too hard on shit? Or is it just that shit happens? I’m going with the latter.

Talking about confusing data…A cow with horns and an udder?

The downside(s)

Of course being the data-nerd that I am, I had to compare the difference between the Fenix and the Roam. After pairing the same speed sensor to both off I went for a ride up to Raymond Meadow Creek (northern side of Hwy. 4/Ebbetts Pass).

Guess what? The Roam “said” I was faster but the Fenix gave me more credit for elevation gain. Seriously? I have to pick? C’mon man!

As I alluded to in the beginning of the post, there can be upload or download issues, too. While the 1030 uploads seamlessly, even when not on wifi, as does the Fenix, I’ve had challenges with the Roam (but not the Bolt – go figure) uploading when not on wifi. Wahoo support gave Scott some guidance this a.m. though (they also said that a patch was forthcoming) and so we’ll continue to compare notes. Perhaps we’re the exception, Scott and I, as Charlie, CAC member #6, has had no problems uploading via cellular.

Ignoring the data

Part of the feature-set for the Garmin models that I run is the post-ride feedback, e.g. Productive, Unproductive, Maintaining and Peaking. But I’ve had conversations like this with my watch: “What do you mean I’m unproductive (as it displayed yesterday)? How can you say that if my Vo2 max is up and I rested yesterday?” I’ve even been known to give it the finger when I don’t like what it displays.

It’s a similar dynamic that I sometimes experience when using GPS to navigate in my car. What, that’s not the correct street! I shouldn’t turn that direction. I’m going this way!

So are these things worth the trouble?

To me the key is finding the balance and realizing, as I read recently, that these data points are just that – the data helps us make decisions or gives us insight that perhaps we don’t have or couldn’t get. Note to selves: That doesn’t mean though, that we have to pay attention to our various devices like they were oracles!

In spite of all the data and equipment management, upload and download challenges and button confusion, however, I still believe these “widgets” are worthwhile.

How about you? Do you have similar challenges? Perhaps you don’t even run a bike computer (like a friend of mine here in town). Do you have some recommendations? Funny stories?

Please…I need more data!

Wind, Wind and More Wind

Why is it that the headwind on the way out isn’t a tailwind on the way back? How come those crosswinds turn to headwinds? Why does wind seem to come screaming down one little canyon from the east but on another canyon just up the road it comes from the west?

As a local rider and friend, and member of CA Alps Cycling said to me some time ago (and he’s lived here for decades): “The wind can be a bit vexing here, can’t it?” So, true, Rich. So very true.

I originally published this post in November of 2018. After some recent “howlers” here in the California Alps though — including a ride just last week where the crosswinds were so strong I had to lean in so much I felt like I was riding at a 45 degree angle — I thought it might be time to re-post it. So here ’tis, a little trip down a windy, memory lane.

As a San Jose native, I was very familiar with the wind patterns. I lived in South San Jose for many years and could plan my rides knowing pretty well how the wind would blow: Go out early and get the tailwind on the way home. Go out later in the afternoon and get the headwind on the way home. Certainly this did depend on the direction of my ride but for the most part I could easily predict the patterns.

So, what’s the deal with that moving air here in the Sierra Nevada?

Well, thanks to “A Sierra Club Naturalist’s Guide” by Stephen Whitney, we’ve got some answers. 

Mountain winds: “Winds and breezes passing over a rugged mountain range such as the Sierra follow tortuous courses over and around ridges, up and down canyons, through gaps in the crest. Eddies set up by the irregular terrain blow here and there in vigorous gusts that rattle trees and shrubs one minute only to abruptly die down the next. In the protection of a large boulder or grove of trees there may be scarcely any wind at all, while just a few yards away, in a more exposed area, it howls furiously.”

Wind-driven clouds in the CA Alps

Okay, so that makes sense. It’s somewhat analogous to the flow of a river. Rocks = rapids. Eddies are often downstream of those big rocks and flat water can be seen where there aren’t any big rocks to interrupt the water’s flow.

Let’s dive a little deeper, though. Why is it that I can head up Hwy. 4 (towards Ebbett’s Pass) with a headwind and then not get that tailwind on the way back? Okay, sometimes I do get the tailwind but it’s not consistent like it was in Silicon Valley.

Well, Mr.Whitney gives us a bit more information: It’s about mountain breezes, valley breezes and the mountain ranges “intrusion” into the tropopause

“On a warm summer morning the air next to the ground surface is heated and rises. Cooler air nearby moves in to replace it and rises in turn. This movement is felt during the day as an upslope breeze.” Typically, he writes, this starts about three hours after sunrise and reaches its peak during the hottest hours of the day and then it tapers off again around dusk.”

This is a valley breeze.  

“At night, cool air flows downslope, creating the mountain breeze.”

Dust off those cobwebs and cast your mind back

To those high school science days (daze?), that is…

Here’s some additional data: “Wind speed increases over mountain crests and through canyons and passes because air – like any fluid – accelerates when forced through a narrow passage. As a volume of air moves upslope, it is increasingly squeezed between the mountains and the tropopause, the inversion layer acting as a lid on the lower atmosphere.”

“Since the volume of air remains the same as it squeezes over the mountain crest, it becomes elongated.” Okay so that means it picks up speed. Seems reasonable…He goes on to write that “air forced to squeeze through a canyon or mountain pass is accelerated in much the same way.”

In doing a bit more googling today, I came across this article from the Smithsonian. I don’t recall discussing the Bernoulli Principle in Bio 1 (or any other bio or science courses I took in high school or community college), but if I did it’s been too many years or perhaps it’s due to mistakes of a misspent (not all of it, I swear) youth. Nonetheless, it’s on point! The principle, not the misspent youth…

Mountain winds, valley breezes and mountain breezes

So, there we have it! Mountain winds, mountain breezes and valley breezes combined with the myriad canyons, crests, passes and that ol’ tropopause challenge those of us who cycle in the California Alps.

It’s a rare day when we have no wind and due to the topography you can’t count on consistency. If you ride here then you, grasshopper, like me, need to learn to embrace the wind. 

Ride safe out there and let’s kick some passes asses!™ Even the windy ones…

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Forum

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

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

Image credit: Pittsburgh Current

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s where the funny part starts

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

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

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

BUT She drove right on by!

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

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

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

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

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

What’s MY moral to the story?

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

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

Pedalling During the Pandemic – an Imperfect Practice

If you’re like us, and the other cyclists, mountain bikers, gravel riders and e-bike riders we know, then you haven’t given up riding, or other outdoor activities, since our battle with Covid-19 began. Mark continues to ride, although he now carries some additional equipment he didn’t carry before. Note: he DOES NOT wear the mask while riding.

Mask and container, and a tube of hand sanitizer, make up Mark’s Covid-19 cycling kit. No gloves, though.

Other members of our merry band of troublemakers also continue to ride and as far as we know none of them are doing it Lone Ranger style – who was that masked man? Of course, that would be the WRONG type of mask to wear anyway, but hey we’re going with a bit of poetic license, k?

A New Dynamic

There’s a new and interesting dynamic on the road, paved or gravel, and the trail too. We’ve seen masks (only once) and no masks, big groups and little groups, social distancing and not so social, or more correctly stated not so distant, distancing.

What used to be a “approach the rider in front to say hi and yak a bit” is now a full-gas approach from behind, giving appropriate space in case of droplets, breath, or god forbid, actual phlegm, and then allowing at least six-feet of elbow-room, with a wave as we go by.

From “Medium’s” post of April 7, 2020.

That feels somewhat rude to us. Does the rider we just passed think we were waving hi or do they think we were being a-holes and emphasizing just how slow we thought they were? Hopefully the former. Perhaps a “howdy” or “beauty day” we just realized, would alleviate that confusion (or our consternation) — need to start doing that.

Just How Much Is Enough?

Speaking of appropriate space…Our friends over at PedalWORKS published a post (last month we think) that really hit home with us – 6 feet ain’t enough, riders! We tried to find that post and the appropriate link thereto but no dice.

So instead here’s a link to the post from which the above image is taken — Hey PedalWORKS, was this one of your sources? It looks familiar!

The Belgians and Dutch (’twas their study) have the cycling creds to be able to speak to this with some (ok, a lot of) authority. Here’s their highlight:

On the basis of these results the scientist advises that for walking the distance of people moving in the same direction in 1 line should be at least 4–5 meter[s], for running and slow biking it should be 10 meters and for hard biking at least 20 meters. 

20 meters? That’s 65.62 feet in case you were wondering!

Alta Alpina Cycling Club’s Social Distancing Series

We wrote about this last month but it’s worth mentioning again; the club continues to nail it!

Side note: As a member of this club, Mark’s been participating in this series and has just finished week #6. He loves the number nine apparently: four 9th places, one 10th place, and one snake-eyes. His goal is to finish the series in the top 10 and our math shows him at an average of 9.5 so far. Still a ways to go…

Advocates for Safety

We here at California Alps Cycling feel very strongly that as cyclists and riders we need to go the extra mile. No pun intended. We’ve seen so many photos on Strava, and elsewhere, that seem to indicate many, many individuals are taking a nonchalant approach by riding way to closely together or taking group shots where there is barely any distance between riders at all.

While we understand it may not be a perfect science, and that we could be a bit paranoid, we’re concerned that it sets the wrong example.

See our post from a couple weeks back where we speculate why some drivers hate cyclists. This “hey we’re too healthy, or pretty, or whatever, to get this thing” approach is adding fuel to that fire in our opinion.

What’s Your Approach?

Perhaps you can help…what is your club doing? What are you doing? Are you riding inside? Not riding at all? Wearing a mask? Holding your breath while passing another rider or posing for that group shot? Wearing an oxygen mask? What?

We’d love to hear how you’re dealing with the Covid-19 adversity. Or are you?

What Else Can You Do in the California Alps Besides Cycling? Here are Some Ideas…

Mom’s boot gives you a sense of the size of a bear. In this case a black bear – no grizzlies (aka brown bears) here. Nonetheless, I must confess, I know not the size nor age of this bruin. If the size of the poop we found on the trail is any indication…Well, let’s just say this particular bear appeared to be eating well.

Hiking (and Posey Sniffing)

Heenan Lake

We came upon this print last year, on the trail to Heenan Lake, while checking out the fish hatchery. It’s a short, flat (except for the little hill as you leave the parking lot) walk along the lake to the hatchery, where you can see, and get splashed by, if you’re so inclined, the famous Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. We were just there again last weekend and were greeted by Doug, the “hatchery-master,” who regaled us of his recent bear (bears, actually) encounter. You’ll have to hit Doug up yourself for the complete story. In the meantime, just use your imagination. Bears and fish…Get it?

Thornburg Canyon

I did a portion of this trail just yesterday and can’t wait to do the rest. Didn’t have a lot of time and the weather was coming in so I cut it short. As you can see, though, it’s a beauty of a trail with great views – both near and far.

To say we’ve just scratched the surface on the local trail and flora seen would be quite the understatement!

So, for more on Markleeville area hiking, check out this post (from January of last year) or this one, from last fall. For more data that matta, take a look at AllTrails and if you’re looking for something you can touch and feel, we recommend the Alpine Sierra Trailblazer. And for a cool application that you can use to ID flowers, trees and other plants, check out the PictureThis – Plant Identifier on the App Store.

Birding

Wild turkeys are definitely about, although we haven’t seen them as much lately. That is typical though – they seem to follow a different pattern after hunting season ends. Go figure! Other birds we’ve seen lately include hummingbirds (Anna’s, Rufuos and Calliope), which, admittedly, are best spotted on the feeders here at HQ (or perhaps at your house!).

We’ve also seen many hawks (mostly Red-Tailed) as well as some eagles (Bald and Golden) here and there. Steller’s Jays, Clark’s Nutcrackers, American Goldfinches and White-Crowned Sparrows have been frequenting the area, too and just recently we’ve been visited by Black-headed Grosbeaks. Check out this post from last fall – it includes a mention of a very rare bird in these parts, a Yellow-browed Warbler, who decided to make a little stopover here in Markleeville. Here’s another post with an image of an osprey that came by for a visit in October of last year and sucked down a Garter snake.

Here Fishy, Fishy…

Whether it’s the East Carson, the West Carson, Markleeville Creek or Hot Springs Creek, you’ll likely get some action. We’ve also got a few lakes and reservoirs around. Okay, you’re right – waaaay more than a few! Check out Dave’s Sierra Fishing for the details that I just don’t have room to post. Talking with our friendly neighborhood Chamber of Commerce would be a good idea as well.

By the way, trout season just opened last Friday and as I understand it, Fish & Game did a plant already. Soon, though, a bigger plant, with bigger fish, will take place. Perhaps for the Memorial Day weekend…You’ll have to come and see for yourself!

So Much to See, Tread (on) and Catch

More and more businesses (including restaurants) are open here in Alpine County; and so are hotels and some of the campgrounds. Definitely poke around our site too for more ideas as we’ve posted quite a few missives that may whet your appetite further.

We’re not all just boring cyclists, as we hope you’ve now noticed! We encourage ourselves (and you) to take some time off the bike and do some hiking, birding, posey sniffing, fishing or whatever strikes your fancy. Do it here in the California Alps, or anywhere else. Just do it safely, with dare I say, appropriate distancing, and carefully (mountains can be dangerous places). And, if you’re in need or want of some specifics, let us know!

Why Some Drivers Hate Cyclists and What We Can Do About It

Well if you’ve ridden as much and as often as I have (and even if you haven’t) then you’ve likely gotten yelled at, or honked at, or worse. We’ve all heard those stories about “the worse” and my bet is that some of you may have experienced it. Lucky for me, I haven’t, and of course I hope I never will.

A few years back, though, when I was riding the Mendocino Monster – and a monster it is, a driver intentionally plowed into a small group of cyclists out of frustration and rage (that’s what we were told, anyway). Thankfully, no one died. As I recall, though, at least one rider was taken to the hospital. One of my greatest fears when on the bike, if not the greatest: road rage.

Some Drivers are Just Shitheads

And there’s nothing we can do about that. Unfortunately. They, their friends and their family have to deal with that. I don’t envy any of them. It should be said, too, that some cyclists are also doody-heads (my friend’s son Mikey coined that term).

In any case, there’s not much that can be done for someone who is just an a-hole by nature; just give them a wide berth and figure that karma will take care of business.

Some Drivers Just Don’t Know

They don’t understand why we do what we do. They don’t know what it’s like to push themselves to the limit on a bike (or perhaps on a treadmill, or in a weight-room).

Most importantly, they don’t know the law (i.e. THE VEHICLE CODE). In CA, for example, they don’t know that V.C. section 21200(a) reads (in part): “A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle…”

They don’t appreciate that V.C. section 21760(c) reads: “A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.

It’s not their fault; they just don’t know.

Some Cyclists Act Like Prima Donnas

We’ve got our carbon fiber, or titanium, or unobtanium bikes. We’re rocking the lycra with the bright, tight jerseys and the high-end shoes that sound like horses hooves when we’re getting that espresso. We’ve got our own lingo. We often ride in groups (well, maybe not so much right now) and don’t follow the “single-file please” best practice. Most times that’s just because we revert, as I tell some of my non-cyclist friends.

Some Cyclists Revert to Childhood

We can’t help but go back to the time when we were five and we could do whatever the hell we wanted on our Sting-rays! Sometimes, though, it’s because we feel or act like we’re privileged. Hey, we drive cars too! We pay our taxes! We’re entitled to the road as much as a car, damnit! While this may be true, when we harrumph about it too much or too loudly, we become the shithead.

What We Can Cyclists Do About It

First and foremost – we can engage, advocate and educate. We also need to listen. One of the first things I did when I wanted to start this little adventure called California Alps Cycling was reach out to one of my neighbors. Nancy Thornburg was a community leader (unfortunately we lost her on December 31st, 2017) and she was known for her outspokenness, but also for her fairness and kindness. When I called her to explain my idea she said something like: “you know we don’t care much for cyclists, right?” I replied that I did know that and it was exactly for this reason that I wanted to talk with her.

She invited me and my wife up to her and her husband Fritzes house, and we got to know each other. I explained why for example we don’t ride close to the fogline all the time and admitted that yes, periodically we were dolts on bikes. I also pointed out that most of us help our communities, do more than ride bikes (i.e. fish, eat at restaurants, shop at the general store, etc.) and that we also drive cars. She and Fritz related to me some of the things we do that pissed them off and I acknowledged she had a point. Several actually. We became friends. I miss her.

What Else Can We Do?

Participate. Without asking for anything in return. Be active in the community, whether that’s picking up litter (as you may know, we “own” a stretch of Hwy. 89 here in Markleeville and we do our Adopt-a-Highway routine several times a year) or clearing rocks from the road.

Empathize. Occasionally I’m a nut. I’m a distracted cyclist. I’m talking to my friend and I’m being an idiot. That guy should have been irritated at me. I would have been too!

Attend local events. Especially those that are not cycling related. It’s a great way to show you care and that you’re not just about the bike. Contribute your opinions, your time and if you can, your money. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Smile and wave more often. It sounds simple but I find most riders don’t do it enough, or at all. I salute the CalTrans drivers whenever they pass. I ALWAYS wave or acknowledge other riders and most of the time I smile and wave at cars (or the drivers thereof). When I don’t it’s because I shouldn’t, or can’t – i.e. a big wind gust; a sharp turn; I’m about to pop an eyeball on that climb.

What Do You Think?

Am I smoking something? Too simplistic? Right on? Have you had any run-ins that ended well because you took the high-road? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with your fellow readers?

I’d love to hear from you. I promise, I’ll listen. Even if you don’t ride a bike!