Riding a road bike from Camp Connell, CA to Bear Valley along the highway shoulders is an exhilarating and picturesque ride that showcases the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada region. As you embark on this bike ride, you’ll find yourself immersed in a landscape characterized by towering mountains, dense forests, and sweeping vistas.
Beginning at the Camp Connell General Store, a small mountain community surrounded by towering pines, you’ll pedal along smooth Highway shoulders that wind through the Sierra’s. The crisp mountain air, blue sky, full creeks and the sound of your tires humming on the pavement create a serene ambiance as you gain momentum and head towards Bear Valley.
The Motherlode Bicycle Coalition is hosting the Bike Ride 2 Bear Valley Tour from Camp Connell to the Bear Valley Adventure Company in Bear Valley. The ride leader is Motherlode Bicycle Coalition Special Events Director, Rob Williams.
This road bike ride tour is a fundraiser for the Arnold Rim Trail Association.
The Arnold Rim Trail Association is holding the High Sierra Bike A Palooza in Arnold, CA on Saturday, June 17, 2023.
Riders must register and pay a $10 entry fee. Arnold Rim Trail and Registration Information is at:
The ride start is at Camp Connell General Store, 9am Roll Out Sharp. Our Home Base is at Camp Connell General Store and our host is Dan Tulipan. Bathrooms, water and snacks provided at Ride to Bear Valley Home Base.
Three riding groups will be chaperoned by experienced cyclists; fast, taking my time and new to ride.
There is SAG Support, snacks and water at Camp Connell and Bear Valley Adventure Company. And, after the ride we will gather back in Arnold for food, drink, and fellowship at the Bistro Espresso.
The ride is 18 miles up, taking 2 and 1/2 hours up and 18 miles downhill, 1 and 1/2 hour. NOTE: The current Highway shoulder conditions are minor sand going Eastbound and significant sand going Westbound. A Caltrans Road Maintenance Request and Appeal for shoulder sand removal has been submitted.
Local Road Cyclist David Ritchey describes the ride as “a long steady 6% climb for eleven miles, then flattens out into Bear Valley Adventure Company General Store.”
Arriving in Bear Valley, you’ll have a chance to rest, replenish your energy, and reflect on the incredible journey you’ve undertaken. Our host is Bear Valley Adventure Company General Manager Aaron Johnson.
Riding a road bike from Camp Connell, CA to Bear Valley is not just a physical endeavor; it’s an immersive experience that connects you with the natural world, challenges your limits, and rewards you with unforgettable memories of the Sierra Nevada’s stunning beauty
On my bucket list has been to attend the annual Athens Twilight Criterium and Gambler Recreational Ride which occured on April 21, 2023
The Athens Twilight Criterium was pure bliss, thanks to Georgia CycleSport, Specialized Bikes and the City of Athens.
Georgia Cycle Sport and Specialized Bikes allowed me to test ride a S Works Turbo Creo to ride in the Gambler Ride. I registered for the 50K but rode the 100K because I was having just too much fun riding the rural roads surrounding Athens.
For the first 20 miles I rode the Creo with no boost. The bike rolled easily and shifting a breeze. Early along the ride, after reaching city limits I met a strong rider from Atlanta who was spinning at 17-19 miles per hour. I used the level one boost to draft and Hold ‘Em to ride along with my new Georgia friend for several miles.
After 20 miles, I decided to utilize the electric boost options. I jumped into several cycling groups and drafted for a respite, still using electric assist. Riding in a peloton with an e boost was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I was spinning but, without any effort that allowed me to enjoy the thrill of riding along at 20 miles per hour.
After the last rest stop I used all boost levels and flew by groups of cyclists heading back to the finish line in Athens. My slow, dreamy ride during the last 3 and half hours ramped up. I wanted my long ride time to be under 4 hours and 19 minutes so I raced away to downtown Athens. The Creo Specialized screamed into Athens and I imagined the race fans hooting and howling as I was suddenly stopped by Nick, the Specialized Representative who was waiting for the return of his “very fancy bike!”
Traditional Road vs Road E Bike
Riding a Specialized Electric road bike is a very different experience from a traditional road bike. It allowed me to ride a long distance without being anxious about fatigue. It allowed me to be more mindful of my surroundings to really enjoy the spring countryside.
As the ride winded down I ramped up the electric power to fly up and down gradual rolling hills, and flat out drag racing on the flat road surfaces.
During my ride back to Athens, this Creo, along with my experienced legs passed several cycling groups filled with youth, ambition, and drive. There was no catching this Creo unless it was a LA Legion or Miami Heat Pro during a training lap in Athens.
At the end of the day riding the Specialized E Bike Creo was heavenly and made my trip to the Athens Twilight a last memory.
Dear Motherlode Bicycle Coalition Members and Partners,
The Motherlode Bicycle Coalition was founded in 2017 by local bike advocates and avid cyclists. To date, our work has focused on making our Central Sierra communities more bike friendly,and welcoming destinations for all types of bike adventures.
This summer the Motherlode Bicycle Coalition Founding Board members, Nikki Grimes, Carol Ryder, and Carl Baker retired as Board Members. Founding Members Rob WIlliams, Robert Leibold, Dwight Follen and Jack Becker remain on the board as integral parts of its success.
We’re pleased to introduce six new additions to the MLBC Board:MLBC’s new officers are Chairperson Todd Berg, Secretary Ben Cook, and Treasurer Siobhán Hayes. And we’ve added new at-large Board Members Mark Schwartz, Timothy England, and April Johnson, representing Alpine, Tuolumne, and Calaveras County, respectively.
Featured Board Members
Todd Berg, equally at home on bike, board, or rock, is a lifelong outdoorsman and champion for the Motherlode area’s outdoor economy. Todd’s career includes leadership roles in the outdoor industry, projectmanagement, and non-profit organizations. As Chairperson of MLBC, Todd is focusing his leadership experience on building coalitions of partner organizations advocating for inclusive outdoor access, and creating opportunities for mutual uplift around a thriving outdoor economy in the Motherlode area.
Mark Schwartz was born and raised in San Jose and moved to Markleeville with his wife Patricia in 2016. While Mark’s day job is Director of Business Development for a California-based tech company, his real job is Board President of the Alpine Chamber of Commerce which owns and operates the Death Ride. When he’s not organizing bike events, you can find Mark riding bikes (road mostly, but gravel and MTB, too), hiking/snowshoeing, and volunteering on various other boards in the Alpine Co. area. To learn more about Mark check out his blog at www.californiaalpscycling.bike.
April Johnson is an avid dirt rider, supermom, and proprietor of Mountain Aloha MTB Co. in Avery. Outside of the bike shop she and her husband run, April volunteers her time supporting cycling events and advocating for better trails in the Motherlode. April is MLBC’s Director of Marketing in charge of maintaining our online presence including our website and social media outlets.
Presently, our Board represents a broad spectrum of cycling interests – from road to gravel to trails and beyond. Board Members are passionate about a range of initiatives from getting local kids on bikes and engaged in positive activities, to breaking down barriers to cycling so anyone regardless of age, identity, or economic status can safely ride for fun or transportation in any of the places we call home.
Founding Member Rob Williams’s new role is Director of Special Events. And Rob and Carl continue their advocacy work of representing the Motherlode cycling community at the local and state government levels. Jack Becker continues his dedicated work as our Executive Director.
Be sure to check our website for photos and bios for all of our new and continuing Board Members (motherlodebike.org).
The Motherlode Bicycle Coalition remains a Project of the California Bicycle Coalition (CalBike.org); and we’re looking forward to continuing our work with CalBike in the New Year.Dave Synder, former CalBike Executive Director, has taken a new role as Senior Director of Local Innovation at PeopleForBikes, a national cycling advocacy organization. Congrats Dave!
Vision, Mission, and Strategies
We’ve been holding visioning meetings over the past year to develop a new Mission and set of near-term Strategies for how MLBC will realize our Vision of a vibrant cycling community centered around a safer, more accessible network of cycling opportunities in the Motherlode area. Keep an eye out for MLBC’s new Mission and Strategies in the weeks to come. We can’t wait to get to work with the Motherlode’s diverse community of cyclists and partners towards making our collective cycling dreams a reality.
• Helped establish the Caltrans District 10 Bike Pedestrian Advisory Committee. We currently have three MLBC Board Members serving on the BPAC.
• Submitted Caltrans and county road maintenance requests on Murphys Grade, Highway 4, and along Highway 108.
• Supported the CalBike Cycling Tourism Study to improve and encourage recreational biking in the Motherlode and are the owners of the Bike Riding Tourism website. https://www.bikevalleytosierra.com/about
• Managed the Calaveras County Arts Council RideandWalk4Art
• Managed the Fenney Park Mr, Frogs Wild Ride
• Served as Host of the Lake Alpine Death Ride Stop
• Sponsored the Feeney Park Grape Stomp Bike Valet
• Sponsored the Tuolumne County Bikes for Tykes Project
• Presented Bike Access Plans to the Camanche Recreation Coast to Crest Trail and EBMUD Pipeline Trail
• Reschedule Monthly Pop up Bike Rides led by MLBC Board Members featuring our favorite Gold Rush rides.
41st Death Ride Reflections Written By Bill Condrashoff, Amador County
It’s been 3 years since I rode the Death Ride and I missed it. I was in my 50s last time. So I thought I’d see if could still do it in my 60s. I wasn’t planning to better my best or even go for a fast time. I was just going to try to finish. I mentally prepared myself for being passed by the young riders and to just let it go. I’d be happy enough just being out there enjoying what I like to do. Then I got a call from my riding friend Kevin, who was going to come out and enjoy the festivities for old times’ sake. He wanted to know when I would be riding through Markleeville. I told him I would come through between 3 and 4PM. He couldn’t accept that for an answer and convinced me I would be there by 3PM for sure. So he was going to look for me between 2:30 and 3:30PM.
I didn’t know anyone else riding it this year. It was going to be a hot one. I was ready to ride at 5AM but ended up starting at 5:04 or so. Close enough. With the hot weather predicted for later, I knew I had to get in and out of the back side of Monitor Pass as quickly as possible so as not to get fried in the desert. Each side is about 3,000 ft of climbing.
When I started, it was about 65 degrees and my legs felt good. I was pedaling up Monitor in a matter of minutes. Most people knew it would be hot and started when I did. I was in a sea of riders just before sunrise. It was calm and all you could hear was the sound of heavy breathing, tires rolling over the pavement and an occasional conversation. Then the grade got steep and the sound of hundreds of bikes downshifting filled the rocky canyon. I was in my lowest gear but not too bad off. As we went up, I could see the sunshine start to cover the mountains around Ebbetts Pass. It looked a long way off and later the ride was going 15 miles beyond Ebbetts before riders would turn around. Of course, at this moment, I was headed AWAY from that pass. Then I realized I needed to get my head in a good place to be able to succeed. That meant having some fun along the way and paying attention to how my legs were feeling.
Before I knew it, I was over the first pass and it was time to have some fun. I gulped some salt tabs and chased them with fluid then started to pass some riders before the unthinkable happened. Some dude passed me going downhill! It was still shallow near the top for a while, but I decided it was time to have some of that “fun along the way”. So, I chased. I might seem like a thin man, but for a cyclist on the Death Ride, I’m a big boy (gravity is my friend on descents). I was up to him pretty quick and I got by him just before the grade got steeper and the spectacular view of the desert appeared. I could see his shadow racing mine on the pavement. He wasn’t just going to let me go ahead. I focused on my line and how to avoid the hundreds of bikes around us. He stayed with me in the twisties and that impressed me because I know the road very well. A couple of times I saw what looked like his shadow riding off the road over the cliff. But, it would always come back where I could see it. Left, right, left, right, pass 12 riders at a time, left, right, left, right, pass 12 more. Then after we came around a righty, and just before a lefty I saw something that scared me. It was guy with a camera standing on the double yellow center line taking photos at the apex of the turn! I could go left or right of him. Both options seemed bad at the speed I was going. So, I braked and went right of him (on the slower line) and the rider making the shadow passed me. I thought “Ok, it’s still a long way down and I have gravity on my side.” After a slower turn, I got back up to him and made a slingshot pass using his draft. It was pretty straight after that so the bigger boy wins, and that was me. At the bottom he was as jacked as I was. We averaged 42 for 7.5 miles with a max of 50mph. We talked about it halfway back up the climb out of the desert before he went ahead of me.
It was quite a bit warmer on Monitor Pass the second time over. But, it wasn’t too bad. I still had a good attitude. I pretty much had the second descent to myself and it is less fun to go fast without traffic. So, I decided not to push my luck and conserve energy (and blood). As I started up Ebbetts Pass, Shadow Rider passed me and we discussed how he got behind me. He had taken a nature break. We rode a little while then we both stopped at Wolf Creek for my first water stop. 5 miles up the road he passed me again on the steep stuff. By then the bike traffic was thinning a lot. This told me that I was doing well. It was like the good old days of the 2010s. I kept trying to extrapolate the time I would get to Markleeville because I knew I would be slowing down as I rode. It seemed like I would get there before Kevin left.
I got to the top of Ebbetts feeling pretty worked over. I thought “If I ride over the top, will I be able to climb out of there?” And that’s not the worst of it. Pacific Grade Pass is new to the Death Ride this year. After you go down the back of Ebbetts, you go up Pacific Grade’s 24% slopes. This was sure to lessen my chances of getting back out of the hole I was about to ride into. Against my better judgement, I went for it and Pacific Grade felt steeper than ever. That road tests you at the start with some short 20% grades followed by shallower grades. Then back to steep, then not so steep. Just when you think you’re past the worst of it, the road seems to disappear in front of you. The first right hand switchback is so steep and sharp that it looks like the end of the road. But, it just turns so sharp that it looks like a dead end. Too bad it wasn’t. I would have been happy to turn around at that point. Standing in my lowest gear, wishing I had three more, I could feel the last of my legs slowly being left on the road. On the steep grade, each time I thought I would need to stop, the slope would ease off just enough to keep me from quitting. Before I knew it, it was over and I was at Mosquito Lake on Pacific Grade Pass.
This was my chance to rest on the easy pedal to the turnaround at Lake Alpine. Shadow Rider passed me here again and when he did he asked me how long I thought my ride was going to take. I said “If all goes well, 10 hours. If all goes not so good, 11 hours.” I saw him again at the turnaround and spent too much time talking and not enough time drinking. Rolling out of the rest stop, I could tell I was starting to lose power. But I told myself “just get over Ebbetts one more time and you can coast for 30 minutes.”
It wasn’t much of a ride back to Mosquito Lake. But boy I felt it. After the lake, the drop down Pacific Grade is so steep that you have to get your weight behind your saddle, like on a mountain bike, or you can easily go over your bars when you try to slow for the hairpin turns. I needed to stall because I was so fried. So, I just went slow this time and kept all my blood on the inside by not falling.
The last pass was Ebbetts and I was ready for a struggle and that’s exactly what I got. The pass isn’t that long or steep. What makes it so difficult is all the other climbs before it. Shadow Rider passed me for the last time and I never saw him again. I was crawling (at best) up the hill and just looking for a reason to stop when a guy on the side of the road asked me if I had a CO2 tire filler and if he could use it. That was my excuse! So I stopped with enthusiasm to help him. We got him going quicker than I wanted. Once I started rolling again I felt better. It was only about 500 ft of vertical up to the top from there. When I rolled over the top it was like standing on Everest to me. I was going to make it. My stomach was upset and, due to dehydration I wasn’t sweating anymore. But now it was all downhill for a long time. I filled all bottles for weight and for makeshift perspiration. I drank all I could and poured the rest over my head, front and back as I mostly coasted down towards where I started the day. The cooling plan was working pretty well for a while. But then the temperature started really going up when I dropped below about 7000ft elevation. All the gains I made the first 10 minutes of coasting were getting erased by the heat.
The 5 miles of road along the canyon that leads to Markleeville were so hot and dry that I would get cotton mouth just 30 seconds after a swig of water. And now, my legs were starting to cramp. Through all of this, I realized I had a shot of finishing the ride in under 9 hours. Remember, 10 hours was my best case scenario. Imagine my surprise! The only obstacle between me and a 9 hour time was the last 20 to 30 minute climb, in nearly 100 degree heat with cramping legs and only about a pint of warm water.
I rolled into Markleeville and looked for Kevin (hopefully with tons of cold water). But, I was an hour ahead of my best predicted time and he wasn’t there yet. In order to beat 9 hours, I had 25 minutes to get up the last hill and figured I’d just see what happened. A woman standing in the street offered me a cold Gatorade. I stupidly said “no thanks” and rode by her. Just past her, I reconsidered and turned around and stopped next to her. She had just ridden both Monitor Passes and had a sense of how I felt. I poured the cold Gatorade into my bike bottle, thanked her and rode off. 50 feet from there, I saw Kevin just as he yelled my name. He had just gotten there and he was prepared. He had ice, cold water, and pantyhose to put ice into and hang around my neck as I rode. He knew all the tricks to beat the heat. Now it’s only 20 minutes to my 9 hour goal! I asked him if he thought I could get up that last hill in 20 minutes and he said “NO”. I still wanted to try, and told him I didn’t want to bother with the panty hose trick. He decided I could use a splash of cold water and poured what felt like an Ice Bucket Challenge cooler full of water over my head. I was yelling “heart attack, heart attack” without breathing out. It was so cold. I was freezing now. I thanked him and took off with 17 minutes to get up the hill. At first I still felt pretty drained so I just went at a pace I thought I could do and drank the Gatorade as fast as I could before it got warm. About halfway up the hill I could see the top. I still had 9 minutes. Then a guy about 50 feet ahead of me turned around and said “tailwind”. There was a tailwind, and it was a good one too. I still had goose bumps on my legs from the icing incident. I thought “I’m going for it.” I picked it up a notch, and seeing how the road got steeper at the end, I timed a last ditch effort to the finish. I watched the time get closer and closer to 9:00:00 on my Garmin. For the last 15 minutes I’d been telling myself not to ride for 9 hours and pull up a couple minutes over 9. So I grabbed a gear and really made sure. 8:58:05!
This was about my 12th Death Ride. I’ve been trying to beat 9 hours and have never been able to do it before this ride. The new route is about an hour shorter than the old one. But still, I can now say that I did the Death Ride in under 9 hours! My rolling time was 8:38:XX. So I spent about 20 minutes not moving. The ride was 103.3 miles with 13,999 ft of climb. I averaged 11.9 MPH, maxed 51.3 MPH, averaged 156 watts for a total 1.4 kWHr of energy output. Now your electric bill of $0.60/kWHr doesn’t seem like such a high price, does it? My average heart rate was 133 BPM and max was 150 BPM. According to Strava, I was about the 50th finisher of all six passes. I signed my name on the big Death Ride poster over the forehead of the skull, as usual. I burned about 5,000 calories, and I got it all back in the breakfast Benita made for me on Sunday morning.
Calaveras Enterprise Newspaper Article Written by, Don Urbanus
Normally, if you were covering a bike ride, you’d take lots of pictures of people riding bikes. But if you’re on the support team, your focus is elsewhere. Before we even started the event, we had to mark the roads with different colored biodegradable arrows. Yellow for 30 miles. Green for 45 miles. Orange for 100 miles. Rob Williams (chair of the Motherlode Bicycle Coalition, the organization that helps manage and coordinate the event), his friend Walt, and I headed out Friday morning to mark the roads and intersections to keep people on the correct route. That was a 5-hour job.
Michael Cauthorn, a project engineer and estimator at George Reed Construction, donated 16 hours of his time loading, delivering, and placing two trailer loads of “special event” and “share the road” signs and barriers at strategic locations and intersections along the route. All signs were courtesy of George Reed Construction. Michael is one of the unsung heroes of the event and a big reason why everyone made it back safely.
Mr. Frog’s Wild Ride has three route options to challenge and enchant bicycle riders. The shortest, the San Domingo Road route is only 21 miles, but you’ll bicycle through some of the best of rural Calaveras County and the California foothills.
MLBC Chair Rob Williams is organizing this ride to increase visibility of cycling in Calaveras County and support local tourism, as well as to support Feeney Park in Murphys (Mr. Frog’s Wild Ride is a fundraiser for Feeney Park.)