Long Valley, the Volcanic Tablelands, Lake Crowley, Mono Lake, and in general, the graben known as Owens Valley hold timeless stories beneath the silty soil, sage, and rabbitbrush. This area has long intrigued me, looking past its main attractions: Instagram-famous – or infamous – hot springs and world-class fly fishing. The landscape is rugged and steep, with unsuspecting silt traps enveloping your wheels up to the hubs as winds flex their prowess as shape-shifting forces spanning eons. Yet its magnetism, beauty, indigenous, and geologic history make it prime for bikepacking, touring, gravel riding, and road riding. It will take some planning, the right equipment, and some determination.
Let’s rewind a bit, back to the Steamboat Ramble Ride, where I rode this very frame, fully loaded from Steamboat Springs to Fort Collins along with a whole crew of people from all over the country. The whole time I was on the ride, I kept thinking about how much I love drop bar 29ers for tours like that. It’s the best of both worlds – drops for different riding positions and MTB gearing for slogging a loaded bike up mountain passes. In the back of my mind, I began playing out how I could use a bike like this for some of my more ambitious rides in the Death Valley or Inyo Mountains area. Then SRAM contacted me about working on a project with their new AXS components. Initially, their thoughts were to build a custom bike around the interchangeability of the eTap AXS road with the new Eagle AXS system and do a project with this new bike. The subject matter was entirely up to me. Meanwhile, my mind was still on the Moots Baxter and how it would be perfect for this loop I had scouted a year or so ago…
Owens Valley, the Mojave, and Death Valley have been the backdrop for many stories here on the Radavist, but there is one region in particular that has interested me in regards to both the terrain and the history. The Inyo Mountains are ripe for adventure-seekers looking to get off the beaten path of Death Valley National Park or the Eastern Sierra. It can be a very isolating place: the roads are rough, rugged, with little to no cell reception or provisions. If you can, however, access this zone safely, you will be rewarded with unsurpassed views of the Eastern Sierra as the backdrop and colorful geological features abound.
I spend my free time exploring this region for routes that are suitable for travel by bicycle and to be honest, very few have proven to be fruitful in such endeavors. The area is plagued by roads so steep that even an equipped 4×4 can overheat, or miles upon miles of rock gardens, and sand traps. Not to mention the complete absence of water. To ride in this zone, you have to be prepared, both mentally and physically. It’s a region that challenged the native tribes as well as the prospectors who were driven by the desire to strike it rich. There’s a bigger tale here before we dive into our story, that needs to be told. One that hits close to home for us at the Radavist.
It’s no secret that California is home to some exceptional bike riding. It doesn’t matter if you’re a roadie, a gravel grinder, or a mountain bike park rat, there’s something for everyone in the Golden State. My romping grounds of choice happen to be a quick, three-hour drive from my home in Los Angeles. After catching up on work Thursday morning, I left my home and headed north on the 395 to Lone Pine, California where I’d spend the next two days riding my newly retrofit Firefly. Kyle and I rode these roads last year and I spent the whole summer planning a return.
The Kona Adventure Team takes to the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin (-282.2′), to the highest in the contiguous US, Mount Whitney (14,505′). The cool thing about this is it used to be an annual bike race, dubbed the Whitney Classic. This route climbs three classic passes, Townes Pass is 16.6 miles and ascends 5,000′, Hillcrest is 11.9 miles and ascends 3,000′, and The Whitney Portal road is 12 miles and ascends 5,000′. I’ve spoken with cyclists in Owens Valley who used to hike to the top of Mount Whitney the day after the race as “recovery.”
… the Mountains of Madness are calling!
This is the fifth layout of the Radavist 2018 Calendar, entitled “Leaving Winter” shot with a Canon 1DXmkii and a 100-400mm lens in Panamint, California.
“It’s been a long, hard winter for most of the United States, but we’re all ready to leave it behind for sunny days and short nights.”
For a high-res JPG, suitable for print and desktop wallpaper*, right click and save link as – The Radavist 2018 Calendar – May. Please, this photo is for personal use only!
(*set background to white and center for optimal coverage)
The mobile background this month is from the White Mountains. Click here to download May’s Mobile Wallpaper.
Inyo County. Home to the lowest and highest point in the contiguous United States. Home to Death Valley, the White Mountains and parts of the Eastern Sierra. When I think about Inyo County, I think of a certain sense of exploration, of all-day, or week-long excursions into the unknown. I think of the very thing that motivates myself and many others to drop everything, pack up the truck, and just go.
This sense of exploration has fueled so much of the content of this website over the years and when I look at just last year’s best stories, most came from Inyo County. From our Triple Header out of Lone Pine to the Prospector’s Pack Mule bikepacking trip, and countless other stories from the region, this beautiful place has inspired me, and others, hopefully, to take full advantage of our beautiful public lands.
All this goes without saying, but there is an obvious underlying message in much of this content; be smart, be safe, and be kind, to the animals, the land, and other humans.
… I’m hoping to sneak in a few more rides in the high Inyo zone, right after the snowmelt and right before the heat really sets in. This whole region is a literal playground for hardtails and road bikes.
It’s no secret that Owens Valley has become a favorite playground of mine. It’s the interstitial region where I like to ride and explore when the Spring temperatures are too hot in Los Angeles and Death Valley has already hit triple digits. With natural hot springs, enough geologic formations to shake a stick at, and lots of rich history, this place is both an educational experience and a thorough workout, all in one. Especially when you begin to venture into the Eastern Sierra.
History. It’s something we rarely touch on here, and to be honest, I’m not sure why. I’ve read numerous books on Owens Valley, including Cadillac Desert, the history of how Los Angeles robbed this region of their water, and quite frankly, continues to do so, even today. After this trip, I found myself asking “where did the name Owens Valley come from?” To which, a quick history lesson began.
We’re packing up the truck and heading to Owens Valley for two days of riding, both sealed and dirt roads, with a teeny tiny bit of singletrack mixed in. Expect some beautiful Eastern Sierra goodness to follow and don’t fret, we’ve got fresh content trickling in over the next few days, so stay tuned!
Out of all the places in California, Owens Valley and its surrounding areas are my favorite. You’ve got the High Sierra to the west and Death Valley to the east. Unfortunately, this late in the year, spending time in Death Valley limits you to the air conditioning confines of your car, or Telescope Peak and its extreme elevation and in the High Sierra, this year’s snowfall of epic proportions still has many of the roads and hiking trails closed. With limited options for altitude, Cari and I decided to explore the valley floor after my week in Chico. Once my work “obligations” were finished, I picked her up from the Sacramento airport on Thursday afternoon and made the traverse into Owens Valley.
We had a killer time in Owens Valley last weekend, but this weekend we’re laying low in Los Angeles. What are your plans? Who’s doing Dirty Kanza?
Team Dream’s new Spring collection is going live on their new website today at 12 PST. To coincided with this launch, I figured I’d share our photoshoot images here on the site!
Home to the Owens River, bounded by the Inyo Mountains on the east, the Coso Range on the southeast, Sierra Nevada on the west and Chalfant Valley on the north, Owens Valley is one of the most geologically diverse areas in California, in my opinion anyway. It’s a veritable playground for the outdoors with Mount Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 States, attracting hikers from all over the world. If you’re not into climbing a 14,505′ mountain, the Owens river is great for fishing and there are numerous other activities found surrounding the towns of Lone Pine, Big Pine and Independence, California.