Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Bring Your Gravel Bikes

My first fascination with pedaling the dirt began in 1973 while I was living in Bodfish, California (Kern River drainage). My road bike was of department store vintage, made in Japan and was equipped with unusually wide 27 inch tires. The paved road around Lake Isabella was the obvious first choice for an ambitious bicycle ride. Traffic was light unless you were on the southside of the lake. Like most road rides you held your breath on the busy stretches, hoping that the motorist' heart was full of love for cyclists and that they were paying close attention to the job at hand, driving between the lines. Luck was too big of a factor for my liking so, I started to explore the quiet roads radiating out of the immediate Lake Isabella bowl. Roads that lost their paved surfaces within the first few miles of climbing. I climbed to Saddle Springs, Kelso Valley, Sherman Pass and Breckenridge Lookout. This incredibly inexpensive roadbike was so capable and never intimidated by the various shapes and sizes of rocks and gravel. Well, Chester, California on Lake Almanor, is the entire length of the Sierra Nevada north of Lake Isabella, some 300 miles. We are at twice the elevation and at a more northerly latitude so this really is a different kind of mountain living. Here, fifty years later, the paved roads are busier and the amount of Californians (and Nevadans) that can afford "second" or 'third homes" in the mountains has increased exponentially. So, do you really want to stay on the paved roads?

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