Day 4: Yellowstone

Another scorcher on deck.. 102+ forecast, time to get out of town. My destination being Redlodge Montana, pretty much the only place under 90 degrees in a 500 mile radius.

My route called for going through Yellowstone, since I had never been.. but to get to Red Lodge, you must go over Bear Tooth Pass (11,000 feet) – the weather, to say the least, can be “uncertain.”

Checking the night before, called for rain, lightning, and gusty 40 mph wind, so Plan B was more likely:  Droning to Bozeman and going in the back way.  500 miles of mostly boring highway.

Woke up at 4 AM and checked the forecast.. now calling for only 20% chance and no thunderstorms.

Decided to get to the Yellowstone turn off and decide then.

Fueled up on waffles and a biscuit (Super8 – breakfast at 4 AM!) and headed out.

Do you want to hear more about how boring southern Idaho freeways are? I can see why everyone rides Harleys. At least on pavement, there is really no reason to have a motorcycle.

Fuel stop!

Ethanol free gasoline! Donut! Payday bar!

US 20 coming right into Yellowstone city was, of course, under construction, so the last 10 miles took 45 minutes.

I checked the weather forecast and it got a bit worse.. now calling for thunderstorms by 2 PM, along with the gusty wind.

However after hours of soul killing freeway, I was feeling optimistic.

I headed into Yellowstone and it was… pretty nice.

Mostly the roads wind through “tree tunnels” – you can’t really see much, and the obvious tourist pull outs are SWAMPED. In those areas you gotta be in full fighter pilot mode to not be murdered.

Getting through the park was slow going, lots of tourists being tourists, and lots of flat landers not knowing how to accelerate when they encounter a hill.

It got extra slow when a couple of lazy buffalo decided to walk on the road instead of in a pasture some where. Everybody was just stopped.. waiting for buffalo to walk by their cars.

Or in my case, waiting to goose the throttle if they decided they didn’t like me, which is why there is no picture of the buffalo (the craziest stuff never gets a picture.)

After several hours of battling the tourists, I reached the turn off that takes you up to the pass, met some locals and asked about the weather.  Conclusion:  could be anything, but thunderstorms are pretty much an every day thing this time of year.

I shrugged and headed off through the valley floor – which had hundreds of buffalo, but thankfully, far away from the road.

Once the road started turning up, things cooled down, which was nice. But then I noticed some rather ominous clouds up above, which was not.

Things continued to degrade.  Above 9000 feet, you’re basically riding a ribbon of asphalt up the mountain, with many many 20 mph switchbacks. Now add gusty wind coming at random angles, and no shoulder, and tourists going over the double yellow line.

For an hour or two. It was exhausting and precarious. Toward the top, the wind gusts were pretty bad, to the point I was getting angry with the slow tourists since spinning wheels help keep your motorcycle up.  5 mph means “blown over” – which sounded distinctly unfun.

The scenery, however, was epic. Alaska-scale epic. You’ll just have to Google Image search “Bear Tooth Pass” because I was too busy trying not to crash, die, or get struck by lightning (did I mention my bicycle sticks 7 feet up in the air?) to take any pictures.

RIGHT after I started the descent, a flash of lightning went off behind me, so yeah, no pictures.

Instead, here’s a picture of a golden retriever in a wagon I met at the gas station. He had 3 legs, so when he gets tired, they carry him in a wagon.

Day 3: The Full Mount Harrison

Finally, time to bicycle! I chose Mount Harrison in Idaho has my first climb because of the remoteness from other climbs, since I am unlikely to be bicycling through again. The downside is they don’t plow this road, they just wait for it to thaw out, and as of 2 days ago, no one had managed to make it past all the snow.

I set the alarm for 4:30 (there is a “dangerous heat warning” through Friday for this area) and woke up still feeling very beat up from the 1000 miles of motorcycling and my squished/cut up toe.  I decided to be optimistic that bicycling up a 9000 foot tall mountain would be a “recovery” ride.  I got my stuff together, rode to Albion, ID and unloaded at a gas station/convenience mart (side note: I wish I had stayed in Albion, it’s a nice little town and not as busy as the highway corridor.)

After spending a few miles along the valley floor, you reach the ski area turn off.

The ascent is gradual and mostly pastural and then becomes a bit more alpine-ish.
I saw my first snow around 7400 feet, and this was also where I started noticing that I like air. I spent the past two nights around 4500 feet, but I watched my maximum HR percentage (MHR) drift upward as the air got thinner.

Closing in on 8200 foot altitude, there was a 10 foot patch of snow I had to shuffle through – this is the first bike ride I had to kick snow out of my pedal cleats.

A bit further, you can see where you’re headed, then you ’round a bit switchback and.. a bit more snow.. but still passable.

Once more around a couple of switchbacks, and victory!

More motorcycling tomorrow, but definitely feel better with a bike ride and a major climb completed!

Day 2: 1000 miles from home

You’ll note the lack of a title picture. Today was boring to ride, probably boring to relate, and probably boring to read about. But I’m trying to stay in the habit, so here goes.

I knew today was going to be pretty punishing, even before the heat, even from looking at the route on the map – it looked flat, boring, and straight. Typical high desert high speed droning. Definitely a “getting some where” not a “going some where” situation.

However, I come equipped for this sort of day – My Garmin Zumo has an XM radio, which is usually sufficient entertainment. This is a typical Garmin product, in that it works about 98% of the time, and then that 2% of the time, you scream in rage at it.  I have dubbed this “graging.”  Anyone with a garmin cyclocomputer that ate their ride data knows what I’m talking about.

In this case, the XM antenna was acting up saying “low” or “no” signal. Usually I bring spares of anything I’d be super sad about losing or breaking – so, books on tape, MP3 player, or something.. but for this trip, I pretty much shed all the extras to fit my bicycle stuff (I do have a spare bike GPS & HR strap – priorities!)

So I was about to face 500 miles of boring horror and started dismantling my electronics to see if it was a bad connection when I remembered:  Garmin is incredibly stupid when it comes to Bluetooth.

Previously I had my GPS paired to my phone, but was putting it in Airplane mode to conserve battery life. Could Garmin be so stupid as to screw up their own XM antenna when a Bluetooth pairing is stuck in discovery?

YES GARMIN IS THAT STUPID.  I disabled it and had XM radio again.

So, the ride:
The first 100 miles were pretty nice, winding around a couple of lakes out of Lakeview.. then.. it was a 400 mile death march through the high desert.

The only excitement was a couple of cows trying to kill me, leaping randomly like deer, as almost all the open desert is free range, you have to be alert for critters like that.

That’s it, tomorrow I take “the rig” a short ~24 mile jaunt to the start of Mt Harrison for the first bicycling. My toe is still pretty sad, but in typical fashion, I will ignore it.

Day 1: Escape from California

Time to hit the road!

Around 500 miles on the motorcycle today. Definitely was feeling it around the 400ish mark, going to take a few days to ride into shape.

But the big deal is THE HEAT. It is going to be a big factor for my trip, forecasts are running 10 to 15 degrees above normal.

That makes a slightly unpleasant 85 degree ride into a very unpleasant 95 degree ride or a dangerous 100+ degree ride.

So today’s main goal was: Get past Redding before it hit 105(!)

I got up at 4:30, snuggled all the girls (wife and 2 cats) and headed out.

Since the goal was to make time, I headed for the mind numbing horror of the interstates – 680 to 505 to I5. I5 was the typical soul destroying drudge, but success – it had just hit 88 degrees (around 10 AM) when I turned off on Hwy 299.

299 takes you immediately up into the mountains and things cooled off, generally staying in the mid to upper 80s. Since I was past the risk of Redding, I stopped for lunch and then headed on into Lakeview, Oregon.

Motorcycle seems to be doing fine, but I have managed to slice open my pinky toe bashing it on my SPD pedals after pulling the bicycle off the motorcycle and perching it in my hotel room. Hopefully it will heal up before I start the bicycling.

Due to the heat, it’ll probably be another early early day tomorrow, and probably longer layovers than I originally planned. It pretty much cuts the day in half – no bicycling in the morning and then riding to the next city.

500 more miles to the first climb!

PS, while I was picking up Pop Tarts for the morning, I ran into someone doing the American Trail Race(!) – he was around mile 4,650, making my adventure look a bit shabby! Dylan was currently in the lead and full of energy.

2 weeks to go

[Photo from a training ride down Highway 1 this past weekend]

Been a while since I updated, all the snow the western US has received was making my trip a bit dodgy, but the latest heat wave seems to have opened up most of the passes (the exception being, of course, the first climb on my list: Mt Harrison in Idaho.  A recent Strava attempt made it to within ~1000 feet of the summit, so I’m hoping another 2 weeks of heat will make it passable!)

I’m still finalizing my route and targeted climbs, but here’s what it looks like so far (and no, I don’t expect to ride all of these – I imagine I will bag a dozen or so, depending on conditions, weather, fitness, and how the body reacts to multi-hundred mile motorcycle days.

So far, the plan is:
500 miles to Oregon (mostly slab, get outta town!)
500 miles to Albion area (ride Mt Harrison)
Head up to Montana and northern Wyoming
500 miles through Wyoming (ouch) to Colorado
…and then… not sure… Pike’s Peak and Mt Evans are on the list.. we’ll see! Either spend the whole time in Colorado, or if Utah looks good, might head over there.
My most optimistic route home is cutting straight north through Idaho (Another wack at Harrison?) to avoid having to cross Nevada


The climbing mindmap, combination of various websites and books


Serious now.. deleted all my local climbs and starting to populate my segment page on Strava!
Super loose route.. definitely needs refining.. too much super slab

Mosquito Ridge and the End of the World

Motorcycle miles: ~380
Bicycle miles: 49.5
Elevation feet:  7500
Selfies: 2
Closed roads: 2

Another practice weekend where reality went awry from plan several times.

Mosquito ridge is a pretty remote & isolated climb, that is difficult to pair up with much else, so a good target.  There’s a couple of spur roads that add to the difficulty – both ~2500 ascent and 10% average grade.  One of these is dubbed “The Corkscrew” and the other ends at a place that Google maps marks as “The End of the World” – you can also do a loop that takes some dirt for another 1000 feet of ascent, and ends up totaling 11,000 ascent and 85 miles.

I’d prefer to do the bulk of motorcycling the day before a hard climb, but Friday traffic looked too depressing to fathom, so I decided to get up REAL early and try to hit the road by 5 AM Saturday, do the 3 hour motorcycle ride, and give myself maximum daylight for the bicycling.

Everything after this ended up being improvised on the fly.  First thing was the WIND.  There were wind warnings everywhere near the bay, 40 to 50 mph gusts.  So I decided to head east and go up the inland valley.  Conveniently forgetting the Altamont Pass is covered in windmills.  So my ride was pretty tiring (even ignoring the soul killing power of the central valley) – they were holding big rigs at the pass due to the high winds, so I suppose that means it was pretty strong.

This is the point I started thinking “hmm, maybe I won’t be doing those extra two climbs!”

I rolled into Foresthill on time, to be faced with 41 degrees and wet, heavy fog.

My transformation time was hindered by being COLD and not super psyched to do an 8 mile descent to the base of the climb. I did remember chemical toe warmers, and a half buff.. but that’s still really cold.

The good news is my latest modifications have further sped up the bike removal part – single quick release bag and I have modified the front wheel holder to use a spare through-axle that I can leave attached to the rig.

I downed a hot cup of coffee to brace myself, and headed down the hill.  And yes, it was REALLY COLD.

The other important part here is that this 8 mile descent means if you turn around (instead of doing the loop) – you’re gonna have to pedal back up it.

No where to go from here but up!

Once over the bridge, I started the ascent.  The first spur road (the corkscrew) was a couple miles up the climb, and I immediately noticed the dirt fire roads were all EXTREMELY wet and muddy.. boding very ill to make it over the top.

At this point I pretty much decided I’d go to the top of the ridge without doing the spur roads and decide what the plan would be from there.

I rolled past the Corkscrew turn, and there was a sign saying “Road closed 2 miles” – I don’t know how “closed” it was, but I wasn’t going to investigate at this point, and kept on heading up.

There was lots and lots of water streaming down the mountains.. pretty much waterfalls every where.  Pavement was generally good, especially compared to the previous Napa trip.

Water water water!

The main climb is pretty gradual, and since there are few cars and no real difficult grades, you can really enjoy the scenery and the views.  And it goes on, and on.


Same picture as above.. this is the road you came up!


As I approached the second spur road (“end of the world”) I was greeted by everyone’s least favorite sight:



“Road Closed” has various meanings, depending on where you are.  Sometimes they are advisory (“You’re an idiot”) and sometimes they’re serious (“We will arrest you and fine you”) – unfortunately this one looked like the latter type, reinforced by a friendly ranger who responded with “10,000 dollars of closed” when I asked him how closed the road was.  The closure was also very long, so it wasn’t a matter of nipping past real quick like – I’d have been on that closure for an hour or an hour and a half.

So, plan revised yet again.. let’s check out the end of the world!


This is a dead end at a dam, and very steep.. The 10% average grade is misleading, since there are 2 slightly downhill sections.  So the rest is >15% solid.

I zoomed down to the bottom and took a quick picture, plenty of water rushing through the dam.


The grind up was actually a nice change of pace after miles and miles of 4-5%, but that probably says something more about me than the road.

At the top, obviously my only choice at this point was to head back down, which meant 1) time to freeze again and 2) I was going to have to do that 8 mile climb back out, so I was unlikely to investigate “Road Closed” #2 on the corkscrew.

Down the lonnnnnnnnnnng descent, past the corkscrew and back to the bridge, where I collected a water bottle I had stashed on the off chance I had run out of water, which, given how cold it was, was utterly unnecessary.  I didn’t even finish my 2L camelbak, so I hauled around TWO full water bottles the entire ride.

Still, I will call it a successful trip – awesome scenery, great climbing, and I barely saw more than 5 vehicles the entire time.  The “full mosquito” will have to be another time!


After getting back to the cafe, I loaded up the bike and then threatened the employees with eating all of the food they had.  Instead, I settled for a recovery meal of biscuits, gravy, eggs and bacon.


I’m not making this picture clickable because zooming will make you hungry or sick

After eating my ridiculous breakfast (which I normally would not do if I had more bicycling to do the next day or two, really!) I headed over to Auburn to find a hotel.

3 hotels visited, all 3 full up.  Apparently there was a “car thing” and a “mountain bike thing” going on this weekend.  For a longer trip, usually that means heading to the next town or finding a campground.. but in this case, my bike ride was shorter than expected and I was feeling pretty good.. so.. I just headed straight home.

Yes, that means I spent 10.5 hours on 2 wheels.  3+ hours motorcycle, 4.5 hours bicycle, 3+ hours motorcycle.  The good news is I felt pretty good afterward, so that’s a good sign for my trip!



What Bicycle Is That?

Seems to be the top question people ask on the road!

Most people are surprised to hear this is a $300 generic carbon bicycle from China, with some vinyl stickers glued on for my trip.  The rims are also direct from China, but with name brand spokes & hubs.  I’ve put about 2000 miles on the frame/wheel combination, including a few punishing adventure rides (one where I discovered your bicycle will float away if you don’t keep a good hold onto it.)

Why this bike instead of my (substantially more than $300) sub-15 pound Parlee?

  1. Crazy low gearing (a low gear of of 30-42)
  2. Larger tires for comfort & bad (or entirely unpaved) road conditions
  3. Security of thru-axles for mounting to the motorcycle
  4. If I break it or it gets stolen, it’s $300! (of course the parts are a lot more than that, psychologically it is still comforting.)


Frameset – Miracle Bikes FM286 Cyclocross frameset
Fork – TRP Carbon Fiber with eyelets (although I never had issues with the stock fork, it’s the one part of the bike I always worried about)
Wheels/Tires:  Light-bicycle RRU35C02 Rims (35 mm deep, 25 mm wide OD, 18 mm wide ID), DT Swiss 240S centerlock hubs + 160 mm Shimano Freeza rotors, 28 hole CX-Ray spokes.  Tires are currently Hutchinson Sector 700×32 Tubeless, although sadly they measure out to 30.4 mm, so not really great for serious dirt use.


Shiny and new, lots more wear on it since!crabon-gnarmac

Drive train:
Shifters/Brakes: Road Shimano ST-RS685 Mechanical shifting/Hydraulic brakes
Crankset:  Mountain Shimano M985 XTR 44/30 (spacers all on the non-drive side)
Front Derailleur: FD-6800 Ultegra
Cassette: SRAM 10-42 XX1 Cassette
Rear Derailleur: Mountain Shimano XTR RD-M9000 11 speed + Tanpan travel agent to work with road shifters
KMC X11SL Chain

Pedals:  XPEDO Mountain Titanium SPD compatible
Saddle: SMP Composit
Seatpost:  China knock-off of an Ergon
Bars: Easton SLX4 Carbon
Stem: 3T Team alloy

Total weight without bottles & bags:  18.7 pounds

Bags I am still experimenting with, the tail pack + front bag are 5 velcro straps to mess with every time I mount/dismount the bike, so I am experimenting with a quick release Ortlieb saddle bag.  Not as convenient as the front bag, but faster to attach/detach.

Santa Rosa & Napa Weekend Ride

Total Motorcycle Miles: ~300
Bicycle Miles: 82.1
Bicycle Ascent: 11,300′
Minimum/Maximum transform time: 22/36 minutes
Number of selfies with people (Hi Toby!): 1

This was a “no planning” attempt – what’s the minimum information and logistics to connect a bunch of climbs together. Also testing out new modifications to the bicycle & motorcycle rig as that continues to evolve.

I identified two climbs I wanted to do (Mt St Helena & Bald Mountain) plus some likely secondary climbs to get some extra miles in.

My preparation consisted of:

  1. Identify a starting point nearly the climb(s), preferably next to a restaurant.
  2. Load Waypoints into Garmin Zumo 665 GPS on the motorcycle.
  3. Load the climb segments into my Wahoo ELEMNT
  4. Plan a route in and load into Wahoo ELEMNT

Saturday – Bald Mountain & Los Alamos

Up at dawn, rode the motorcycle up through the east bay (I haaate going through San Francisco!) and parked in a relatively empty Safeway parking lot.

New aluminum bushing and fork QR sped up my transform time a bit, the previous QR and rubbery bushing requires some wrestling.

Still wasn’t terribly organized on what goes where, since I wasn’t fully packed up I could be pretty sloppy.

Rolled out toward Bald Mountain around 8 AM, down Highway 12. This section was pretty unpleasant, roads in Napa/Sonoma/Santa Rosa are some of the worst in California.

I was glad to be on fatter tires (700×30.5 Hutchinson Sector tubeless.. they claim 700×32 but they aren’t.) There was also a TON of glass, apparently driving drunk is very popular in this area!

The turn off to bald mountain takes you up a pretty narrow and twisty secondary road with a relatively pleasant grade, until you reach Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park – where a nice confused man attempted to figure out if he needed to charge me for admittance (Hint: No.)

From here, turning left takes you onto a dirt fire road. A few minor kick ups, but good flat dirt for the most part. At this point you reach a gate with old, broken pavement. This is where the real climbing begins – pretty much sustained 10 to 18% grades.
3/4 of the way up it turns back into dirt – but much steeper and looser gravel, and you are greeted by 20%+ pitches.

At the top, you’re greeted with awesome views of both sides of the mountain.


Descending is definitely an “advanced” descent – the top dirt section is very steep and loose, and the pavement section has a LOT of loose marbles on top of pavement. Once past that, smooth sailing back through the park and back up Highway 12 – this time with a head wind.

When I planned my route, I wanted to get some additional climbing in each days, so I tagged on Los Alamos front & back. Other than the terrible pavement (a theme!), the climb up wasn’t bad.

However, descending down into Hood Mountain Park I began to have a few regrets! The good news is at least the pavement was nice, it was definitely a grind getting back up.


Back to the shopping center, had lunch and researched for a hotel (yes, I had done no hotel planning, just like my real trip.) – my hotel criteria is usually “cheap and I can walk to food” – because having to kit up in smelly motorcycle gear again after showering is not ideal.

I am willing to splurge extra if they have a hot tub. Another lesson I’ve learned: Check in early. Even when traveling remotely, hotels are often full by 4 or 5 PM. Another reason to get my riding done at dawn.

Packed up the bicycle (1 spectator) checked in (hot tub broken! boo!) showered, got dinner, went to bed early to get ready for Day 2!


Sunday – Mt St Helena & Ida-Clayton

Hotel waffles for breakfast, and then motorcycled over from Santa Rosa to Calistoga and parked next to a cafe along Highway 128.

Back onto the bicycle and started following the route in my ELEMNT. This is really 3 (or 4 if you’re stupid) climbs:

1. Old Toll Road – a typical tertiary Napa-esque road
2. Highway 29 – fast cars and no shoulders
3. A hiking trail that is the WRONG DAMN WAY
4. A long, long, long fire road that goes to the summit

#1 and #2 – nothing really notable here, just keep pedaling

#3 requires some explaining: Since I was doing “minimal planning” – I didn’t give a lot of scrutiny to what ridewithgps was mapping. Apparently I was supposed to keep going another couple hundred yards on Highway 29, to the start of the fire road climb.
Ridewithgps decided it would much prefer I go STRAIGHT UP Robert Louis Stevenson hiking trail.

Do you see a trail here?  I don’t see a trail here.

Since these two routes are so close, the Strava segment indicator said I was still on the right path. So I assumed (wrong!) that eventually the trail would become rideable.

This was relatively mild


I don’t even have pictures of the craziest parts, where someone had cut ledges into the rock so you could climb up, in my case, carrying my bicycle wearing carbon soled mountain bike shoes like an idiot.

I nearly turned around to retrench, but a hiker who had done the route before assured me I didn’t have much more to go, so I scrambled my way up to the intersection with the fire road.


I took a break at the top of the ridiculous hiking trail, admiring my stupidity and having a snack, an then settled into the long grind to the top. This is basically loose gravel of various sorts on top of hard pack. It did make me wish I had slightly larger tires on, and I’d also consider this ‘advanced’ riding on a relatively skinny tired bike.

Hydraulic disc brakes are worth the hassle for descending miles of this
Okay, the hiking trail wasn’t this bad.. but it felt that bad carrying a bike!

It went on for a long, long time and required paying attention to not end up in deep gravel, and to mentally note sketchy parts for the descent.

The last couple hundred yards to the top get even rockier, deeper, and sketchier – I skittered my way up, but was definitely on the edge of traction capability.

Amazing views at the top, and definitely satisfying giving the ridiculous hiking part!



I walked down the sketchiest bit at the very top since I wasn’t keen to break a collarbone, but took the fire road down the whole way (I would NOT want to try to descend the crazy hiking trail while carrying my bicycle!)

From here it was basically a fast blast back down to the valley, descending 29 and then the bumpy and cruddy Old Toll Road and then onto Ida Clayton road, one of the roads they do for Levi’s Fondo. This road is also a pretty typical climb, nothing really notable and no real view on the top either, so I took a picture at the top with some quality Napa pavement.

I call these “Napa Cobblestones” – you get used to the rattling noise as you clatter over them

Another bumpy descent and I enjoyed a nice lunch, kitted up, and rode the 120+ miles back home on the motorcycle.

Another successful journey and more tweaks to bicycle & motorcycle, and I really need to acquire a Bluetooth keyboard so I can update while on the road.


Giant Loop Revelstoke Review – Motorcycle mounting

Death Valley trip illustrated I needed to get some more room in my side cases, otherwise I wasn’t going to be able to pack enough stuff for several weeks!

Unfortunately my “big bag” just won’t fit under the fork, and my Kriega US20 was just a bit too small.  Giant Loop makes some cool, cleverly designed stuff – I’ve been beating up their tank bag for years.

In the “side loading” bag segment, they have several interesting options – the Giant Loop Revelstoke (Amazon) seemed to fit the best size/shape profile for me.  Interestingly this is advertised as a “snow mobile” bag – I’m not sure why it would care if it is attached to a motorcycle.. but that’s what I’m doing!

This bag comes with Giant Loop’s “GL Mount” stainless steel clips that capture the pack straps.  With the Kriega I always felt like I was fiddling with all the various straps and buckles.  The GL Mounts promise to make removing and replacing the bag easier, while being very secure.

GL Mounts for the Revelstoke – this should also help position the bag away from my fork/brake on the bicycle

Here’s a close up of the “TRI GLIDE BUCKLES” that lock into the GL mounts.


They seem VERY secure, so I’m hoping this bag stays attached even if contents shift or I forget to really crank down on the straps.

About as big as I can fit on the back and still mount the bicycle


Angles away from where the bicycle fork goes

So, size-wise, I can fit everything I had in the Kriega, plus my Luxury Lite Cot, my Bivy, and a few camp incidentals.  It would be nice if I could also fit my sleeping bag, but I guess that’ll have to do – it frees up about half a side case.  That should be JUST enough room with some judicious packing.