IT all started in Woodfords on Friday, June 17th, with the Annual Diamond Valley School Bike-a-thon (and bike-rodeo). That “annual part” has been missing until this year but thanks to the hard work of many individuals, much cat-herding by one of them (not me), and major contributions from local businesses, non-profits, bike shops and bike clubs, the event was a huge success.
YOURS truly, and many others, including Michael from Alta Alpina (thanks Michael – couldn’t have done it without you!), worked for several nights prior to the big event, tuning up the kids bikes and getting the donated bikes ready, too.
GIVING back to the community, especially to the kids, is one of our primary missions here at California Alps Cycling. I was especially pleased to find some whitewalls for Nick’s old Electra, and to see him ready to rumble, with a big ol’ smile, was oh so cool!
WRENCHING on these bikes was a great trip down memory lane, too, to the days when I was a youngster and worked on my own bikes with crescent wrenches, end-wrenches, cone-wrenches and such. No hydraulic brakes, discs, ceramic bearings, or carbon frames here!
GROVER Hot Springs State Park, you ask…Here’s a quick video of a gravel ride I took last weekend. I started at the pool, which unfortunately is not yet open due to damage from the Tamarack Fire. You’ll notice other damage as you peruse the video. Apologies for the video quality…I had to save it as 720p because after one hour plus of trying to upload the “1080 version” I received this response from WordPress: “Unexpected response from the server. The file may have been uploaded successfully. Check in the Media Library or reload the page.”
WELL, it didn’t, upload successfully that is, and so 720 it is/was. Let’s just say our internet here in Markleeville isn’t the fastest. 😉
Made all the more fun due to the fact that the guitarist and singer-songriter/lead vocalist are locals who have put their ducats where their bocas are and have already started helping us recover, and obviously feel strongly about giving back to our community.
Thank you Andy and Avery!
LET’s wrap it up with some fishing news…
It’s been good and it’s bound to get even better! The state planted some fish Monday and the County planted some last week.
A buddy of mine fished Hope Valley and over by Monitor Pass just this morning. He caught 16!
NOTHING finer than fresh-grilled trout, let me tell you. Come wet a line here in one of our many lakes, streams and rivers and fire up that grill!
HAVE an awesome Independence Day weekend, whatever you decide to do!
BE safe, and sane, and remember, the Deathride is in just over two (2) weeks. We’ll be out at the Expo on Friday and Saturday so be sure to stop by and say hi if you’re going to partake in the Tour of the California Alps. 103 miles and over 14000 feet of climbing. Type 2 fun for sure!
AS I understand it, the siren dates back to the early twentieth century and was erected in order to “tell” the Washoe people that it was time for them to get off the streets of Minden, NV, and surrounds, and go home. It still blares its racist message everyday at 6:00 p.m. if you can believe that!
The first time my wife and I heard it we thought it was some sort of test of an emergency siren.
IN a recent article written by Kurt Hildebrand of “The Record-Courier” he references a quote from a letter written by Washoe Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey on August 6th, 2020 in which Mr. Smokey called on Douglas County and the Town of Minden, to silence the siren.
“This is not a noise complaint but an attempt to bring (resolution) to years of underlying racism and historical trauma and our town,” Smokey said. “The historical trauma of this piece of history has an effect on all generations of Washoe people, including the youth of today. It is a constant reminder of the oppression that was brought upon our ancestors.”
FOR a bit more context (there’s a bill, AB88, pending) click here to read the entire article (see page A4). And, no, we don’t buy the “it’s been re-tasked” argument.
The Sundown SIren Protest Ride
A friend of mine e-troduced me to Matt Niswonger, the organizer of the Sundown Siren Protest Ride, and Matt was kind enough to provide some more information:
This is a fundraiser ride. Everything (100%) donated to the link below goes to Washoe outdoor programs through their juvenile probation program. Donation is not mandatory but here is the link in case anyone wants to: https://www.pledgereg.com/tahoe-siren-fundraiser-ride.
The $48 registration fee is to help offset the cost of insurance and the video we are making of the event; as well as the pre-ride meal we are serving the night before at the riders meeting.
The ride involves about 5K feet of climbing and 20 miles – all on trails. Mountain bikes are recommended but it might be possible to ride a gravel bike. Matt says this is suitable for expert riders. “It’s a protest ride so we are not racing and will be mostly sticking together.“
WRITES Matt: “I really appreciate you raising awareness about this protest ride. I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has. If anyone wants to register there is still room for a few more. In case anyone has questions about the Minden sundown siren here is a petition I started with some info.”
WE REALLY APPRECIATE people like Matt, and my friend John Dayberry, and so many others, who are champions of what’s right. Matt can be reached, by the way, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’LL be out of town next weekend or I’d be there. Editors note: I’m kinda glad; the course looks gnarly. 😉
Still, we’ll be sending in our donation (and signing the petition) and hope you can find some time to ride next Saturday, donate to a good cause, or both.
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!).
…”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!
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.
Leviathan Mine Road
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!
I’ve taken my road bike off-road before but only for some “sectors” here and there, not for anything of decent length. So, this was my first true gravel ride experience and I was excited (and admittedly, a bit anxious). I’m blessed to be able to live, work and ride in the California Alps yet I also realize that I need to break things up a bit. Here was my gravelly opportunity to do just that!
What Gravel Riding Isn’t
Coincidentally, I had just read the March/April issue of VeloNews and in it was an article entitled “Harder than Robaix,” by Andrew Hood (the article’s about the Strade Bianche). He writes: “Gravel racing has deep roots in Europe. In its earliest iteration, nearly all bike racing that wasn’t on a velodrome was held across gravel or cobblestone roads, simply because paved roads were a luxury at the turn of the last century.” Luxury, indeed. I realized immediately that I wasn’t in Kansas any longer.
Note to self: Gravel riding isn’t riding on nicely graded roads covered in decomposed granite. Yup, I was pretty naive but I had this picture in my head that this was not mountain bike riding on a road bike but was instead something much more civilized. That isn’t the case! At least not on this particular ride.
Setting Up the Bike
My faithful steed, Roscoe (named after an Italian Gentlemen – Roscoe Fanucci, because my Domane thinks he’s Italian) has been with me for many years and we’ve put in thousands of miles together. But, after getting an Emonda last year, I decided to convert Roscoe to a gravel bike. Really wouldn’t be too hard I thought. Not going to change out the fork or do anything too drastically complicated, so it’s really just about new tires and pedals, right?
Tubeless and Platform
Tubeless I thought for the former (my wheels were tubeless-ready after all) and as for the latter, my braddah suggested pedals that are clip-in on one side and platform on the other. Found a nice set of pedals at REI that fit the bill – Shimano EH500 SPD Sport Road Pedals. As for the tires, I’m thinkin’ hey, I run tubeless on my Fuel so I know what I’m doing. I’ve got Stan’s NoTubes and that injector thingy. I’ve done this before.
Not that Easy – the Tubeless Part That Is
So I ordered the stems and some Panaracer Gravel Kings. I should mention that the Domane is not a true gravel bike so my clearance is limited to 32mm in back and 35mm in front, which is what I set out to mount on my trusty stallion. The wheels had the right rim-tape on them and I put in the stems and got the tires on. As for the “tubeless but holding air part” I looked at the instructions and did what I could to interpret the petroglyphs, arrows and “cross-out, no you dufus” icons. I failed in the translation. I could not for the life of me get a seal on those tires! And, I reminded myself, I hadn’t done this before. I’ve added sealant to tires that the shop set up but I’ve never actually installed tubeless tires from scratch. So, after a couple tries I decided to cut my losses and I filled the tubes with Stan’s; I’ll seek expert advice from Jay at Big Daddy’s, or via YouTube.
Ready to Roll
Chris, our fearless leader, and I went with the hydration pack approach since we weren’t sure what to expect. Good call since we were out there for about five (5) hours. I also carried a couple bottles with Skratch’s Sport Hydration Mix (that stuff is awesome!). We packed some sandwiches and the obligatory gels and bars, too. We met at Riverview Park at about 10:00 a.m. (not too cold but not too hot either, we figured) and after the typical pre-ride prep. (that’s where Chris waits for me to get my shit together), off we went.
Gravel Riding is Challenging
But oh so fun. I giggled like a crazy-man while fish-tailing and sliding around in that sand. I was stoked that I was able to stay upright and power through, having never ridden in sand that deep, for so many miles. That all changed about two-thirds of the way through the ride, though. I became an uber-whiner (Chris was much more stoic and bore the pain silently). The terrain had become very challenging with some big ol’ rocks (some loose, some not), sand, mud, steep climbs and creek crossings. — Great suggestion on the pedals, by the way Scotty! — My lower back and glutes were screaming and I was kinda pissed off at myself that I hadn’t set my expectations properly; this was TRULY challenging. I am a strong cyclist after, all. This ca-ca, though, is different – mountain biking with a twist. Now I understand why cyclocross riders are true bad-asses! Roscoe, by the way, wasn’t challenged at all. He handled everything that was thrown at him. And those tires…I was blown away by their traction and durability!
The Light at the End of the Gravel
The sand was a kick (and meant that coasting was not an option); the climbs were made more difficult by that constant sucking feeling (I swear I heard sucking sounds), the rocks were scary but at the same time exhilarating when I cleared them, the creek-crossings (sorry, too tired to take pix at that point) were disconcerting, BUT IN THE END, it was a great day. Cycling (and gravel riding) is pain, right? If so, lots of weakness left my body. Seriously, though, I will do it again; especially now that I know what to expect, and what to bring: more GRIT, or dare I say…True Grit?)
Epilogue – How Do They Know That?
As it turns out, five days after the ride. I received an email from Bicycling. Subject line: Are you ready for gravel? Okay, that’s just too weird. From the email: “Thing is, gravel can also be hell, especially if you hit terrain you’re not expecting. To crush it, you not only need special equipment, but also a different kind of fitness, fueling, finesse, gear, and grit.”
Grit? If grit means stoically taking the pain and quietly dealing with all that’s thrown at you, I didn’t have that. Chris did. But, if grit is persevering, even if vocalizing a little (okay, a lot), then I DID HAVE THAT. Perhaps I need some more of that, I decided. I ordered the book. Should be here this week. Stay tuned for a review.