It seems like a good time to revisit this Portland to Reno bike tour post considering I've just spend the last few weeks in Portland. This tour stood in pretty stark contrast to the first tour I ever did crossing Nevada on highway 50. Green, green, green seems to be the theme of this ride. I also learned the benefits of front loading the bike on this tour.
The Team – Dan, myself, Greg, and Ed – Departing from Portland (click on the images to get a better view or go to my flickr page to get more photos from the trip).
It's taken me awhile to sort through the photos from our bike tour and I haven't really been all that motivated to do a thorough write up. Too busy relaxing I guess. But finally here is a smattering of photos from our Portland to Burney Falls State Park Bicycle Tour. We used the new Adventure Cycling Association Sierra Cascades tour map except for the first day when we connected from Portland over to the Mt. Hood area. Our improvised route to the official route was outstanding. The only problem we ran into was on highway 89 in northern California. Even though the map warned us of logging trucks and no shoulder I'm not convinced that it is a safe route for an organization to be touting as a bicycle touring route. Between the aforementioned logging trucks, RVers, and lack of a shoulder pretty every one of us had to bail off onto the dirt shoulder at some points during the ride. We pushed our way through to Burney Falls State Park which was a gorgeous place to wrap up the tour even if we ended up being about 2 days shy of rolling up to our own doorsteps. All told the trip was over 600 miles which was nothing to sneeze at especially when we were all carrying 40-60 pounds of gear. It was a great trip and we're already talking about a possible Oregon coastal ride next year. For me, I just need to stay fit enough to manage a credit card tour to San Francisco later this summer.
The views on the first day – Starting off with a bang!
Smooth Roads and lots of green.
I love that there was moss growing on the shoulder.
Dan's xtracycle handles the load.
First night camp – Ripplebrook
A little speed.
About to do a big descent with some snow in the background.
Smooth roads and no traffic.
We all took a bath in this river. It was so cold I think it took a couple of years off my life.
Greg with his Long Haul Trucker. This may be my favorite picture from the tour.
In Sisters, Oregon. Is that redundant given the bike rack?
Bend, Oregon, played host to the Cycling National Championships. Here they are setting up the stage as we rolled out of town.
I'm smiling because I thought we were at the top of the climb. I was so wrong.
Burney Falls – Where we called it a day.
This was a short tour but perhaps the best of my cycling adventures because of the company and the many things I learned along the way about the joys of touring. It doesn't hurt that I learned that Brooks saddles are totally capable, and actually excel, at opening beer bottles. Kind of hard to top that after a long day in the saddle.
A friend and I were able to join a couple of other friends already on tour from Portland to SF in Crescent City and ride into Fort Bragg together before we went our separate ways to meet family and friends. Here is a gallery of photos and thoughts about what I learned along the way. It's not as if this was my first loaded tour having done NV on highway 50 a few years back and part of the Sierra Cascades route two years ago.
1. One way rental cars are a stellar way to drop into many places - A one way rental from Reno to Crescent City allowed us to join to tour in the middle of the trip from Portland to SF. Coastal towns seem to have a lot more services and the price of a one way rental isn't too bad and gets you and your gear where you want to go.
2. Neon is your friend. I don't exactly go ninja when I ride normally but on rides where the tree canopy can suddenly take you into nighttime conditions on winding mountain roads, a neon vest and pannier rain covers make for good visibility for cyclists.
4. Fenders and the weather...in spite of the forecast for sunny and no rain before I left (which prompted me to not bother mounting fenders) I paid the price a bit with surprise rain the first two days of riding. Lesson learned...unless you are riding through Nevada in the summer, mount fenders.
8. Brooks Saddles...one of the wonders of the world. I have to say my Imperial proved more comfortable then I imagined it could be. And pretty. And the previously mentioned ability to open a beer...that's a win, win, win situation.
9. Moustache Bars work fine on long rides. Ok maybe not my first choice. I had to do a quick bike change the day before and the Rivendell had mbars already mounted. I figured I'd suffer through some discomfort which I did to a certain extent. But in reality I think riding 50-80 miles in a day is going to stress your hands and wrists a bit no matter what bar you use. All in all, moustache bars are not my first choice for touring but they turned out to be totally fine.
10. Wool! I've had the experience of riding along the coast in northern California before and am continually surprised how it is possible to feel both warm and cold at the same time because of the dampness in the air. Wool makes the discomfort bearable. Not sure what it is about it but it works. That photo above is a mixture of wool baselayer from Rivendell and a wool short sleeved jersey from Rapha...ha...take that fashion police!
11. It's still possible to get a decent draft when going 14 mph when the bike(s) ahead of you are shaped like tow trucks. We did a bit of pacelining during certain stretches of coastal headwinds and it was a nice reprieve from the slog.
Bike Tour of Nevada Ahhhh...my first bike tour. Traveling across highway 50 by bike on what is considered the loneliest road in America. I didn't quite have everything dialed in as far as gear and weight distribution compared to later tours but this was a great ride and a great way to gain an appreciation of the Nevada landscape. There is talk of a dirt version of this across NV tour happening in 2016.
Total miles: Approximately 400
Elevation gain: 14,000 PLUS
Six Days with one rest day in Austin
Route - Highway 50 from Reno to Baker, Nevada. Nights spent at Lahontan Reservoir, Cold Springs Station, Austin, Eureka, Ely, Great Basin National Park.
Gear: Rivendell Allrounder Bike with an extra 45 lbs. of gear
Intro: Because I had some issues with my phone charger and didn't want to use my phone battery up I didn't post much during the week of the tour so here is a recap of the ride after the fact. Little did I know I just couldn't find my charger because it was hiding from me in my camelback bag.
Greg and I started our day with a coffee at Bibo Coffee Co. before heading up Geiger Grade to Virginia City, down six-mile canyon to highway 50, and then a mostly flat ride out to Lahontan Reservoir to camp. We expected Geiger to be the biggest pass of the trip in overall elevation gain. It’s not particularly steep averaging just over 5% for about 8 miles. It was a good first test with a fully loaded bike.
After cresting Geiger we stopped in V.C. and ate the first of what would be too many cheeseburgers across the state. Highway 50 doesn’t necessarily offer a lot of culinary options but it makes up for it in scenery.
The next morning we opted to forgo a real camp breakfast and ride the 20 miles into Fallon to eat. We loaded up on calories and left Jerry’s diner ready to get into the “real” Nevada landscape. We weren’t disappointed. After Fallon we stopped off at Grimes Petroglyphs for a quick walk and got buzzed by some “top gun” pilots from the Fallon Air Base.
After Middlegate we rode on to our final destination of Cold Springs Station, a private RV campground with huge solar panels. The family who runs the campground were having a birthday party and we were treated to a pretty impressive fireworks display after dinner. I didn’t expect a shower that night but I was pretty happy to have one.
Day 3 - Cold Springs Station to Austin
We broke camp and were about to ride on to Austin when I realized that the head of the bolt for my rear rack had popped off leaving part of my rack precariously perched on a thin piece of metal. Since the majority of the load I was carrying was in the rear I was a bit worried about it working loose. Never underestimate the power of a zip-tie. The zip-tie kept the road vibration from working the bolt out of the frame and we safely road the 50ish miles into Austin. The final climb was the first time that I had to use my granny gear on the trip.
The beginning of the 4th day greeted us with climbing out of Austin since it is perched half way up one of the steepest climbs of the trip. Much of the day was spent riding across one of the more desolate stretches of Highway 50 and some beautiful peaks. We also ran into a group of 4 cyclists that we were to leapfrog several times over the course of the next few days. Katherine, Ross, Drew and Tony are riding across the U.S. on their way to Connecticut for the Lea Foundation. They are raising awareness for the fight against Leukemia. After arriving in Eureka we had a nice Chinese dinner with them.
Unlike Austin, which seems like it is barely hanging on as a town, Eureka felt like a thriving metropolis with a brand new Fire Department building and, of course, the famous Opera House. We settled down for a night in the Jackson Hotel and prepared for the next day.
Day 5 was in many ways to be the most challenging because of the lack of services along the route and the 4 passes we had ahead of us. It was also epic because of the incredible views going up and over the mountains. It was approximately 78 miles without any services. The most challenging thing about the day was looking at the Adventure Cycling map of the route and expecting a nice descent into Ely and instead facing a hot slog with a headwind over the last 15 miles when we were both tired and ready for a break.
I'm not sure precisely what Harry Reid has done to piss off so many Ely residents but these signs were everywhere. Ironically Senator Reid's name also appears on the "walk of fame" outside one of their nicer hotels in old downtown area.
Not really very clever
That night we relaxed with a beer and our friends heading to Connecticut.
Our friends cycling across the U.S. for Lea's Foundation
Day 6 - Ely to Baker and Great Basin National Park
The rain hit us as we started the base of the climb up to Sacramento Pass. The wet and the relief from the sun was welcome. We also had some great views of Wheeler Peak.
Greg muscling it up the steepest climb of the tour with rain, a head wind, dirt, and lightning in the distance.We passed this sign on the way up to the camp site...beware vicious man-eating marmots!
For over 12 Years I wrote the Reno Rambler Blog covering everything from Bicycle Advocacy, Reno Politics, Popular Culture, and my experiences as a long-time cyclist.