Thanksgiving weekend is a wonderful time to start a winter road biking regimen. After the helpings of good food and time indoors with family and friends the first ride of the holidays will begin to work off the excess and exhilarate the body and mind.
Research has shown that aside from the obvious physical benefits there are numerous cognitive benefits to cycling. It can relieve anxiety, increase stress resistance, elevate your mood, and even drive out despair.
What’s more there’s no better place than Bishop to begin a routine of road riding or build upon your already good riding ‘habit’. Winter days are generally sunny and warm and our research shows that the scenic beauty, quiet roads, friendly community, and excellent amenities always lift the spirits.
There are many roads and numerous ways to link up rides to get in a quickie, go flat and far, or climb a hill and descend like the wind. The options are almost endless, but here are some local favorites that will keep you coming back for more.
Death Valley – Waucoba Road Hill Climb
An out and back, or rather up and down, ride of about 30 miles (15 up and 15 down) will take you through some of the most rugged and pristine landscape on the Eastside. The ride starts just north of Big Pine at the junction of US Highway 395 and State Route 168. You could tag on an extra 30 miles of highway from Bishop and back. Park near the visitor information display outside the Glacier View Campground.
Head east on SR 168 for 2.3 miles and turn right onto Death Valley Rd and here’s where the good fun starts. A sustained, but not too steep climb, of just over 13 miles runs in and alongside a broad wash. The high desert landscape has subtle changes of color, differing rock formations, steep-sided canyon walls and expansive views of the valley behind. Even on a calm day the wind can felt near the top of the grade and it’s often a good an indicator that, “you’re nearly there.”
Take a breather and turn around when you reach the Waucoba Saline Rd junction and get ready for an exhilarating, and possibly chilly, ride back down. Be prepared with layers of clothing and wind resistant gear that you can don for the down ride. You will need it!
Old Sherwin Grade
Ten miles west of Bishop is the Pine Creek Rd junction at US Highway 395. This is where the Old Sherwin Grade Rd starts. First it rolls out across Round Valley, crossing Pine Creek, then follows Lower Rock Creek up toward Paradise. Truly! Paradise – a beautiful settlement of homes on the rounded foothills at the head of the valley.
You’ll be well warmed up by this point to start a short, but steep climb through the village and then head onward and upward to Sherwin Summit. The road twists and turns on a broad open slope of sage and sand soon becoming treed with pinions and pines as you climb. Across the valley to the west the great wall of the Wheeler Crest is imposing at over 11,00ft.
About a half mile beyond the Swall Meadows Rd junction you will reach the Sherwin Summit with a birds eye view down into Lower Rock Creek Canyon. This the 10-mile mark from your starting point at Pine Creek Rd and a great place to turn around and begin the long coast down through Paradise and back to you car.
Or you can roll on down into Lower Rock Creek Canyon and follow the creek up to the junction with Highway 395. There you could one of three things:
- turn around and head back the way you came,
- ride down the 395 to Pine Creek Rd (the shoulder is wide and the views are tremendous), or
- if you’ve staged a shuttle vehicle here or have a shuttle driver at your disposal, load up your bike, hop in the car and drive home.
The latter may seem to some like denying yourself the reward for the work, but I have friends and do know that some folks prefer the up to the down.
It’s all about what makes you happy!
Pleasant Valley – Round Valley Loop
This is a ride that has a little of everything in just the right measure. It has uphills and downhills, sharp corners and sweeping bends. You’ll work hard enough to stay warm, but not so hard that you can’t lift your head and admire the awe inspiring views. It’s about 18.5 miles of quiet country lanes and a pleasant, car free ride along the shores of the Pleasant Valley Reservoir. There are a number of good points along the route where you can park a car safely to ride this loop. It really is a pleasant ride!
Perhaps begin the route at the Millpond Recreation Area, about 7 miles west of Bishop just off US Highway 395, on Sawmill Rd. There is plenty of parking and amenities include restrooms, picnic area, and a playground. It’s a perfect starting point especially if you’re with a group and not all are cyclists.
Other start/end points are at Pine Creek Rd junction with Highway 395, Gorge Rd & Old Sherwin Grade junction (just off Highway 395), or the Pleasant Valley Dam parking area.
East Line – Warm Springs Loop
This is an excellent loop of 14 miles that has minimal elevation gain and loss – just 550ft. Ride it at an easy cadence for a relaxing and energizing outing or push hard for an energetic workout.
There are a number of start and end points and you can go at it clockwise or counter-clockwise. Whatever you choose the views are marvelous as you roll across the river and ride along the base of the White Mountains.
Not night clubbing – but ride clubbing. Join or participate in group rides with Eastside Velo. The club began in 2001 and now boasts a membership of almost 300 riders. The club organizes and supports many annual events and frequent fun rides throughout the year. The big one of the year is the Mammoth Fall Century & Gran Fondo held in September every year. If you’re serious about riding and/or you plan to ride in this event, the roads around Bishop are the place to train – especially in winter.
Stop in at Aerohead Cycles if you’re in need of a tune up, equipment, gear, or just to chat about cycling and where to ride. Also visit the Bishop Visitor Center at 690 N. Main St. for more information and maps of the area.
Remember that the weather is pretty unpredictable so be prepared with layers and wind- and waterproof clothing.
Here are handy route guides for each of these rides.