Training & Racing With a Power Meter – Will it Make You a Better Rider?

THE short answer is YES! It certainly has in my case and I’m willing to bet it will help you improve too.

I’VE recently finished reading the 3rd edition of the book “Training + Racing with a Power Meter.” It’s a lengthy and technical tome, and I first mentioned it last October in a post I published about fitness apps.

CLICK here to read that post.

THE book is full of juicy bits (and myriad workouts) and I’ve been practicing what it preaches for several months now, with my most recent efforts focused on pacing. If you’re like I used to be (and most cyclists are I suspect) than you’ve probably been using your heart rate for your focal point, and that’s a decent option, especially since some power meters can be a bit pricey. And if you don’t have one…

Don’t get me wrong. I still pay attention to my heart rate but now it’s in comparison to my power numbers, not vice-versa. Let me explain.

PACING and POWER

Typically, cyclists just ride. We ride hard if we feel good. We ride easy if we don’t. We’ll watch that heart rate and let it settle down if it gets too high and we’ll push harder if we think we’ve got some beats to give. And yes, you can pace yourself using those criteria. I have and sometimes still do.

However, if you take the leap and instead make power the cornerstone of your cycling workouts (after you test yourself and figure out your FTP) then you can instead set your pace based on the watts you’re producing.

FTP, or Functional Threshold Power (no, not File Transfer Protocol you computer nerd) is defined as “the highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for approximately one hour. When power exceeds FTP, fatigue will occur much sooner, whereas power just below FTP can be maintained considerably longer.”

THAT’S pacing in a nutshell: Don’t go all out early. Save some matches (also defined in the book) for later in the race. For most of my cycling-life I’ve been this guy: Go as hard as you can until you get tired and then rest more often, and longer, in order to finish the event or workout. Holding back is hard. Especially on a time-trial and especially when other cyclists are passing you or you’re riding with a stronger rider.

I’ve been working on my pacing, mostly inside on the trainer, by doing a couple rides I’ve done many times before, one on Zwift and one on FulGaz: Alpe du Zwift on the former and the Alpe d’Huez on the latter. The former by the way, is Zwift’s version of the latter. They both have their advantages, or likes as the case may be, but I won’t bore you with those distinctions. Suffice it to say they are difficult climbs, with specific sectors, that easily translate to pacing practice or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).

When I’m working on those “two- P’s” I focus on keeping my power number down in Zone 3 for most of the ride and as I get closer to the finish I continue to push harder through the other zones so that I finish in Zone 5 or 6.

THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

Yum! Pudding! It’s been awhile since I’ve had some good pudding. I have to make some and put it on my post-ride list. I’m salivating now but will move on. Apologies…

Last week I was reading one of the last chapters (chapter 13) and came across the section(s) on time trials. Last year, as you may have read in my “Social Distancing Racing” posts (use the search box on my home page to find ’em) I participated in some racing, and due to Covid-19 all the races were essentially time trials but I didn’t know then what I know now. I would have done better had I read the chapter sooner.

THE section(s) to which I refer delve into flat TTs, hilly TTs and more. There is great advice to be gleaned but I’m not going to regurge it all here. Instead let me just say that I took the author’s advice and applied it (last Sunday as it turns out) on an 18-mile TT (with rollers, and coincidentally, a headwind).

Drum roll please…

I paced myself at my FTP (290). I didn’t worry about speed or heart rate.

I kept my power close to my FTP when hitting the rollers. In the past I would instead push well over my FTP, sometimes into Zone 6 on the climb, and then try to rest a little on the downhill.

AS you can imagine, I didn’t fare too well towards the end of the races. I was coming in 10th, 11th, or worse. I was burning WAY too many matches WAY too early.

THIS time though, I didn’t do that and the above screenshot of the segment (the entire TT) from Strava says it all!

AND what you can’t see is the TT within this TT that I had done twelve (12) times before. It’s approximately 9.5 miles long and on this effort I beat that previous time by OVER 3 MINUTES, and my average power was 70 WATTS HIGHER!

Holy frijole Batman! As I told my wife via text when I was done: “I guess that book was right! Check this shit out! 2nd out of 168. All time! It actually works!”

THE moral of the story is that training and racing with a power meter DOES WORK and it can make you, like it has me, a stronger rider and a more formidable racer.

IF you’d like some 411 on power meters and what I’m using, shoot me an email with your contact information and I’ll get in touch. I’m currently running two different power meters (both crank-based) on two different bikes and have experience with a third single-arm meter. Here’s a link to a good article as well.

Wishing you a happy and powerful new year. Stay safe and healthy and let’s kick some time trials’ asses!

With Insurrection in the Capitol How Do I Blog About Cycling?

What’s taking place in our country right now is heartbreaking. Our president is fomenting insurrection.

So called patriots (terrorists, really) are breaking windows, entering the U.S. Capitol and threatening violence. They were smiling and high-fiving each other like it was some sort of party. A woman who was shot inside the building earlier today has died. This on a day that is sacred to our constitution, our democracy…

This is not how I was raised. Not what I learned in school. Not what this country is about. And our president is doing nothing? In fact he said he loved these people. Oh, and by the way Mr. Trump, there’s still a pandemic raging that is killing thousands of people a day.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley just said (and based on the tweet I just saw from Trump I agree), that he thinks Trump is sick. “Out of his mind” is what an unnamed source close to Trump just said.

How do I blog about cycling after seeing and hearing this? I can’t. It would cheapen or lessen what’s occurring.

I don’t have thousands of followers so I understand that I, unlike others who do, won’t necessarily make an impact by writing what I’m writing. But I have to “say” something.

I’m a registered Democrat. Two of my closest friends are registered Republicans. But…we are AMERICANS FIRST AND FOREMOST. We like the friendly discourse we have over politics, especially after a few shots of tequila.

These people though, including our president and a few other political leaders, are not about balance. They are about taking care of themselves and their cronies. They don’t give a shit about us!

At least Vice-President Pence had some guts and told these crazies to leave. That took courage. Thank you Mr. Vice President! Unfortunately they’re not listening, though. On one hand I hope they do go home and on the other I think that maybe their attention will only be grabbed by being arrested. Or worse.

AS President Bush just wrote, and I paraphrase, this is what happens in banana republics, not what happens in a true democracy. There is now talk about invoking the 25th amendment. I hope the cabinet does that.

This man is no longer fit to hold office!

It’s time to pray for our country. Blogging about cycling will have to wait.

Godspeed to you all and please stay safe!

Cycling Events in 2021? Here’s What on Our List

2020 was not a very event-full year, at least in terms of “real” bike events. Sure, many of us, yours truly included, did some virtual events/tours, and even some racing, but it wasn’t nearly the same as being there with a bunch of riders that were suffering (or not) right along with me.

And the after parties…I really miss those!

SPEAKING OF EVENTS

AT the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce we’ve continued to work on the 2021 Deathride and are optimistic that we can pull it off. I’m on the periphery if you will — the actual work is being done by our Executive Director, Becky DeForest-Hanson, and our Ride Director, Curtis Fong — so I won’t go into much detail but suffice it to say there’s a good chance IMHO that we’ll be riding those iconic California Alps climbs in July.

WE’VE also been talking with the folks at FulGaz about doing some sort of virtual Deathride in the first quarter of 2021! Something along the lines of the Bay Area Virtual Fondo, perhaps. It would give you veteran Deathriders a chance to do some training in the pain cave prior to the big day. And for any of you who haven’t done the ride you’d get a chance to wet your wheels, so to speak. Remember, we’ve filmed all of the climbs (and some other local rides too) so you’ll be able to experience the real thing…virtually ;-).

BIKE the West’s America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and Tour de Tahoe are on my list. Well, at least one of them is…And I’m looking forward (admittedly with a bit of trepidation) to my first gravel grinder: Stetina’s Paydirt, in September of 2021.

ON a somewhat tangential note

RECENTLY I participated in a virtual meeting involving several bike coalitions and representatives of Caltrans District 10. Rob Williams, outreach manager at the California Bicycle Coalition (aka CALBIKE) set up and facilitated the meeting, which was primarily focused on us all getting to know each other a bit and devising a plan to work together moving forward.

IT was a great get-together and nice connections, and in several cases, reunions, were made. More on that in a future post.

FOR now though I’d like to direct you to an article that was recently published (Rob was the author, by the way) on Bike Valley to Sierra, entitled “40 Years of Cycling the California Alps.” It’s a nice little missive and besides other data that matta, has links to some other events in District 10, which includes Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

WHAT’S on your list? Feel free to share by commenting on this post, or on our Facebook page.

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Please stay safe and healthy and keep training so we can all kick some passes’ asses next year.

Together.

In person.

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Il Finito

SO it was that about two (2) weeks after I returned from my trip to Markleeville, my wife and I found ourselves en route to “my town” so she could see the house and property in-person for the first time.

WE decided that we would let it happen, or not, depending on how things felt once she saw the place, and met Pat and Rich. We also thought it prudent to look at other properties in the area just to be sure and so we asked Sarah to set up some walk-thrus. This was August 11th, 2016.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

MY wife fell in love with the place, the town and the people right away. Just like I did. The other homes we looked at were nice but none of them were “it” like the house on Hot Springs Road. Yup, ’twas yet another sign.

WE told Sarah (our realtor) “yes” and headed home right away. We had both taken just the one day off; we didn’t want to lose the house and we knew there was another offer on the table. On our way home, thanks to technology and our fast moving realtor, we signed the offer from the side of the road, on the Hwy 99/4 cloverleaf, as it turns out. Things were moving very quickly indeed!

SELLING OUR HOME IN SAN JOSE

MY Mom, who now lives on the property with us in her own little home, lived in San Diego at the time. She dabbled in the real estate business down in Sandy Eggo, as she sometimes called it, and had made some connections in the Bay Area when she lived there for a bit several years prior.

SHE reached out to her connections and found us a realtor that we hoped would help us sell our home. You see, Clara Lee, who did in fact become our realtor wasn’t sure she wanted to take on new clients at the time. She had just wrapped up an arduous deal with some folks who, shall we say, weren’t the nicest to work with and she was feeling pretty beat up.

MOM, however, can be pretty persuasive and convinced her to at least meet us. I kid you not, when we got home that day, Clara was waiting for us. It was an instant connection and Clara took us under her wing. She walked through the house and gave us advice (some of which we didn’t like) as to how to move forward. Nonetheless, we listened to her and we had the house painted, prepped, staged and ready within a few weeks.

THERE was a broker’s tour on August 31st and about two (2) weeks or so later we held an open house and received a whole shitload (love that word – it always takes me back to that scene in Blazing Saddles) of offers. Needless to say, we took the best one and began the closing process.

OUR SAGA CONTINUES…

WE made several trips back and forth to Markleeville in the interim. We also bought a Subaru, and named it Clara, in homage to our Clara. And we purchased a little trailer for Clara (the car, not the realtor), too.

OF COURSE there was still a lot more to do! We got the movers set up, took care of more (endless?) paperwork and packed. And packed. And packed. And cleaned. And scrubbed. And buffed. For those of you who’ve gone through this process, you know what I’m talking about.

ON October 13th, my birthday as it turns out, I picked up the new Outback, and that night we had a celebratory dinner with Clara (the realtor, not the car). She gave us this little sign (uh huh, another one) at that dinner that hangs in our garage today.

ON October 19th we made our way up to Markleeville. The deal had closed! Not without a whole lot of last minute drama (title company style), some of which took place on the trip east. It was a wild ride in many ways…

The next day, I took my first ride up to, and in, Grover Hot Springs State Park – October 20th, 2016.

A RAINY DAY MOVE

IT was pouring rain when we loaded up Clara (again, the car, not the realtor) and her trailer with the little things that the movers weren’t going to take, and our three (3) cats, Ditty, Louie and Tina, and drove to our new home. This was Friday, October 28th. I remember it well for many reasons but mostly because it happened to be on my Grandmother’s birthday. See what I mean about all these friggin’ signs. Uncanny!

I dropped off mi esposa and the bambinos and made my way back to San Jose, arriving around 9:00 p.m. or so. I had the last minute clean up to do; we just couldn’t get it all done in enough time for me to not have to make this last trip and gawd was I tired!

CAREFUL what you wish for, right?

HOME Depot was a necessary stop before heading back to our soon to be former home. I needed a few more boxes, tape and shrink wrap. I slept on the floor that night and in the a.m. I began the cleaning, and packed the car to the gills, spending most of that Saturday to get ‘er done. I left Silicon Valley for our new home just before 5:00 p.m. (that’s when I took that pic above of the Subie in the driveway).

I got in so late that night that we postponed the real celebration until the next day, October 30th and we did so in style. My dear departed friend, Joe Karotkin, turned us on to this “100 year old” orange liqueur a bunch of years back and we decided we wanted to break tradition and go with it, instead of some champagne.

SO, there you have it, our story of whoa!

Definitely not “woe.” Okay there were some “woes” in there but they were soon forgotten as we began our new life in the California Alps.

IT takes some work to live here. There’s snow and cold and ice and bears and mountain lions and small town politics and so on but we wouldn’t trade it for ’nuffin.

WE earned major kudos from the locals, now our neighbors and friends, by the way, for making it through that first winter (2016-2017 was the drought breaker as you may recall) without incident but with quite a bit of help.

After all, we were greenhorns. Not anymore though. We’re now Markleevillians!

Have a VERY Merry Christmas!

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Part Two

MY saga continues…’Twas day three (3) of my Markleeville stay and I had some business to attend to today: a visit with the staff at the Alpine County Superior Court.

AS I mentioned in last week’s post, working with the courts (mostly in CA but also in other states) was my day job and so I had planned to stop in and introduce myself to the CEO (in court parlance CEO stands for Court Executive Officer) and the clerk(s) at the Markleeville Courthouse.

Unfortunately my timing was off a bit so my check-in would have to wait a day. I did, however, snag this image from the steps of the courthouse.

SINCE I had some time to kill I thought I’d stop in at the Intero Real Estate office a few doors up, and just for shits and giggles (my actual thoughts at the time), ask about the house on Hot Springs Road. I met Sarah Chichester that day and we talked about the house (it had been on the market for some time) as well as land in the area. It was she that gave me a reality check about the expense of putting in water and power on a vacant piece of property. I told her why I was here and that at this point I wasn’t at all serious about buying the house but I asked if I could take a look anyway.

SHE was so friendly (just about everyone here in Markleeville is that way I later learned) and immediately picked up the phone. “Sure,” she said, “we can head on over. The owners are both home and are expecting us.”

THE SIGNS CONTINUE

SO off Sarah and I went, about a mile from town to the house. There I met Pat and Rich, the owners. Oh, and the sign? It was Pat (her name, really). Pat is my wife’s name! They gave me a tour of the entire house and property and a bit of history too. Pat and her first husband built the place in 1976. After about 40 years here she was ready for warmer climes, she said, and so they were going to move to Florida, where they already had a beachfront condo. But, she told me, they had to find the right people first. They felt very strongly that the next owners had to care about the land and surrounds as much as they did; there was a lot of history here and not just theirs, but generations of settlers, and before that, the Native American Peoples.

Chalet Schwartz before it was Chalet Schwartz. We took this shot about 3 weeks after I first saw the house and property. Just past, and a bit left (south as it turns out) of the white trailer, is Hot Springs Creek, fka the Middle Fork of the Carson River. As you can see, Pat and Rich were prepping the U-Haul.

IN fact, there is a grinding rock on the property and yes, that was yet another sign. My wife and I love Native American lore/karma/energy, whatever you want to call it!

MY FIRST TRIP UP

I had meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, so I had to get moving early so I could get up to Ebbetts Pass and back. I had estimated about two (2) hours round trip (not too far off) and so was on the road about 7:00 a.m. It was hot that summer so the morning was cool, not frigid, like it is today. Still, I did have some arm warmers and a base layer on, and a shell for the descent.

MY wife and I talked the night before about the possiblities. Could we afford to buy the house now as a second home? We decided that no, we could not keep our San Jose home and have a 2nd home in Markleeville (or anywhere else for that matter). She floated this idea, though: perhaps we could move there? She only had about a year or so left before she retired and I was already a remote worker and accustomed to working from home. Nah, that’s crazy. We can’t do that! Still, the thoughts kept coming…

ANYWAY, off I went. I stopped for a photo at Monitor Junction (the image at the top of this post) and as I got back on my bike I remember thinking: could we actually move here? I kid you not that right at that moment I had my first eagle sighting (a bald eagle it was) here in the CA Alps! It flew directly over head as if to answer my question. Yes, you could, said the eagle. Yet another sign…

AS I road up, and up, and up the mountain I was astounded by the beauty of it all. The river, the mountains, the trees and THAT SKY…

Man, what a place!

EBBETTS PASS – AND YET ANOTHER SIGN

THAT last mile or so from Kinney to the pass isn’t an easy one but I knew I was close and so it didn’t matter how tired I was. I did have to go to work, even if was in the river cabin, so no more dawdling allowed, I said to myself. I arrived at the pass and took the requisite selfies to document my success. As I was taking a few more moments to revel and reflect, a pickup pulled up next to me and the driver asked if I knew where the trailhead to the PCT was. No, I said, it was my first time in the area and I had no clue. The passenger then leaned forward and cocked his head to say thanks and I couldn’t believe it, it was my friend (and former dentist) Mike!

“Mike Forster!” I said and he then recognized me. It had been several years since I had seen him; I knew he had a place in South Lake, though, and over the years he was often there. He was just as surprised as I was and said he didn’t recognize me at first because I had lost quite a bit of weight. What are the odds, eh? For us to connect again at this exact moment in this amazing place.

If that wasn’t a sign (and a BIG ONE) then what was!?

WE yakked for a bit but as I already told you, and then I told him, I had to get going. I had a meeting. I let him know where I was staying and he promised to stop by before he headed back to his place in Tahoe. He then took a better photo of me at the marker and his buddy took the photo of us (both below) before we parted ways.

THE TALE TERMINATES…NEXT WEEK

I hope you’ve found the story entertaining so far. I am certainly enjoying the re-telling of it but alas, I must keep you waiting for the conclusion until next week. I don’t mean to belabor the “sign thing” but there are still a couple more to come, mostly related to the specific hows of our exodus from Silicon Valley.

Until then, be safe, stay healthy and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Part One

‘TWAS a warm (ok, hot) summer day in July of 2016 when I packed up my bike and other necessessities, and headed for Alpine county, for a week (almost) at the Carson River Resort.

QUICK pause before I get into the meat of the story so I can give a shout out to my fellow blogger (I don’t know his actual name I realize) at Half Fast Cycling Club for prompting me, in his recent “Pandemic Tree post” of just two days ago, to write this story. He’s done the Deathride before and we were looking forward to meeting at this year’s ride but, well, you know how that ended.

Anyway…the story begins

IT had been a very stressful few weeks work-wise and between that, and the noise of the city, I was in desperate need of a mountain hit. Having grown up in San Jose I was used to heading to our local hills, or the Santa Cruz mountains on most occassions, but every year or so, like many Californians (or Nevadans for that matter) I suspect, I was privileged to be able to head to the Sierra.

THIS particular level of tensity warranted those big mountains but knowing what I knew about the summer season I feared I would find no accomodations. Camping would have been preferred but I had no vacation time so my compromise was to bring the necessary tech and work during the day and ride in the a.m., p.m. or during lunch. First, though, where to go?

Caples Lake as seen on my first trip to Markleeville.

YOSEMITE was my first choice. It is my wife, Patricia’s, and my, happy place. Well, it was. Now we live in our happy place. Not that Yosemite still isn’t…

AS you might have guessed, though, there were no rooms anywhere in the park.

MY next option was Mammoth. I had always wanted to go there so I did some searching and found a couple possibilities, but none of them had kitchens (or even “ettes”) and that wasn’t going to work. I wanted to cook my own meals.

HEY, I thought, how about Markleeville?

Before I continue with my saga, let me take you back a bunch of years, to my elementary school days (daze?), which is when I first learned of Markleeville.

MY grandparents on Mom’s side had a cabin in Arnold, CA (Lakemont Pines to be specific). We spent quite a bit of time there, both in the summer and the winter. During the winter we would often head up towards Lake Alpine for a bit of tubing and tobagganing. Traveling up Highway 4 towards Ebbetts Pass we would pass the mileage sign which showed the distance to Markleeville.

OF course being a young’n I said things to myself like “that town has my name” or “that town was named after me.” I remember thinking (did I ask? I don’t remember) it would be cool to see my town. I really don’t recall much more than that but knowing what I know now we couldn’t have gone to Markleeville very easily as Hwy. 4 would have been closed. So, we never made it and until this trip, I had never seen Markleeville before.

Back to present day, or 2016 to be more precise

I did some googling and called both the Creekside Lodge (no dice) and the Carson River Resort. When I asked the dude who answered the phone if they had anything available, especially on the river, he sort of chuckled and I sighed. No luck here either. Shit! But then he said: “Wait a minute…It looks like we have a cancellation. The river cabin is available but only this Sunday through next Thursday.” I’ll take it, I said!

AS it turns out, that was the first sign – from nothing anywhere to something in Markleeville. My town! 🙂

SO I packed up my gear, my bike, some food, of course some tequila and cerveza. I also brought some “nice clothes” as I planned on visiting the Alpine County Superior Court (building and maintaining relationships with courts throughout the state, country really, was part of my job description at the time) while I was there. I also loaded up the laptop and two monitors so I could fulfill my other employment-related duties.

A Sunday afternoon arrival

AFTER an uneventful, but longer trip than I expected (Markleeville, it could be said, is in B.F.E.), I arrived at my destination. The cabin however, was not ready, and Angel (the owner at the time) was very apologetic. No worries, I told her, I’ll just go for a ride up to that park in Markleeville that I saw the sign for – Grover Hot Springs.

BACK towards town I rode and I hung a left at Montgomery Street. At the fork in the road I stayed right and that put me on Hot Springs Road. As I headed towards the park I noticed a house (more like a cabin) for sale and made a mental note to pull the flyer and check it out on the way back, just to satisfy my curiosity.

THE park was pretty sweet. I made another mental note to check out the hot springs before I left town and back down towards town I went. I stopped at the house and pulled the flyer. Being born and raised in San Jose I was blown away. That’s all? Seriously? I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t going for two to three times that! It sat on just under 1/2 an acre and there was a creek (Hot Springs Creek, formerly known as the Middle Fork of the Carson River) in the backyard. My wife and I had talked for years about having a little place in the mountains, on a lake or river, when we retired.

THIS was that place! Now we weren’t ready to retire yet but it got me thinking, is this another sign?

APOLOGIES but I’m going to have to stop here and leave you hanging. My saga, as it turns out, is just too long for one blog post.

NEXT week, part two.

Gravel! the California Alps? A Brief What and Where

This past spring I took my first real foray into gravel riding. It was a challenging but oh so fun adventure. You can read about it here. Since then I’ve done a lot of thinking, and a bit of reconnaissance, on potential gravel ride routes here in Alpine Co., and as you can imagine there are many possibilities.

What is Gravel Riding?

I’m not really qualified to answer that question since I am by no means a gravel expert. Not even close. In fact I’m not very experienced on a mountain bike either. I’ve ridden over 6000 miles this year on my road bike yet I have only about 400 miles total on my mountain bike, and I’m a bit embarrassed to say, that’s in about 4 years. As for gravel riding, I’ve only done that three (3) times (but all this year at least!).

With that said, in my mind gravel riding is riding a road bike, with special tires, on trails or fire roads. I now know it’s not quite that simple but I think it’s a pretty fair one-sentence description. Selene Yeager, author of “Gravel! The Ultimate Guide to the Gear, Training, and Grit You Need to Crush It,” (which by the way is a good read and full of “gravelly” advice) writes that:

…”gravel is still up for intepretation. You know to expect some rowdy, even scary, stuff in a mountain bike race. You expect road races to have some technical turns. Gravel remains largely undefined, which is exactly the point. It’s supposed to be an adventure. One person might imagine quiet, rugged, relatively smooth, if crunchy roads [my original expectation]. Another considers any unpaved surface fair game [the reality of gravel riding that I’ve come to know].”

She also notes that “if you’re brand new to riding unpaved surfaces on a drop bar bar bike, everything may feel a category tougher.” I can relate. She goes further by adding to examples (categories), originally crafted by Neil Shirley and “codified” in his Industry Standard to Gravel (ISGG). Check out the book or the ISGG for more on those cats.

Also check out this post on VeloNews, written by Pete Stetina, where he compares a WorldTour year to a Gravel year — really eye-opening!

Adventure Indeed!

As you’ve now read in that post from earlier this year, I didn’t set my expectations very well this past spring and now that I’m better at that I’m happier when riding gravel.

Here’s three (3) of the four (4) gravel rides I’ve done this year (there’s a link to numero quatro – not shown below – in the first paragraph of this post), one of which, Leviathan Mine Road, was technically not a gravel ride since I rode my mountain bike. But it could be and so I’ve listed it here. I hope to ride it on the gravel bike sometime between now and next spring/summer.

  • Starts at Highway 88 in Alpine Co., CA
  • I rode up to the lake, with a slight detour on the way
  • 11.61 miles round trip
  • 1:31:15 of moving time
  • 1542′ of climbing.
  • Starts at Jacks Valley Road in Carson City, NV
  • We road up to the Clear Creek Junction
  • 16.77 miles round trip
  • 2:11:39 of moving time
  • 1909 feet of climbing.
  • Starts at Hwy. 395 near Topaz Lake, in NV
  • I rode the Fuel up to the intersection of Leviathan Mine Road (LMR) and Loope Canyon Road (LCR)
  • 25.89 miles round trip
  • 2:29:44 of moving time
  • 2874 feet of climbing.

More to Come!

Admittedly I’ve barely scratched the gravel-riding surface but like the title of this post reads ’tis a brief what and where. Nonetheless I hope you found some of the “what” enlightening and some of the “where” inspiring. Pick your adventure, whether it’s one of my suggestions or not, and do some gravel.

It’s definitely more challenging than road cycling. In some (most) ways it’s harder than mountain biking (e.g. no shocks, smaller tires) but I’ve found that it’s also easier in terms of speed and nimbleness. I’ve got a lot more to learn but now that I’ve done a few rides, and gotten out of my own way a bit (those expectations, you know?) I’m certainly ready for more gravel!

How about you? Any tips or suggestions for some gravelly adventures?

Stay safe, be well and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

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.

A Bike Shop in Markleeville? Tell Us What You Think!

It’s always been my dream to own a bike shop. When we started California Alps Cycling back in 2017 we thought that perhaps it could someday morph into a brick & mortar business and come spring of 2021 it just might!

And that’s where you come in…we’d like to know what you think about the concept.

  • What would you like to see in the shop?
  • Do you think we should rent bikes?
  • Should we offer tours?
  • Would you frequent such a business?

First, Some Background

For those of you who’ve visited Markleeville in the last couple of years you may recall our little gas station: “Al’s Got Gas, Bait and Tackle.”

This is Al’s, in its early stages, before it had signage and such.

The station has been open 24/7 for awhile now but the convenience store (right side) and the retail shop (left side) have not been open for the past year, for the most part because the owners have been too busy with their day jobs. They have reached out to us and suggested we take over Al’s and put in some sort of shop as well.

So we’ve been talking about doing something along the lines of what our friends at Bear Valley Adventure Company do, e.g. rent bikes, repair bikes, sell souveneirs, sell basic outdoor gear – and not just cycling gear – and host the town’s gas station.

Side note: BVAC is light years ahead of where we would be when we opened but our hope is that we too could eventually offer some winter sport activities as well.

In case you weren’t aware, 95% of Alpine Co. is public land and there are TONS OF THINGS TO DO HERE IN THE WINTER but no real organized events. Coincidentally, the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce has formed a working group to try and remedy that and yours truly is a member of that group.

But, I digress.

Participants lined up at the starting line at last year’s Earth Day Kid’s Bike Race.

Making a Difference

The image above says it all, at least from our perspective. Yours truly, and fellow CAC member Chris Schull, wrenched on the kid’s bikes in the a.m. so they could race ’em in the afternoon. To see those furiously peddling legs…Those smiles…What a day it was!

We believe we’ve already made a small difference in our community but we’d like to do more.

  • We want to help people with their bikes.
  • We want to educate.
  • We want to advocate.
  • We want to host group rides.
  • We want to sponsor events.
  • We want to help our community continue to grow (but keep our small town, alternative to South Lake Tahoe, vibe).
  • Oh, I should mention that while we’d like to sell bikes that’s likely not possible due to several factors but hey, you never know…

What do you think?

Can you help us reach the finish line?

We’d like to hear from you, our loyal readers, our members, our customers and perhaps you, our future customers.

Tell us what you think.

Don’t hold back.

We really want to know!

Honest.

Winter is Afoot in the California Alps – Here’s a Snowy Update!

Finally. Some snow. So good to see the white stuff coming down this past weekend. It wasn’t a piddly amount either – we received about 8” here at California Alps Cycling HQ and so we had to break out the snowblower!

Riding Behind Those Gates

CalTrans closed the gates at Monitor Junction last Friday in anticipation of the coming storm and so access to Monitor Pass and Ebbetts Pass, and as it turns out, Sonora Pass, was restricted.

The above image, at Hwy. 4 and Wolf Creek Road, was taken earlier this year and I post it up here to point out the difference between the simple “Road Closed” signs and the extra “Pedestrians, Bicycles, Motor-Driven Cycles Prohibited” signage. The former is what we cyclists, hikers, fisherpersons like – it means no cars to worry about and so it’s generally safe to do your thing. When that extra sign is posted though, it’s an indicator that there is heavy equipment, road repairs, snowblowing, etc. going on and it’s NOT SAFE to go behind the gates. This I learned in speaking with CalTrans.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there is no vehicular extraction if you have a mechanical once you’ve gone over to the other side. I personally have done a bit of walking over the last several years, once when I had a chain break and once when I double flatted and so I learned this lesson the hard way.

Curt Prater, one of our FB followers, gets credit for this part of our update by the way. He and I struck up a conversation after he saw our post on the closure. He loves riding behind those gates and he reminded me that I do too.

Just be prepared and be safe about it, okay? It does come with some risk.

Some Sobering News…

Unfortunatley, there’s been a Covid-19 outbreak here in Alpine County. As of this morning the total number of cases is 26, with one (1) hospitalization and thankfully, no deaths. Up until last month we only had three (3) but we, like many other counties in CA, are now ticking up. It’s an important reminder that even though we’re all growing tired of the virus, it is not growing tired of us. On the contrary, I fear it’s taking advantage of that fatigue. With the holidays approaching it’s up to all of us to keep up the good fight. Please wear a mask and stay safe.

Snow covers the rocks of Hot Springs Creek and if you look closely you can see those squirrel prints to the left of the frame.

Switching Tacks…

Let’s talk about food and suds for a minute. One of my colleagues on the Chamber Board is Patrick Sarni, owner of the 7800 Bar & Grill in Kirkwood. He’s opening on December 1st in anticipation of the December 4th opening of Kirkwood. Patrick, like most small business owners, especially those in the food service industry, has put everything he has into his business so let’s help him, and others like him, have a successful opening, and season, safely!

Ditto for the Out West Cafe here in Markleeville. Joey and Danelle Daly, who also own DollFace Cheesecakes, have recently opened in the former Alps Haus Cafe location. I overheard a patron raving about the cheesecake and will be ordering one for Thanksgiving.

Snow covered rocks and icy waters of Hot Springs Creek.

The Mad Dog Cafe at Woodfords Station also has good grub (and cerveza) and I heard from a reliable source (Jennifer Quillici, owner) yesterday that they will be the ONLY snow-park permit vendor in Alpine County this season. She said they should have the permits in about a week.

And definitely don’t forget about the J. Marklee Toll Station and the Cutthroat Brewing Company. The latter, as you may know, just opened this past summer.

A small pool in Hot Springs Creek. Ice skating coming soon!

While it’s not about food and suds, it’s also worth noting that The Bear Valley Adventure Company has posted on its website a projected XC Ski and Snowshoe opening of November 27th! We’re looking forward to some ‘shoe’n and I’m hoping to get in some cross-country skiing, too. First, I need some lessons though. 😉

Should be an interesting season with Covid-19 in play but as long as we all keep up with those best practices we can make it a safe one. As it turns out I just saw an email from our County Health Officer, Rick Johnson, in which he advises to BOLO for an update next week after the state releases its tier assignment. Like I said, interesting season…

Some New FulGaz Rides are in the Works

I’ve noticed quite a few riders tackling some of the rides I filmed earlier this year. Yesterday I did the Ebbetts South Ascent, the shortest of the Deathride climbs, as a quick warm-up for some core work, and saw that 52 riders have ridden it since it went live. Cool!

What’s even better is this email I received from a FulGaz subscriber last week. Froylan wrote: “I wanted to thank you for the wonderful job you did to film the climbs of the Deathride. I have participated in that event for a number of years and of course I miss not riding the event this year, but thanks to you and Fulgaz (love the app for rides) I can re-live the event at home.” He made my day and also asked about Kingsbury Grade, which is on my list, but not yet filmed.

I have, however, recently filmed three (3) rides around Big Blue (aka Lake Tahoe) as well as one from Hope Valley to Lower Blue Lake (with some fall colors). I’m processing them now and should get the files to FulGaz by the end of the week for their processing. Stay tuned as you’ll soon have a chance to partake on those rides too, along with Froylan!

Closing Things Out With a Couple Nature Videos

A turkey social in the snow
An early a.m. (this morning) visitor – a gray fox.

And on this Veteran’s Day I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to all the veterans (including my Grandpa who served in WWII), their families and those currently serving. Thank you SO MUCH for your service and sacrifice!

Stay safe, be well and let’s kick some passes’ asses! Whether that be by bike, snowshoe, ski or snowmobile.