I just wanted to share my experience on the Trulassen route last week.
I had hoped to be in better shape after a few weeks in Colorado riding passes and doing overnighters, but I got COVID a week after returning and most of August was a wash.
One thing I did accomplish while sitting around in an empty house for two weeks ( family abandoned me and went to LA, missing the whole thing) was a bunch of online shopping and fine tuning for this tour, which my buddy Justin and I have been planning since our Big Bend trip in January.
I also ordered some new wheels for the bikepacking rig when the Bontrager Duster POS stock hoops started to pretty much unspool themselves. I ordered these in early July from ProWheelbuilder.com and they showed up two days before the trip on Sept 4th, but they are absolutely perfect, Hope Pro R, SON dynamo F, DT Swiss 481 rims… between these things and the Old Man Mountain rack I have things heavy enough to fight bears… not that I want to fight bears, but still.
Waiting on the wheels ( and a seatpost install) kept me waiting on installing the K-lite charging and lighting system, as well as actually dialing in the bike a bit better. I ended up setting a saddle height with a tape measure and riding the built up rig for an hour the day before leaving, this was not ideal in hindsight lol.
The weather all week before was trending hotter and hotter, with a forecast for Truckee in the high 90s every day and not much relief up north towards Lassen, but we loaded up the car on Labor Day afternoon and enjoyed one of the easiest drives I have ever had to Truckee, where we crashed at a friends cabin, finished the bag load out, and stored a bunch of water on the bikes.
Day One- Truckee to Antelope Lake
We left Truckee at 545 AM and headed north. I recognized the early roads from the Truckee Tahoe Gravel race but soon we went through the Sardine Valley and dropped down to Loyalton, where we filled up every water storage device we had. We then proceeded north through Beckworth and climbed Beckworth- Genesee road, this was super exposed pavement and very hot. We needed to make it to a spring that hopefully was running about 50 miles north of Loyalton, or course it was on the far side of a long gravel climb that we climbed twice when I realized at the top that I had dropped my new prescription Julbos at the bottom of the climb
The spring was awesome with cold water coming out of a pipe. We ate peanut butter and jelly tortillas and filled our bellies with water, then headed north to Boulder Springs Campground ( which took forever) and rolled into an almost empty post-Labor Day spot on the lake.
Day one- 8 hours, 154 km and 1415m climbing
Day Two- Boulder Springs To Silver Lake
On paper this was the easiest day of the trip, we had a shortcut figured out that skipped dropping into Susanville and climbing back up on a exposed ridge, saving about 30 miles and 4500 feet, and the morning looked good, except for both of us already being a little torn up after 8 hours in the saddle the day before.
We made it to Westwood in good time, filled up all the water things again and hit a local store for tortillas and Haribo. In the 300 yards we rode on hwy 44 before turning into the forest we almost got clocked by logging trucks twice, and then we dropped back into a very hot, burned out forest. This tour basically circumnavigates the devastation from the Dixie Fire, and I didn’t truly understand how huge and sad that event really was until after last week.The amount of salvage logging we passed through was mind blowing. This turned into a very tough day, with lots of churning through moon dust on logging roads and finishing with a nice swim in a lake with a quiet campground on the edge of the Caribou Wilderness.
Day two- 6:5 hours,94 km and 1494 M climbing.
Day Three- Silver Lake To Childs Meadow
We rolled out a bit gingerly and spent the first hour climbing a gentle hill and then descended into Hat Creek. The route had a tricky detour getting people off of 44 but we ended up just riding down it and pulling over for the occasional logging truck. After refilling in Hat Creek and me losing my sunnies again for a while, we began the 5 hour climb to Lassen, which was amazingly green with very few folks in it. Ranger Bob let us both enter the park for free using my America The Beautiful pass, I checked off another NP , and Justin borrowed a giant crescent wrench to fix his loose one inch threaded steerer from a couple returning from Burning Man in an old converted ambulance. After a stop for ice cream sandwiches, we descended roughly 15 miles to a campsite in a burned out forest with a lodge and fancy restaurant across the street in the untouched by fire meadow. We trooped over there in Crocs, Hawaiian shirts, and baggy shorts, and proceeded to tear up some awesome fried chicken dinners.
Day three- 8 hours,141 km, 1960 M climbing
Day Four- Childs Meadow To Portola
This ended up being the queen stage, by now our saddle issues brought on by the heat and in general dehydration were forcing us to stand and pedal much more than we would have liked. After a pleasant morning rolling through the Feather River Canyon to Chester, where Justin bought Shoe Goo and duct tape for his crumbling bike shoe, we headed south on the Lake Almanor path and then climbed over a huge ridge full of logging activities and descended into Greenville, which had been pretty much leveled in the Dixie Fire. Amazingly resilient and friendly folks in the local market which somehow is still standing. We bought many Haribo and Gatorades, then headed towards Genesee, which was exceptionally beautiful and full of meadows and tall unburned trees. After Genesee we turned onto the old Lost And Found final climb, which I apparently blocked out of my mind since 2014.Luckily there was a small spring at the top of this climb. The valleys were beginning to get hazy at this point but we didn’t have a bunch of information and anyway the car was 100 miles south of us so we pushed on.
We ended up in Portola in a great 2 star motel and a big Mexican dinner at Ricos ( highly recommended).
Day four -9.5 hours, 164 km and 1925 m climbing.
Day Five- Portola- Truckee
We started early due to the smoke and crossed the Loyalton valley under a barely-visible orange sun, passing a small herd of antelope. We then climbed up Bear Valley and began descending into Sardine, where a guy on a gravel bike and full kit blew by us ( the first person we saw riding a bike in five days that was likely riding it by choice and not due to legal circumstance)
We could not have this and set off in mad pursuit down the chunk, until Justin flatted his front tire and ran out of tubes.
We also had run out of tortillas and peanut butter at the top of the hill and were in a hurry as we descended into even worse smoke in Truckee.
Time went backwards like an old episode of the Twilight Zone as we chugged towards Truckee and climbed up to Prosser Estates, where we gratefully cleaned up and gingerly drove home. AQI at the end was mid- 300s.
Day Five- 5.75 hours,98 km and 977M climbing
2013 Trek Stache, SLX components ( I plan to upgrade to four piston soon), SQ Labs cockpit, PNW Coast suspension seatpost, Revelate Bags with Rockgeist panniers and front BarJam. Ikon 2.35 tires.
1987 Bruce Gordon Rock N Road, Tektro Canti brakes, bar end shifters, XT 8 speed, tubes and 700 x 47 Teravail Rutlands W tubes.
- The biggest gravel route I’ve ridden, good practice for longer trips with two days between resupply.
- We both needed more time on the specific setups to foresee problems. We did a good job of managing things with quick cleanups and lots of A and D/ Chamois cream, but 8-9 hours a day in temps like those was pretty rough on the feet and undercarriage.
- Rockgeist panniers and SQ Labs cockpit was perfect. I’m still deciding between drop bar and flat bar bike for next year, this was slower but more stable, so a tradeoff. The rack allowed me to drop the saddle for a different position on descents and get on and off the loaded bike very easily. I would be interested in a rigid fork and Ti or steel frame. I didn’t use the RockShox fork very much at all.
- 10 mph average with stops was not ideal. For context I did 18 mph on a credit card tour to San Diego a couple years ago. I think we could speed up two mph and still enjoy ourselves just with the right equipment and still stay durable/ wear Hawaiian shirts
- Kudos to Justin for never having ridden more than 40 miles before and crushing this tour!
If you made it this far, thanks for reading!