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Old 08-11-10, 11:18 AM   #1
dashuaigeh
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touring death valley?

Hey all
A friend and I are planning on taking a road trip to bike tour around Death Valley in the winter. Our tentative plan is to get there with a bike and a car with a rack, map out groups of close-together (<40 mi) locations we'd like to see, drive out, and then bike between them.

Does anyone have any suggestions (advice, warnings, etc) or know anything about touring in Death Valley? From what I know, there are no nearby bike shops, but is there a way to rent a bike nearby? How were your experiences touring in Death Valley?

Thanks

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Old 08-11-10, 12:12 PM   #2
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never been to death valley, but ive heard its hot as all get out, so take LOTS of water. gallons of water. at least 5. after all, its called death valley for a reason.
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Old 08-11-10, 12:15 PM   #3
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never been to death valley, but ive heard its hot as all get out, so take LOTS of water. gallons of water. at least 5. after all, its called death valley for a reason.
whoops, forgot to mention the time - we're hoping to go right after Christmas to beat the insane heat. I've gone once during that time and it was fantastic; not too cool, not hot at all .
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Old 08-11-10, 02:16 PM   #4
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I've been there right after Christmas the past two years. Best time to be there. Highs from the 60s to about 80 are typical. I've ridden from Furnace Creek out to Badwater and Artists Drive. Maybe 35 miles round trip to Badwater. No problems whatsoever. Little traffic, good road. I don't remember any bike rental places, but I wasn't looking for one either. Taking plenty of water is a good idea even though it probably won't be excessively hot, if for no other reason than there is zero water available in many areas out there. No need to get carried away though, especially for the kind of relatively short out-and-back riding you're describing. It's not as though you will be in the middle of nowhere where nobody can help you if needed (like off-road backpacking or something). There are plenty of [car] tourists going from one attraction to another to help, in the unlikely event you were to really get desperate.

I met someone on a Pacific Coast tour a couple of years ago who finished up her tour by riding through Death Valley on her way to Las Vegas. Her blog is here. Scroll down the page for the table of contents. Death Valley stuff is near the bottom. Note: It's in German, but look for the italics for her English translation.

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Old 08-11-10, 02:58 PM   #5
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@simplygib - thanks for the tour journal! I've been reading it for the last half an hour . can I ask, then, if you think we'd need fully loaded touring bikes for this trip as opposed to road bikes?
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Old 08-11-10, 03:06 PM   #6
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It's vast, and what pavement there is is good. If you can lay hands on mountain bikes, that's the way to go. I'd love to pedal out of the park (east into Nevada) to Rhyolite, near Beatty. Then return through Titus Canyon. You can google for it, but it's an epic adventure, and it would be great on a bike. You'll pass near petroglyphs, the Leadfield ghost town, and into the canyon gorge on your way back to DV. Many of the best trips will be on washboarded gravel roads, so best to bring a bike that is comfortable to ride over that stuff. You could explore the Racetrack, Westside Road and all the spur roads up into canyons containing interesting springs and old mining camps.

Just bear in mind how big the place is, and how empty much of it is. You need to be self-sufficient and well prepared. Best bet for bike rental is probably Las Vegas.
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Old 08-11-10, 03:48 PM   #7
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I live down here. Your nearest bike rental is Las Vegas. Your nearest full service bike shop is Las Vegas. You should have no problems with out-n-back rides from Furnace Creek using your "usual" on-bike supplies. Water is the exception. Even though it is not super hot [as it is right this minute], it is super *DRY*! A typical humidity level is in single digits, with 8-9% being on the high side. This will suck moisture out of your body without you even realizing it. The "measure" of this is that you lose a pint an hour just sleeping! A camelback or similar is a good solution. You should make sure that your bike is in good mechanical order BEFORE you get here. Las Vegas is 120 miles, one way; not a good way to spend part of a bike vacation. The weather is moderate at that time of year, however, overnight low's can be down into the high 30's/low 40's; dress accordingly. Daytimes are usually quite pleasant with 60's being common. Besides Furnace Creek there are only two other locations in the valley with any source of food/water; Stovepipe Wells, 25 miles west of FC, and Scotty's Castle, 55 miles north of FC.

Other than this, enjoy it. The Valley is an awesome place to ride. Another poster noted the off-road potential; a cross, or mountain bike will expand dramatically where you can go. There are miles and miles of gravel roads that are "off the beaten track".
YMMV
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Old 08-11-10, 03:52 PM   #8
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The Valley is an awesome place to ride. Another poster noted the off-road potential; a cross, or mountain bike will expand dramatically where you can go. There are miles and miles of gravel roads that are "off the beaten track".
do you think a touring bike might be sufficient? we both have solid canti-brake touring rigs that can support up to 700x32 tires, and would love to try the trails.
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Old 08-11-10, 05:59 PM   #9
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You have picked one of the best times to be in DV. Springtime with wildflowers I think is even better.

Off pavement capabilities as mentioned above open up many more option for rides. The North end has access to the Eureka Dunes and the Saline Valley Road along the Western boundary. Rough gravel and pumice routes lead to both. temperatures there are cooler in my experience than farther South in the park.

Some very good advice has already been posted. The AAA Death Valley map is very useful and free to members.
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Old 08-11-10, 06:37 PM   #10
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Here are some journals related to touring in Death Valley:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/searc...m=death+valley

That's by keyword - but the following journals are probably a bit more specific, since they set that explicitly as a locale:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/l...cale_id=231378
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/l...cale_id=231377

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Old 08-11-10, 06:47 PM   #11
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We cycled Death Valley a few years ago with the kids on the triple bike - it was hot. Hot, hot, hot. The roads were fine though and we didn't have any trouble other than the heat. Sounds like you've picked hte right time of year.
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Old 08-11-10, 09:40 PM   #12
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To my thinking, a hybrid with front shocks would be the ideal way to explore DV, both paved and unpaved roads. Upright position, low gearing, comfortable for short out and backs. They are rentable in Vegas. They call their hybrid a 'cross' bike. Reasonable weekly rate.

Your touring bikes would be great for the smoothly paved roads in DV. Not so for the more remote gravel roads.

Get yourselves a large rack top bag to carry the day ride stuff you'll likely want.
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Old 08-12-10, 11:49 AM   #13
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@simplygib - thanks for the tour journal! I've been reading it for the last half an hour . can I ask, then, if you think we'd need fully loaded touring bikes for this trip as opposed to road bikes?
Re-reading your original post, I'm now a little confused as to your intent. Is your plan to leave the car in one location, then cycle in one big loop, stopping for the night every 40 miles or less, until you finally get back to the car? Or are you driving to each location, then doing <40 mile out-and-back rides?

If it's the former, I'd want a touring bike or an MTB to hang panniers from. If it's the latter, a road bike would be fine, unless of course you plan on off-road riding as well. I use an MTB for all my riding, so that's probably what I would use in either situation.
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Old 08-12-10, 12:42 PM   #14
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Re-reading your original post, I'm now a little confused as to your intent. Is your plan to leave the car in one location, then cycle in one big loop, stopping for the night every 40 miles or less, until you finally get back to the car? Or are you driving to each location, then doing <40 mile out-and-back rides?
We were planning to do the latter - drive out with the bikes on a car, bike to nearby locations, and then bike back to the car to drive back to a campground at night. Maybe we could just take touring bikes with super beefy tires for most of the general roads, and then walk the gravel paths.
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Old 08-12-10, 01:46 PM   #15
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As many have pointed out--water is a major consideration for enjoying such a trip. I carry a case of bottled water in the trunk of my car, and do similar rides to what you describe. Coincidentally, the week after Christmas, and the week after New Years are my choice vacation times, specifically to ride Death Valley, and the area around Ridgecrest, CA.

I usually ride my road bike, but this last year I took my touring bike and trailer for a 'shake-down' trip. Worked well, and I found a couple things to improve. Now I just need to improve the 'motor'!
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Old 08-12-10, 01:59 PM   #16
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I didn't tour, we did a century sponsored by Planet Ultra.. You can head out into all kinds of directions into nowhere. But the scenery is incredible. Heading east towards Owen's Lake you will have one hell of a climb. Like 3000 ft with a huge grade. A 200 plus mile tour would be to go out towards towards Scotty's Castle then head east to Beatty , Nv and back through Pahrump. You'll need do an overnight stay to do that one.. A great tour. Take plenty of water. We were told the climate is so dry , you dehydrate as you sleep..
Careful should you be there in the depths of winter. Our ride was March 1. When we ascended the mountain up to Scotty's , we had to ride through a lite snow. The snow was only to be found above 3000 feet.
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Old 08-12-10, 02:52 PM   #17
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do you think a touring bike might be sufficient? we both have solid canti-brake touring rigs that can support up to 700x32 tires, and would love to try the trails.

The bikes should be OK, but I'd invest in some knobbies. The non-paved roads are gravel, and only bladed [leveled] once a year. They can get pretty coarse. I use a cross bike with 700x32 knobbies and haven't had any issues.

As long as you provision well, and don't stray too far out in the wilderness you should be fine. Bear in mind than many of those gravel roads really need a high clearence vehicle. The family sedan won't cut it. Then there are other roads which are specifically marked as jeep roads; they mean it! Checking in with the folks at the visitor's center will yield a multitude of other ideas for you to consider. One last thing, make sure SOMEONE knows where you're going each day. People get lost out there every month; the ones that make the news are those folks who haven't told anybody what they're going to do.
Enjoy.
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Old 08-12-10, 09:15 PM   #18
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Then there are other roads which are specifically marked as jeep roads; they mean it! Checking in with the folks at the visitor's center will yield a multitude of other ideas for you to consider. One last thing, make sure SOMEONE knows where you're going each day. People get lost out there every month; the ones that make the news are those folks who haven't told anybody what they're going to do.
Enjoy.
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Good advice, and it jogged my memory a little. There are also dirt/gravel roads out there with lots of sharp rocks, and people have been known to flat multiple tires at once on their vehicle (I knew one guy this happened to). If you wander out to those unpaved roads, keep your eyes open.
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