Connecting the Canyons

With the mild winter we’ve had out West, it hasn’t been much of a challenge to ride all year. Trails that are normally buried in snow in February are in perfect shape for riding, and it hasn’t been uncommon to ride in shorts and t-shirts. This has given trail builders a head start at completing the Kings Canyon to Ash Canyon trail, and allowed many riders and hikers to get a sneak peek at what this new trail has to offer. If you haven’t had a chance to see the trail yet, here’s an excellent video from Brent Ruybalid that gives you a good feel for what it’s like to ride it.

Connecting the Canyons from Brent Ruybalid on Vimeo.

Finishing touches on the trail are being completed by Muscle Powered and the City, including finishing the Ash Canyon bridge, trail kiosks, and signage. As long as winter doesn’t return with a vengeance, it shouldn’t be much longer before the trail has its grand opening! When the trail is officially completed, more information, statistics, and details will be posted to help you plan your ride. In the meantime, here are some more photos of the trail:

Ash Canyon Bridge
New trail kiosk on the Ash Canyon side

Ash Canyon Bridge
Ash Canyon bridge almost complete

Ash Canyon to Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon trailhead

Ash to Kings Canyon Trail
View of Carson City from the trail

Kings Canyon to Ash Canyon Trail
High point of the ride

Ash Canyon to Kings Canyon
Crossing an upper Kings Canyon waterfall

Ash Canyon to Kings Canyon
A ride through the woods

Ash Canyon to Kings Canyon
View of Washoe Valley from the trail

Ash Canyon to Kings Canyon
Your own personal roller coaster!

A Google Earth view of the trail

This trail was made possible largely in part to Recreational Trails Program grants secured through Nevada State Parks!

Snow Biking at Red Lake

After a long wait with much anticipation, I finally got a chance to take the new fat bike out for its first snow ride. Acting on a tip that there was good snow cover with several miles of snow machine tracks up near Carson Pass, I loaded the bike up in the car and headed up to Red Lake on Highway 88.

Fat Bike ride from Red Lake
Getting started at Red Lake

As I left the Carson Valley and made the drive up to Carson Pass, the thermometer in my car started climbing. Just above freezing in the valley below, it was now in the upper 40s as I passed Hope Valley! The incoming storm was bringing warm air in from the southwest, and I worried it would ruin the snow conditions. When I arrived at Red Lake, I found ample, plowed parking along the side road to the dam. I unloaded my fat bike with its 4″ wide tires aired down to 6 PSI, and headed down the snowy road to the south.

Fat Bike ride from Red Lake
Stay Limit 14 Days – Should have enough time

I started off really slow down the road, not sure what to expect from the warming snow. Not wiping out in the first 10 feet, I let off the brakes and let it ride. Numerous snow machine tracks packed the snowy road down nicely, its corrugated surface providing additional traction for my knobbies. A few of the big icy puddles made me nervous as I skirted around them. There was no way to tell how deep the puddles were, but I knew for sure I didn’t want to fall in one.

Fat Bike ride from Red Lake
Creek Crossing

As the road got steeper, the soft snow started taking its toll on me. I had to rest a lot, and I ended up pushing the bike often. There were even a few times when I considered heading back to the car to trade the bike for the snowshoes I had brought as a backup plan. Being in the woods with no real views, though, the allure of wanting to see what was around the next corner or over the next hill kept me going. I knew I’d be rewarded if I persisted.

Fat Bike ride from Red Lake
6 PSI in the Fat Tires!

Soon the road climbed steeply, and views of the area began opening up. It also started getting colder as I gained elevation, and the snow became firmer. The bike was now climbing even the steepest hills, the trail requiring less effort and less walking. More fun, less toil.

Fat Bike ride from Red Lake
One of the frequent breaks along the climb

Fat Bike ride from Red Lake
View of Elephants Back Peak

I eventually made it up to an open bowl with spectacular views. The rugged mountains of the Mokelumne Wilderness to the west, Hope Valley to the north. I wanted to continue climbing south to the pass to see Blue Lakes and the Carson Iceberg Wilderness, but the wind from the incoming storm was really starting to pick up. Blowing snow was pelting me in the face, and a couple of the wind gusts hit me so hard it turned me and the bike around 180 degrees! Further exploration into the backcountry would have to wait until next time.

Fat Bike ride from Red Lake
Starting to get windy!

Before starting my descent, I decided to push my bike a little further up the snowy bowl. It reminded me of being a kid and taking the toboggan as far up the hill as I could for the longest run possible. Slowly up I went, digging my boots into the snow for traction. As steep as it was, I thought it’d be a miracle if I didn’t go over the handlebars on the way down!

Fat Bike ride from Red Lake
Time for some downhill!

It was time for some downhill. Time to see if all the effort to haul this big bike to the top was worth it. I hopped on the bike and quickly got my weight back so the front tire wouldn’t dive into the snow. I was off and rolling, slow at first to build confidence, then whoosh! down the powdery bowl back to the main road.

View of Hope Valley to the north

Once on the main road and onto the hard packed snow the real fun began. Traction and flotation were at maximum, and I was flying down the trail. Over the hills, around the corners, and through the trees I sped. I felt I could have gone even faster, but couldn’t shake the image of doing the superman over the handlebars if the front wheel suddenly sunk in.

Fat Bike ride from Red Lake
What a great descent!

After I dropped a few hundred feet of elevation, I was back into the warm snow. It went from total control to riding through freshly mashed potatoes in an instant. I kept the bike upright, but a lot of energy was expended trying to find balance and fight the sloppy ruts. Finally, near the bottom, the front tire washed out, and I went down in what felt like a slow motion lean, with a full body roll into the soft forgiving snow for the finale.

Fat Bike ride from Red Lake
Almost back

I swapped out my wet gloves for some dry warm ones, then made the final slow-going ride to the trailhead. The snow had warmed up considerably since the way in, so even the flats required a really low gear to keep moving forward. By the time I made it back to the trailhead, it was 50 degrees out! The day’s ride was definitely a good learning experience about how temperature affects the riding conditions. After only six miles of riding, I was worn out. Although I still consider the ride a success, I’ll make sure it is near freezing the next time I go out (which will be soon!).

Red Lake
The Route

Planning tips if you go:

The mountains, especially in the winter, can be unpredictable, so be prepared. Short daylight hours and rapidly changing weather conditions warrant carrying more gear with you than a summer time mountain bike ride. Here are a few planning tips:

  • Let someone else know where you’re going, including possible alternative destinations, and what time you plan to be back. Often you won’t have phone service in the backcountry.
  • Get an early start to maximize your daylight hours and get the best weather conditions. When planning for how much time you need to complete your adventure, add on another hour or two…it usually takes longer than you think it will.
  • It’s a good idea to carry with you the 10 Essentials. This includes items such as a map and compass (or GPS), extra insulating and water/wind proof clothing, a headlamp or flashlight, first-aid supplies, fire starter, extra food and water (or a way to treat water in the backcountry…eating snow can cool down your body and lead to hypothermia).
  • Quick-drying synthetic fabrics and wool clothing will keep you comfortable, dry and warm. Cotton clothing, especially jeans, get wet easily and stay wet. This can quickly lead to hypothermia.  Waterproof hiking boots and gaiters work good on and off the bike.
  • Many mountain bikers are using clipless pedals these days with specialized cycling shoes. This setup won’t buy you much (if anything) in the snow, and only complicates things when you need to stay warm and dry, and hike in the snow. Also, clipless pedals tend to pack up with snow, and it can be hard to click into them (or out of them in a crash!). BMX style flat pedals work good with hiking boots.
  • There is no fee to park at Red Lake, and the entrance is usually plowed. Many of the other trailhead parking locations in this area and around Tahoe require a California SNO-PARK permit, so plan ahead. Some of the SNO-PARK areas are snowmobile friendly, which mean they’re also good for fat bikes.
  • Check the Sierra Avalanche Center website for the latest safety conditions.
  • You can run really low pressure in your fat bike tires when riding in the snow, and this will maximize flotation. I was at 6 PSI, but I’ve heard of people going even lower…especially with the 5 inch wide tires.

Screening of Singletrack High

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Doug Bedient 775-690-9420 or Kevin Joell 775-233-5419

Incline Village, NV – The Nevada High School Cycling League is hosting a new documentary film about the sport of high school mountain biking. Recently added as one of the emerging leagues of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, the Nevada League will be officially launching a league race series in Fall of 2016. A handful of demonstration races to get more kids involved will be planned in 2015.

singletrack high poster

“SingleTrack High”, produced by Pedal Born Pictures, follows a diverse group of high school student-athletes through the 2012 mountain bike racing season in the NorCal High School Cycling League. For Eliel, high school bike racing is a competitive outlet at the highest level. For Carlos, it is a means to escape the rough neighborhoods of South Sacramento. For Mackinzie and Allie, it is a chance to break into a sport traditionally dominated by the boys. These are some of the kids of “SingleTrack High,” Through their experiences, the film explores the positive impact high school mountain biking can have on boys and girls alike, from all walks of life.

Filmmaker Jacob Seigel-Boettner, who produced the film with his brother Isaac, said, “Even as former high school and collegiate cyclists, it was an eye-opener for us to see the impact that racing in the NorCal League has had on these kids. Being part of a high school mountain bike team has helped them find acceptance, accept themselves, and expand their worlds.”

There will be two screenings hosted in Northern Nevada. On Tuesday, December 2 at the Brookfield School, 6800 S. McCarran Blvd in Reno and Wednesday, December 3 at the Brewery Arts Center, 449 W. King Street in Carson City. Cost is $5 for adults with no charge for teachers or educators and kids under 18. Doors open at 6pm with the movie starting at 7pm.

Ticket sales benefit the Nevada League and 100% of the proceeds support our mission of providing safe, quality high school mountain bike programs for student-athletes and teams from public, charter and private schools throughout the state. Immediately following the movie there will be a presentation about the future of the Nevada League and how to get students, parents, coaches and teachers involved.

Who: Nevada High School Cycling League

What: SingleTrack High Film Screenings

When and Where:

Tuesday, December 2 @ 7pm @ Brookfield School, Reno


Wednesday, December 3 @ 7pm @ Brewery Arts Center, Carson City

Cost: $5 for adults, free for teachers and kids under 18.

Washoe Lake Night Ride

A few years of below average snowfall has rendered Washoe Lake a small pond. It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally Washoe Lake will disappear completely in such conditions. After a recent hike out onto the dry lake bed to investigate the conditions, I realized what a fun ride it’d be to explore the area on fat bikes while we had the chance. It also happened that our first window to do the ride came about during the evening after the sun went down.

Washoe Lake Fall 2014
Daytime view of Washoe Lake

We parked in a small pullout along the south shore of the lake, turned on the GPS to help us find our starting point on the way back, and then scrambled down the bank to the high water mark. Just past a 6 foot wide sandy beach we pushed through some willows and down onto the weed covered lake bed. We pedaled through the crunchy weeds for a couple hundred yards, keeping an eye on the tires for stickers. Quickly we were out to where the water had receded more recently and onto the dried mud.

Washoe Lake nighttime Fat Bike ride

After riding for a time on the hard pack, we got out to an area where the mud was dried and separated by big cracks. Although dry on top, the cobble-like chunks floated on gooey mud underneath. It was a very strange sensation riding over this area, with each individual chunk of mud moving and sliding its own direction. The bikes felt wiggly, almost like all the spokes were loose. I actually had to stop once and make sure my tires hadn’t gone flat from the weeds before.

Washoe Lake nighttime Fat Bike ride

As we headed north, we could see the lights from the freeway to the west and Reno to the north. We also used the ground to keep us on track. If there were too many weeds, we knew we were drifting too far towards the shoreline. Too muddy, too close to the water.

Washoe Lake nighttime Fat Bike ride

Eventually we decided to break to the northeast. We weren’t sure how far we’d gone north, and weren’t sure where we’d end up. After a while, we began to see the silhouettes of the east shore trees. Just as we were discussing where we might be, a picnic table appeared in the darkness ahead. By chance, we had made a random straight line to exactly where we trying to go! We stopped for a rest and a beer at the picnic table before returning to the south.

Washoe Lake nighttime Fat Bike ride

The east side of the lake is quite a bit different than what we’d already ridden. Sand dunes border the shoreline, and the water is closer. With the lack of any recent weather events to smooth them out, the dunes were pretty choppy with horse prints. We headed southwest towards the water, but when we got too close, we were met with the repelling stench of stagnant water. We found a happy medium between the two zones, and had a nice cruise picking our way through the terrain.

Washoe Lake nighttime Fat Bike ride

Once past the lake area, the ground firmed up and smoothed out again. We decided to turn off the lights for a while and let our eyes adjust to the darkness. The moon was not up yet, so we almost had to look directly at the ground to see any detail. We kept this up for nearly a mile, then went back to lights mode.

Washoe Lake nighttime Fat Bike ride

As we approached the end of our ride, we began an effort to find our vehicles in the dark. Along the way we scared up a herd of deer bedded down in the bushes. It was pretty cool to see all those eyes watching us in our lights. I examined the tire tracks I was leaving, and realized  they were really faint. I decided it was highly probable that I had ridden right past our tracks from the beginning of the ride. Finally I had to consult the GPS to see where we were at, and discovered we had overshot the trailhead by about a quarter mile. We didn’t get as lucky as we did with the boat ramp!

Washoe Lake
Our Route

The loop we made was about 8.5 miles. Some of the terrain was like nothing I had ridden before, and riding it at night made it all the more adventurous. I’m glad we got the opportunity to do this ride when we did, because it won’t be long before the lake bed becomes too muddy or refills with water. If this looks fun to you, get out there and do it soon!

NICA High School MTB League

Some of you may have heard that Nevada has become the 15th League in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association!  This is a great opportunity for young cyclists to learn new skills and be a part of a sport that is well suited to the area we live in.

The Nevada League was founded by Doug Bedient who has been running a team out of Incline High School racing in the NorCal League for the past couple of years.  It was tough for him to take his team 5 hours away to race, so he took action.  The seriously hard work is done and now we are trying to recruit volunteers to help run the league.  We have several events coming up over the next few months with the idea that we will be running some “unofficial” races next fall and having our first official races in fall of 2016!

The first event will be a “Volunteer Recruitment Ride” on Sunday November 9th.  We will meet at the trailhead of the Peavine Trail System in Reno at 10am for coffee and introductions.  The ride is being lead by Luna Pro Rider Teal Stetson-Lee and will be a casual, conversational ride.  Anyone who is interested in volunteering in ANY WAY is encouraged to join us!  Even if you don’t ride much, this should be a fun and large group ride with opportunities to meet and ride with folks you may not know and find new friends for motivation.

We will also have info about the upcoming events aimed at recruiting student athletes, training volunteers and coaches, as well as what cities and schools are being invited to the league.  Our plan is to start at the middle school level to feed into the high school programs. If you have any interest at all in seeing our sport grow in the area, you should plan on attending.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me (Brent Ruybalid) at 775-721-2946 or


Blinky Man Halloween 2014

Halloween is on a Friday this year. This means you can stay up late and ride Blinky Man Halloween! Blinky Man is a costumed bike ride at night, with lights, through Carson City.

Blinky Man Halloween 2014

The meet-up spot is at The Westside Pourhouse at 110 West Telegraph Street from 5-6 PM on October 31st. The ride leaves at 6 PM, with fun stops throughout the night. All ages will be welcome for the early part of the ride. Decorate your bike with lights, and dress up in a costume. Halloween is the day you get a free pass to be as silly as you want and nobody will think differently of you.

If you haven’t done the Blinky Man ride yet, you need to. It’s a blast! Here are some photos from the Blinky Man ride we did earlier this year in the Spring.

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

Blinky Man Spring 2014

See you on Halloween! For the latest updates on the ride, follow Blinky Man Carson City on Facebook.

The Corral Loop at South Lake Tahoe

Last weekend we got up to South Lake Tahoe to check out some of the trails they’ve been building up there. To get to the trailhead, we headed south on Pioneer Trail road just past the Casinos, then east on Oneidas Street near Meyers. We followed Oneidas Street until it became a narrow Forest Service road known as Fountain Place Road. We parked just past the creek crossing at a trailhead parking area.

Corral Loop Area
At the trailhead

To get started, we rode up the paved Fountain Place Road. We didn’t see any other people pedaling up the road. All the other bikes we saw were in the back of trucks being shuttled to the top. Even though the road is fairly easy climbing, it looked like most people’s bikes were downhill biased. Eventually we reached the top of the Corral Trail and another parking area.

Corral Loop Area
Climbing Fountain Place Road

We weren’t ready to descend yet, but wanted to get off the road and onto some dirt. We decided to try climbing the Armstrong Connector Trail. It started off nice and easy with some long sweeping turns, but then started to climb over a lot of rocks that were much easier approached in a downhill direction. We kept going for a while, but then decided to turn around. It was definitely getting more technical than I wanted for my son and his new bike. We would have been better off keeping on the paved road to get to the top of the Armstrong Connector.

Corral Loop Area
Corral Trailhead

Corral Loop Area
Enjoying the view on the Armstrong Connector Trail

Corral Loop Area
Armstrong Connector Trail

Corral Loop Area
Negotiating a rocky corner on the Connector Trail

Corral Loop Area
Finishing the Connector Trail

We had some fun descending the connector, only having to walk over a few of the biggest rocks. Eventually we were back at the top of the Corral Trail. The Corral Trail immediately splits, and we took a right onto the Sidewinder Trail. This trail is named for the many twists and turns it makes as it snakes down the hill. Instead of methodically switchbacking down the hill as many trails do, there is an overabundance of turns on this run. Their purpose is purely for amusement, and keep the rider turning and guessing which way the trail is going to go next. It was a blast!

Corral Loop Area
One of the many turns of the Sidewinder Trail

Corral Loop Area
Finishing Sidewinder

We merged with the Corral Trail after finishing Sidewinder. The Corral Trail in this section is built full of jumps and big berms that give it a BMX/Pump Track feel. It was easy to see why so many people were shuttling up the hill with long travel bikes. The jumps are primarily tabletops with mellow take-offs, so even the novice can get a little air without too much fear of crashing. At one section, the trail split in two. Tabletops on the left, and a bobsled looking set of turns to the right. We couldn’t make up our minds, so went down the jumps, then pedaled back up and did the turns! All along the way we passed rideable features like big rocks and logs. It wasn’t until I passed them and looked back that I decided I could actually ride some of them. There is a lot of variety on this trail, with many challenges to keep you coming back to test your skills.

Corral Loop Area
Coming back up the Corral Trail to try an alternate route

I got some photos of my son going through the berms, then sped off to chase him down. I was starting to think he got way ahead of me, when I came around a shady corner to find him and the bike on the ground and a lone shoe on the other side of the trail. Someone was having a little too much fun and got crooked off the jump it appeared. We dusted him off and finished the trail.

Corral Loop Area
Fun berms on the Corral Trail

At the bottom of the Corral Trail, we explored the Railroad Grade Trail. As its name suggests, it’s a mellow trail with a gentle grade. We explored it a little ways, then turned around and headed back to the trailhead. Its a great beginner trail, or a good trail to connect to other area trails.

Corral Loop Area
Exploring the Railroad Grade Trail

These are some FUN trails. Although it’s possible to ride up these lower trails, they’re definitely designed with the downhill direction in mind. Climbing Fountain Place road is definitely the better option to make a loop. Had we not wasted energy on the Armstrong Connector Trail climb, we may have done another loop on the Corral Trail. I’m looking forward to trying these trails again, hitting the sections we missed, and explore the upper trails that connect Star Lake, the Tahoe Rim Trail, and Monument Pass.

For more information, see the Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association’s trails page.