Inaugural event kicks off with a 300-mile ride |

Inaugural event kicks off with a 300-mile ride

This weekend, cyclists from all over California and as far away as Colorado will meet at a base camp set up at Nevada Union High School to take part in the inaugural five-day, 300-mile ride, Cycle the Sierra cruising some of the state’s most scenic and history-rich foothill and mountain roads.

A year in the making, a crew of passionate cyclists and adventurers scouted roads and created maps of the route that will begin and end in Nevada City and travel through celebrated foothill gold country and climb tough elevation gains to iconic mountain locations like Lake Tahoe.

“Our route includes passage through the same region that inspired two of California’s great naturalists, John Muir and Ansel Adams. Their love and appreciation for the Sierra brought both fame and protection to these magnificent lands – the fresh air, granite peaks, lush forests and unique historical communities of the Wild West. Cycle the Sierra is a catalyst for us to be a part of something greater than ourselves,” said director and local photographer Mark Reiner, who for years guided trips in places like Patagonia and Kashmir.

On the first day, riders will travel past the wooden farmhouses of Grass Valley to the confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American River over the fourth highest bridge in the U.S. and stop at base camp in Coloma, just upstream from where James Marshall first discovered gold in 1848.

The toughest leg of the journey comes the second day, when riders climb 62 miles and over 8,000 feet from the American River near Placerville, through the orchards of Apple Hill to the lush meadowland and snow-capped mountains of Kirkwood.

“This is a good ride for solid intermediate riders and up,” Reiner said.

Riders should have good bike control and be comfortable on mountain roads with hills and vehicular traffic.

A day’s ride ranges from 34 to 82 miles. Other highlights of the trip include rides along the Alpine Scenic Highway and Truckee River, a stop at the Sierraville Hot Springs and a trip through the quaint historic mining town of Downieville.

Cycle the Sierra adds more depth to the area’s well established cycling community.

“The one cycling event we’ve been missing for the past several years is endurance and/or organized tours, said Duane Strawser, owner of Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop.

“With the exploding popularity of Gran Fondo cycling events worldwide, Cycle the Sierra is a great way to bring visitors into the region, expose them to our excellent cycling opportunities while being organized by a full-time cycling experience company, taking the burden off the local volunteer force. A win-win opportunity.”

Along with complimenting the existing cycling events in the community, Cycle the Sierra will also highlight Nevada County.

“Any and all cycling events coming through Nevada City and county bring attention to our reputation (for) world-class … cycling opportunities,” Strawser said.

“It also exposes out-of-town cyclists to our roads, and in this day of social media word of mouth, the ‘free marketing’ of our region to cyclists/eco-tourists, is priceless and will bring even more people into our county in the long run, boosting our economy/TOT, which is critical to the survival of our merchants and service providers.”

This year’s event will raise money for a different nonprofit group each day of the ride and bring exposure to rural Sierra Nevada communities in need of an economic boost.

With riders coming to town from out of the area, Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop is the drop off point for them to ship their bikes. The shop has offered to unpack and re-assemble the bikes for little or no fee. They will also repack the bikes for the return trip at an affordable price, Strawser said.

Tour of Nevada City will also provide a mechanical support vehicle for the first leg of the ride.

At base camps, organizers provide locally purchased food and hire local caterers, musicians and bike mechanics, introducing riders to an area and “that cute B&B” to which they may want to return.

“These are carefully chosen, comfortable camping locations along the route where we will sleep, eat, drink, listen to music, lick our wounds and set out to local points of interest – a dip in the lake perhaps,” Reiner said.

Nonprofit groups selected to receive a portion of registration fees are: one percent For The Planet, Keep Tahoe Blue, American River Conservancy and the South Yuba River Citizens League.

“These important organizations have dedicated themselves to preserving and protecting the places we’ll be visiting,” Reiner said.

The final day’s trip from Sierraville to Nevada City will support SYRCL and the group’s ongoing work to protect the watershed of the South Yuba River.

“They just get it,” Reiner said.

This first-year event is meant to build a community around cycling and provide trip-of-a-lifetime experiences for an intimate rather than marathon- size group with an expedition-style feel.

By mid-week, about 45 folks had preregistered for the ride, which begins tomorrow. Interested participants can register in person by stopping by the Nevada Union base camp with a check in hand.

Visit the website for more details about how to prepare and pack:

Contact freelance writer Laura Brown at or (530) 401-4877.

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