NAHBS the Hard Way: Bikepacking off the Beaten Path from Santa Rosa to Sacramento
Words by Nicholas Haig-Arack and photos by Derek Bolland, Rie Sawada, Brendon Potts, Toyoshige Ikeyama, Adam Sklar, and Nicholas Haig-Arack
I’m sitting here eating a bowl of melting ice cream trying to recollect a few hazy days of sungold and lime-green-tinged moments in the rolling hills and burnt panoramas of remote Northern California, where our international band of amigos took the long and dirty way to the world’s greatest handbuilt bike show.
Let me set the scene with a quick prologue: Three years ago I rode from Santa Rosa to NAHBS in Sacramento by way of scenic Hwy 128. Two years ago I took a meandering MTB road trip to NAHBS in SLC by way of Sedona and Moab, with plenty of memorable stops for singletrack sessions along the way. Last year I skipped the show in Connecticut – too far to ride, too far to road trip – but I was there in spirit since my personal purple haze hardtail was on display in the Sklar booth. After last year’s show was over, when I heard that the Handbuilt Bike Show was making a return to California’s capital in 2019, the wheels were set in motion. I had to plan a route to top them all. More mileage, more dirt, more fun, more friends, more fence-hopping, more roughin’ it.
Fast-forward past a fuzzy montage of maps scoured and beta gathered, past months of squeezing route-scouting missions into the few free days without rain or work. Fast-forward past all the sleepless nights worrying about whether the route would work or not. Fast-forward past doubt, past fear. Press play; the day has arrived.
Here’s the cast: Shige and Rie from SimWorks. Derek, Eli, and Brendon from the Saddle Tramps. Adam from Sklar. A sturdy, reliable gang of friends. The kind of friends you’d share your burrito with, who’d offer to help when you get a flat tire. The kind of friends who’ll happily join you on a half-baked route into a completely foreign area. I barely sleep the night before we depart in giddy anticipation for the unknown journey ahead. Before I know it, the sun is up and we’re gathering at Jeremy Sycip’s shop, where we meet with esteemed emissaries Crizzle, Matt, and Kevin from local shops Bike Peddler and Breakaway Bikes. Like booster rockets, they launch us into orbit. Up and over Bald Mountain, to Napa Valley… and beyond.
I’m not going to describe the ride with numbers, graphs, figures, or maps. Our journey involved long sections of unsanctioned crossings over private property, and I don’t want to encourage anyone to break the law. Just kidding! I strongly encourage all of you to trespass as often as possible. Do no harm, take no shit, and please use your head and don’t get hurt. Respect your surroundings, watch out for newts, and be nice to everyone.
Here are the highlights:
-Views of Mt. Tam and San Francisco standing proud against vivid blue skies from the tippy-top of Bald Mountain.
-A frosty early morning spent waiting for the sun to rise across the misty mirror of Lake Berryessa.
-Removing our shoes on the first creek crossing and then keeping them on for every remaining creek crossing, because fuck it, they’re going to get wet regardless.
-Taking a half day to climb from the lush, psychedelically green greenery surrounding the Lake to the scorched pinnacle of Berryessa Peak, then screaming down the gravel fire road into the Capay Valley.
-Our forced detour onto the Interstate 5 freeway during rush hour, moving only slightly slower than the cars on a surprisingly debris-free shoulder as we cross the pink-lit Sacramento River.
-Rolling across that iconic goldenyellow bridge to arrive in Sacramento just past sundown. Sweet relief, we made it.
-You nerds want data? Fine, here you go: 7 friends, 119 miles, 9473’ climbing, 12.5 hours, 1 flat, 25% trespassing, 0 hassles.
Then, too soon, we are done. Our rough road to NAHBS has come to an end. We are each swallowed up by the shiny objects and sterile, LED-lit environment of the Sacramento Convention Center. Old friends, new acquaintances, small talk, dinner parties, and afterparties. Like everyone here, I have a love/hate relationship with NAHBS, but it’s mostly love. There’s really nothing else like it. I’ve met so many good friends here, some of whom took the rough road with me for this year’s show. That’s what it’s really about.